The Ring of Kerry is a driving route around the beautiful coastal and mountain paths of County Kerry, Ireland. The walking equivalent is the Kerry Way, taking in views and sights that are inaccessible by car. So what are some of the highlights that you can expect to witness on your hike around the Ring of Kerry? Read below for our Kerry Way highlights.
Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Way
The official trailhead of both the Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Way is Killarney. Killarney is a fantastic cultural and outdoors hub, with authentic Irish pubs aplenty and it’s very own national park.
The Ring of Kerry is a 179km drive, while the Kerry Way is a strenuous 214km hike. You don’t need to undertake this all in one go, however. Our tours offer plenty of itineraries to suit people of all abilities!
The Kerry Way passes through some of the most remote and breathtaking landscapes that Ireland has to offer, with different scenery around every turn. Mountain passes, coastal regions, beaches and authentic towns are all on the agenda on this highly popular walking route.
When you hear someone mention Killarney, you never know exactly whether they are referring to the town or the National Park. Both are worth seeing.
Picturesque streets, with colorful house facades, in Killarney Town invite you to stroll away the evening. Whereas you can easily lose yourself in the depths of the green of the National Park.
The Kerry Way begins in Killarney town and leads into the National Park. Here, you will find not only the largest forest area in Ireland, but also highlights such as Muckross House & Gardens, Torc Waterfall and Lough Leane enchant visitors.
2. Ross Castle
Ross castle is situated on the shores of Lough Leane, just outside the town of Killarney. It was built in the 15th Century and proved to be an incredibly important stronghold for Irish clans.
The prophecy of the castle went,
“Ross may all assault disdain
Till on Lough Lein strange ship shall sail.”
This mean that Ross Castle would never fall until warships sailed on Lough Leane. In the mid-1600s, British warships were guided down the River Laune and dragged across land onto Lough Leane.
Ross Castle subsequently surrendered.
3. The Black Valley
The Black Valley is a remote and mysterious valley at the end of Killarney National Park. It went down in Irish history as the last area to be connected to the electricity grid. That was only 1978.
This late modernization certainly added to the charm of the area and lead to it’s name. To this day, the Black Valley is difficult to access even on roads.
On the Kerry Way, explore the enchanted piece of earth between the Gap of Dunloe and Molls Gap on foot.
Arriving to Glenbeigh is a highlight on it’s own. You have the option to take the famous “Windy Gap” which gives wonderful views of the coast on a clear day.
One of the most prominent sights is of Rossbeigh Beach which is located just outside of Glenbeigh and you will have the option to visit when leaving Glenbeigh to continue the Kerry Way using a local detour.
Glenbeigh itself is a lovely little town with a few nice pubs, restaurants and shops which are all very welcome sights after the remote walking through the Black Valley and Glencar.
5. Skellig Michael
Life on Skellig Michael
One of the most popular attractions on both the Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Way is the world UNESCO heritage site, Skellig Michael. It is only accessible by boat and the number of visitors is limited per day.
One of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland was on Skellig Michael, and became a safe-haven for Catholics between 600 A.D. and 1,300 A.D. The monks at this time lived in beehive-shaped huts, and their day consisted of fishing, gardening and praying. 670 steps led from the settlement down to the ocean, a treacherous daily descent.
Wildlife on Skellig Michael
Bird life is in abundance on Skellig Michael, with birds such as Gannets, Puffins, Terns and Cormorants all following in the monks’ footsteps by taking refuge here.
Star Wars was famously filmed on Skellig Michael in 2014 and 2015, a scene at the end of Episode VII – The Force Awakens and also for Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.
Getting to Skellig Michael
Getting to Skellig Michael is only possible by boat, with a limited number of visitors per day. You need to book well in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.