Today was day six of our road trip and it was all about the quintessential Ireland road trip experience - driving the Ring of Kerry. Although the Ring of Kerry is only 135 miles long, narrow winding roads mean that the journey takes between 4 and 5 hours (without stops). We factored in an extra two hours to allow time to explore the historical sites and soak up the views along the way.
Many people base themselves in Killarney and begin their trip around the ring from there, including stops in the Killarney National Park en route, and ending back in Killarney. Since we spent the day before exploring the park (yesterday's blog), we began our drive from Kenmare (a way better place to overnight!) and ended in Dingle. I'm so glad we chose to do it this way. You really do need a full day to do the National Park justice and it would make for a very, very long day if you did the whole thing in one go.
Waterville is roughly the halfway point on the Ring of Kerry. In order to beat the crowds, we left Kenmare at 8am. Although we only made two stops - at Staigue Fort and Derrynane House - it still took us 4 hours to get to Waterville (we took our time exploring Derrynane). Staigue Fort is a beautifully preserved iron age dry-stone ring fort and Derrynane House is the home of Daniel O'Connell, one of the greatest figures in modern Irish history. The setting is beautiful, the story fascinating, and if you time your visit for low tide you can walk along the beach to the little island where the families graveyard and ruined chapel sit.
After some fortifying tea and scones at the Butler Arms Hotel - famous for hosting Charlie Chapman who regularly vacationed here - we left the Ring of Kerry and looped around the Skellig Ring. We would have loved to have taken a boat trip out to explore the Skellig islands, but the sea was too rough in April/May to allow boats to land on the island. Instead we stopped at "The Best View in Ireland". An enterprising farmer has developed a well laid out trail which takes you to spectacular cliff top views of Puffin island, Little Skellig, Skellig Michael, and the Kerry Cliffs.
When you see Skellig Michael in all its isolated splendor it’s incredible to think that there used to be a monastery out there from the 6th to the 12th century. As you can imagine they had to be completely self-sufficient, trading eggs, feathers, and seal meat with passing boats in return for cereals, tools and animal skins. Even so, it must have been a pretty tough life!
Our final stop was at the Kerry Bog Village - a cluster of reconstructed cottages dating from the 1800’s. We enjoyed the self guided experience of a walk through life among the "common folk" (which we had all to ourselves), petting the Irish wolf hounds, and a refreshing pint at the Red Fox pub before tackling the remaining hours drive to our B&B.
We arrived in Dingle during Feile na Bealtaine, a traditional week long music festival that celebrates local artistic talent, so the town was humming. After checking in and taking a couple of hours to unwind and relax, we headed out to the Dingle Pub for some delicious beef and Guinness stew, a pint or two, and some traditional Irish music. A great way to end a great day!
Ring of Kerry drive, Staigue Stone Fort, Derrynane House and cemetery, Cliffs of Kerry, Kerry Bog Village