Kerry Road Trip
Kenmare Ceann Mara “head of the sea” / Neidín “The little nest”
Kenmare, (also known as Cion Mara “head of the sea”, or Neidín “little nest”), is an inland town a gateway to the sea and an important port. If you are feeling adventurous you may choose to walk the old road between Kenmare and Killarney- this would take you inland through forests and the beautiful Gap of Dunloe.
Nestled in the estuary of the Kenmare River and looking to the Iveragh Peninsula, Kenmare bring us from the tranquility of the Beara Peninsula to the internationally famous Ring of Kerry. Kenmare offers superb accommodation, gourmet food and some of the most natural unspoilt environment in Europe.
Check out the local stone circle or delve into Ireland’s past at the Kenmare Heritage centre. Here you will find one of the largest stone circles in south-west Ireland. The circle with 15 stones around the circumference has a boulder dolmen in the centre. This is evidence that settlement in the area goes back to the Bronze Age (2,200–500 B.C), when it was constructed.
The traditional Irish name of the bay was Inbhear Scéine and was recorded in the 11th Century Book of Invasions Leabhar Gabála Éireann as the arrival point of the Irish ancestor Partholón. A prime location by the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Mangerton Mountain and Caha Mountains makes Kenmare a popular start point for hillwalking. As part payment for completing the mapping of Ireland, known as “the Down Survey” in 1656 the entire area was granted to the English scientist, Sir William Petty by Oliver Cromwell.
Lovers of heritage will savour a day at Molly Gallivans Cottage and Traditional Farm, or a walk in nearby Gleninchaquin Valley.
Sneem – tSnaidhm “The Knot”
Sneem village on the Ring of Kerry, is split into two by the Sneem River , with the respective sides being known as North Square and South Square. Each part of the village has its own feeling and special beauty – this gentle countryside has much to offer in wildlife and natural beauty. The Sneem
You are in good company as a visitor here. Sneem has been a host to many dignitaries who have chosen to retire to this beautiful village. The late Princess Grace of Monaco, also a film star, visited with her family in Parknasilla in 1961 while the late President Charles de Gaulle, of France holidayed in in this area in the late 1960’s. Open all year round, Sneem has a sculpture park located outdoors just behind the village. You can visit “the peaceful Panda” donated by the People’s Republic of China, Arbor Chalybeia Immaculate (from Israel) and the Goddess Isis (from Egypt) among its many exhibits. If its’ garden’s you fancy- why not take a serene walk down the banks of the Sneem river to visit The Garden of the Senses. Turning away from the land again, one of only two coral beaches in Ireland can be found near Gleesk pier in Sneem.
NOTE: Travellers are advised to take an anti-clockwise direction around the ring of Kerry. In some places, the road is unsuitable for HGV’s and busses. With this in mind you can take the opportunity to visit the unmissable town of Killarney with it’s beautiful National Park where herds of wild deer roam set against beautiful scenery of the Killarney lakes and ancient castle ruins. Take in Killarney’s s dignified charm before heading on to the Ring of Kerry via Killorglin.
Waterville An Coireán “The Crescent”
Sitting on a narrow isthmus, the town of Waterville is framed by Lough Currane on the east side of the town, and Ballinskelligs Bay on the west.
The town takes its name from the Butler family who built their house and estate here in the latter part of the 18th century on the mouth of the River Currane.
The village that developed on the estate during the first half of the 19th century was also named Waterville.
Ballinskelligs Baile an Sceilg “Place (village) of the craggy rock”
A Gaeltacht village, the rock(s) referred to in the village’s Irish name are the Skellig Islands—Skellig Michael and Little Skellig—an ancient monastic colony which lies off the coast. Here you can also visit a beach and the historical ruins of Ballinskelligs Priory and remains of Ballinskelligs Castle.
Valentia Island Dairbhre
One of the most westerly points on the Iveragh peninsula, Valentia Island 11kilometers long by 3 km wide, is linked to the mainland by a bridge. The O’Sullivans, headed by the O’Sullivan Beare, owned much of Valentia until the 17th century.
Foilhommerum on Valentia is the site of the first permanent communications link between Europe and the Americas.
Cahirsiveen Cathair Saidhbhín “Little Sadhb’s stone ringfort”
Located on the River Fertha, the historical market town of Cahirsiveen is the principal town of the Iveragh Peninsula. At the foot of the Bentee Mountain you will find the local Heritage Centre; it’s no surprise that it is built like a fortress as it once served as a military barracks! Here is the birthplace of the Irish Nationalist leader Daniel O’ Connell who campaigned for repeal of the Irish Penal laws in their suppression of the majority Catholic populace of Ireland.
Glenbeigh Gleann Beithe “Valley of the Birches”
Stretching out as far as Rosbehy Point and looking onto the Dingle peninsula, the beach at Glenbeigh is one of the finest beaches in the region. Cosily tucked into the surrounding horseshoe of hills and Seefin Mountains Glenbeigh is often referred to
as “The Jewel in the Ring of Kerry”. The Caragh River and the Behy River flow at either side of the village into Dingle Bay and Castlemaine’s Harbour.
On the road from Glenbeigh you pass the fascinating Kerry Bog Village museum which gives you a fascinating insight into how people lived and worked in Ireland in the 18th Century. The village one of Kerry’s leading tourist attractions, is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Killorglin Cill Orglin
Located on the river Laune, Killorglin is the site of ruined Castle Conway Castle, and one of the oldest traditional fairs in the country – “Puck Fair”. Every year for the past 400 years approx. and starting on 10 August, Killorglin holds the three-day Puck Fair “The king of all festivals” a very special event indeed with echoes of Ireland’s ancient past. www.puckfair.ie
Caltlemaine Caisleáin na Mainge
Situated at a junction between roads to Killarney and Tralee Castlemaine at the estuary of the river Maine and takes its name from a castle that once stood in this spot. Opening into the Dingle Peninsula, Castlemaine is referred to in the song The Wild Colonial Boy -“There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name / He was born and bred in Ireland in a place called Castlemaine.”
The Dingle Peninsula Corca Dhuibhne
Rounding the bay of Kenmare with the joys of the Ring of Kerry behind you and coming west along the winding roads that lead to the Dingle peninsula you may be fooled into thinking that you have seen the best that this rugged coastline has to offer. Ah, but there is much that lies in wait here. Do not be perturbed by the staring Kerry cows or teeming sheep that often require the full road for their ambling journey to pastures greener. You too can enjoy this quieter pace this simplicity. Travelling westward along this well-worn track in the depths of Kerry’s kingdom, you can make it your intention to be present to each sensation as the perspective widens to include the full thrust and scope of the Atlantic.
From the sheltered marshes along the river Maine to the dunes and mile long sand
belt that is Inch’s legendary beach, your journey is only in its infancy. Passing through the friendly outposts of Booltins, an ancient meeting place, you will come finally to the dramatic views of Inch – “where an inch is a mile”. This blue flag beach is three miles long and wonderfully safe for bathing, surfing and sea angling. Inch Strand was chosen by director David Lean as the beach location for “Ryan’s Daughter”. The film “Playboy of the Western World” was shot entirely here at Inch.
Enjoy the wild ocean spray as you stretch your legs here, or take yourself to the water for a surf lesson. Whatever you choose, be it taking your rest and a slice of homemade cake at Joan’s cosy cafe or taking a picnic to the little seen world at Inch’s end, there
is a world of life here to be explored. The gentle currents of the Gulf Stream ensure favourable climate here for those in search of the joys of the coast.
Annascaul Abhann na Scáil
This picturesque town is nestled close to both the Slieve Mish mountains and the long sandy beach at Inch. Take a quiet stroll down to the river by Creans Pub and enjoy the peace of the Scáil river from which the town takes its name. At the charming pottery shop here one can even book in a day of lessons and throw one’s own piece of ceramic art.
Annascaul is a popular area for walkers and hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. It is also the proud birthplace of both the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean and Irish- American sculptor Jerome ‘O Connor.
A stunning drive follows taking you through some of Ireland’s lushest pastures
along breath-taking valley views. There are a number of hairpin bends which are well signposted as you drive downhill along this thrilling route – but you are well advised to take great care and drive slowly. Remember, you may be joined by walkers as well as cyclists, and even sheep or cattle -as you make your way along this Wild Atlantic Way.
Travelling inland for some distance you will lose sight of the ocean until just past Lispol. Once again, you are spoiled for beaches on the Dingle Peninsula.
Beyond Lispole you can visit the remains of Minard castle and enjoy the splendour of Kilmurry Bay and its storm beach of round boulders. Upstream you will find the beach of Kinard, beloved of sea anglers. Named Béal or “mouth”, this beach is overlooked by the curious seastack known as An Searrach or “The Foal”.
A long straight road follows, driving with the sister range of Mc Gillicuddy’s reeks to
your right, and the ocean with various access points on your left. Closer to the town
you can take a turning down towards the estuary beach known as Beál Bán taking in Dingle’s colourful Camphill community on your way where a range of hand-made goods are available to buy in support of the fabulous work done here for people with Special needs.
Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis “The Fort of the Husseys”
Framed by the dramatic mountains of the spectacular Conor Pass with water stretching out beyond to the Atlantic, the town of Dingle has a long-standing relationship with all things maritime. Welcome to the home of gourmet food, fabulous humour and culture galore. There is something special about Dingle, even a Dolphin has made it his home!
Daingean Uí Chúis is one of the few Irish towns that is part of Ireland’s Gaeltacht region – you are likely to hear locals chatting away in fabulous Kerry Irish. A mecca for Irish language learners, the towns west of Dingle, in particular Baile na nGall ( Ballydavid
or “the town of the foreigner”) and Baile an Fheirtearaigh (Ballyferriter “the town of the Ferriters”)
Dingle opens dramatically onto the usually calm waters of her sheltered harbour – fishing boats arrive from Spain to haul their catch onto lorries bound for Europe. But if its local fish you are after, you can also chat to local fishermen or catch a glimpse of the harbour’s resident seal! Another fabulous resident of this harbour and surrounding waters is a dolphin known affectionately as “Fungi”. This sociable sea dweller made Dingle his home over 30 years ago and continues to entertain visitors with his antics. There are a number of tours offering trips to visit fungi – you can even swim with him if you are brave enough! Many have remarked on the healing powers of the experience and a Film “The Dingle Dolphin” has been made to share the many remarkable stories and celebrate the love that many share for “Fungi”. A bridge between the world of the sea and land, we hope that our friend “Fungi” will continue to enjoy his home in Dingle. If you want to get up close with some sharks or view some spirited penguins, Dingle’s Ocean World Aquarium offers a glimpse of life beneath the waves. A visit your children are sure to enjoy.
Dingle town has enjoyed a rich and provocative history. Once planned as a refuge for the French Monarch Marie Antionette, this pretty seaside town is a cosmopolitan haven offering good food, and no end of opportunities to enjoy the fabulous scenery and rich local culture. An Lab, is one of Ireland’s only dedicated Irish-language cultural centres and offers a rich programme of events. The towns’ brightly painted buildings lend it something of a mediterranean atmosphere. From here hill walkers can head out from Dingle town to explore the winsome hills and valleys that make up the Connor pass.
The Slea Head Drive
A route of outstanding coastal beauty, please drive slowly and stop regularly to take
in the full range of this stunning scenery. Reflect on the lives of those who have made this land their home for millenia and man’s resilience in the face of nature – although whipped by the winds and crashing waves. From the impressive sandy beaches of Ceann Trá ( in English “Ventry” so named after Lord Ventry who once made his home here) to the wild cliffs and raging seas around Dún Chaoin (Dunquinn). In stormy weather the Atlantic becomes a raging beast and the crossing to the once inhabited Blasket Islands, unpassable. We can only admire the courage tenacity and strength of the people who have lived here for generations.
East of the village of Dún Chaoin is an ancient burial ground for the Spanish who lost their lives off the Blasket Islands here in 1588. The stunning countryside here is famous as the setting of the film Ryans Daughter.
Take yourself to Ionad na Blascaoid – The Blasket Centre of an afternoon and learn about the lives of the Islanders. Here you will find a comfortable restaurant with sea views, a film in your language about the Island and a detailed exhibition that gives meticulous insight into life as it was on The Blaskets.
Many books were published by the islanders – providing an insight into their way of life an Island culture and strength of community now sadly been lost to modernity. Today their stories live on. Today you can take one of the boats across to visit the Islands for a day and walk among the ruined houses of this once bustling Island community. Rounding the head at the mysterious rocky crags of this unique coast from here one can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the stunning West Kerry scenery from Sibyl head across to the heights of Brandon’s mountain. One can also view the “three sisters” peaks also known locally as Binn Hanrai, Binn Meanach and Binn Diarmada.
As you wind your way down between the stone walls and green fields where sheep and cattle graze you can stop in at the wonderful Tig Áine’s for some home-made scones and tea. A charming atmosphere with open fires and spectacular views of the ocean awaits you here. On a hot day, this is the only place west of Dingle to get some Murphys ice cream. Áine is also one of Dingle’s artists, her paintings immortalise the gentle hues of Kerrys landscape.
The busy studios, shop and cafe of Mulcahy’s pottery lie to your left as you head on towards Bally Ferriter – it’s Museum of Archaeology, cosy pubs and beaches of golden sand. A string of festivals are held here each year from the traditional music of Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh to An Féile beag filíochta, BallyFerriter is alive with culture.
On your travels westwards, watch out for signs for the ecclesiastical heritage sites of the region including Gallarus Oratory and Kilmalkedar monastic site. You will pass these as the road winds down towards the village with of Baile na nGall.
Baile na nGall or Ballydavid, lies further on and its Trá an Fíona or Wine Strand boasts a fabulous view of the three sisters and sibyl head beyond. The sheltered cove at the harbour of Ballydavid is the perfect place to relax. As your children enjoy the sandy beach with its many rock pools visitors can sit out to take the sunshine while enjoying some of the local food in full confidence that they are in sight.
A walk along the cliffs from this point, in full view of the Atlantic from the lofty cliffs, will take you around to the next cove of Feothanach a perfect beach for finding interesting ocean debris but not a favoured swimming spot.
Driving on around the Slea head drive, you will take in the shop and church at Bóthar Buí and further on the road opens onto a dramatic cliff view where there are two well-appointed restaurants serving hearty local fare. The harbour below is a smugglers dream but is not much in use today. Be sure to park carefully if you choose to stop here for a closer sea view. Stand well back from the cliff edge as we never can know if there is an overhang or a risk of the earth giving way. In this heady landscape, it is wise to be cautious and travel safely – the ocean takes no prisoners!
From Feothanach, if you cross the bridge at the junction, you can follow the road around to take in the treacherous rocky inlet of Brandon’s cove where Saint Brendan is said
to have embarked on his perilous journey across to the “Isle of the Blessed” – his was the first record of a visiting that landmass today known as “America”. The journey of Brendan (489–583AD.) or “Brendan the voyager” as he is sometimes known, was re-created by Tim Severin in a hand crafted naomhóg in 1976. Severin and his crew sailed their tiny boat The Brendan, 4,500 miles (7,200 km) from Ireland to Newfoundland,
stopping at the Hebrides and Iceland en route. Latin texts of Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot) date back to at least 800 AD.
From here, the road will take you straight to the foot of Mount Brandon, where the Saint was reputed to have fasted for 40 days before undertaking his famous voyage. Climbing to the summit is both strenuous and rewarding. Mount Brandon itself is the end of a Christian pilgrimage trail known as Cosán na Naomh. The walk can take about four hours and the route is marked out clearly by white crosses. Pilgrims have come to this place for thousands of years prior to Christianity and this route was originally associated with the festival of Lughnasadh. The mountain’s importance may be due to the fact that, being so far west and so high, it is the last place where the sun can be seen before it sets.
The historical Saint known as Brendan was born in Ciarraighe Luachra, near the present city of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, in 484. For five years he was educated under St. Ita, who was known as “the Brigid of Munster”, and he completed his studies under St. Erc,(who gave his name to the local school here) who ordained him priest in 512AD.
This unique route known among locals as “An Chonair”, crosses the peninsula
between Dingle Town and Brandon Bay on the other side. The Mountains the Pass crosses are the Brandon Mountains and contain Ireland’s second highest peak Brandon Mountain at 3127 ft. From Dingle Town the road runs some 41⁄2 miles with some jaw dropping views of the landscape beyond. At the summit of the Pass there is a carpark where you are confronted with this magnificent sight. The road then carries on down towards Brandon Bay past cliffs and a waterfall. Stop at the waterfall and brave the climb to spy one of these remarkable mountain lakes and an elevated view of the valley below.
Brandon Cé Bhréannain Brendan’s Quay
The pace of life here is wonderful. Despite it’s location the village has a warm and cosy atmosphere, good food and a lively cultural calendar.
In this Gaeltacht village and surrounding area, the ancient Celtic harvest festival, a pre- Christian celebration called Féile Lughnasa takes place yearly on the last Sunday of July.
Here you will find one of the top windsurfing location in the country and you can learn for yourself at the local windsurfing school that is based in the bay.
Brandon together with it’s sister village, An Clochán, will bring gentle respite from any residual stresses that have not yet been blown away by the Wild Atlantic that is your companion.
Cloghane An Clochán “The Stone Hut”
Clochán is a quaint and colourful village elegantly flourishing on the shores of the Owenmore estuary. It has a rich heritage of music, language, and dance and boasts fine dining and a warm welcome. Music sessions nightly in the local pubs will keep you entertained after a day of drinking in the fresh air.
Castlegregory Caisleán Ghriaire Gregory’s Castle
A gentleman by the name of Gregory Hoare built a house here on the north side of the peninsula in the 16th century. The population of the region is now only one quarter of what it was prior to the Great Famine.
The village is surrounded by the ever-looming mountains of the Dingle peninsula and overlooked directly by Beenoskee and Stradbally Mountains. Rising to the west we see Mount Brandon.
Castlegregory Pattern Day is celebrated on 15 August, and a local tradition is to eat locally-made mutton pies. This event is known to attract several celebrities each year. Colin Farrell and Cathal Lafferty attended in 2007.
A nine hole links golf course “Castlegregory Golf and Fishing club”, is also located nearby, to the west of the village on the shores of Lough Gill, a freshwater lake.
DID YOU KNOW?
The longest beach in Ireland, which extends for twelve miles, begins in the Cloghane- Brandon area, stretching all the way along the coastline to the Maharees incorporating many beautiful strands including Fermoyle, Kilcummin, Gowlane, Stradbally and Fahamore.
This is an unspoiled sandy peninsula separating Brandon Bay to the west from Tralee Bay on the east. The many beaches here make it a summertime paradise, with a wealth of outdoor pursuits available in a fabulous setting. Off the peninsula you can see a number small islands, called the Seven Hoggs, or the Maharee Islands. On the largest one of these islands, Illauntannig or Oileán tSeanaigh you can find the ruins of a 7th- century monastic site founded by St Senach. These contain two oratories, three beehive huts and three examples of a lecht or altar.
A small fishing harbour is located at Fahamore on Scraggane Bay, at the tip of the Maharees peninsula about 5 km outside the village of Castlegregory .
Camp An Cam
Set in the foothills of the Slieve Mish mountains, this village of been associated with tales of the Milesians thus the first possible recorded history from the area dates to around 1700 BC. Near Camp village in the centre of a field is a gravestone marked with a simple cross, an Ogham inscription and a Latin script. Tradition tells how Fas, wife of a Milesian chieftain, was killed in the first battles here between the Milesians and the original settlers.
At 2050 feet above sea-level the remains a stone fortress still stand with a defending wall that stands 350 feet long and 14 feet thick. Tradition tells how the fort was built and magically defended by Cu Raoi a magical figure who carried off Cu Chulainn’s girlfriend Blathnaid.
Ballyheighe Baile Uí Thaidhg “Tadhg’s town”
Ballyheighe is a popular resort and many come to enjoy the many miles of beaches here that connect to Banna Strand to the south, and Kerry Head to the north. The busy community run many events throughout the year including an annual summer festival in July and the September Triathlon.
Ballybunion Baile an Bhuinneánaigh
The two golf courses in the area include the famous Ballybunion Golf Club, a top-class Links course which was founded in 1893 and host course to the Murphys Irish Open in 2000 and Palmer Cup in 2004. Beaches near Ballybunion offer a popular surfing site and there are amiable walks to be had atop the cliffs. Other traditions include the beachside Seaweed Baths, featuring sea water with kelp for beauty and longevity. In the summertime cooked periwinkles are salted and served in small paper bags along with a pin to extract the small sea snails- a local delicacy!
Here you are just 15km from the literary town of Listowel with its famed Listowel International Writers Week (27th-31st of May).
Route travelling from Tralee to Dingle
Tralee, a major city, is a gateway to the unparalleled magic and beauty of the Dingle Peninsula.
Passing over the bridge from Tralee you may choose to visit the Wollen Mills of Blennerville. Here for many hundreds of years, wool from the surrounding countryside was processed into yarns. Today with the availability of cheap labour such local industry and local self-sufficiency is too often forgotten.
In your approach to the Dingle peninsula, there are two possible routes. Traveling straight and following the road onwards to Castlegregory you will pass numerous sandy beaches. To your left the mountains loom large, shadows shifting across their face as clouds pass by. If you choose to take the higher road, via Annascaul, you will be on the far side of these mountains winding along the valley towards Dingle town. Taking this route means avoiding the perilous challenges of the Connor Pass.
There are two choices for your approach to Dingle coming from Tralee. One road takes you upwards climbing around a green valley and onwards through lonesome open countryside, through Annascaul and finally on to Dingle. The second option will lead you through the dizzying heights of the Connor Pass. Set yourself up for the experience with a stop in the charming towns of Clohane and Brandon or onto the headland of Srón Brón. Here, a peaceful village nestled into the hazy foothills of Mount Brandon
lies in wait. It is truly a cosy and welcoming place. A place to relax and reflect upon life. Quite off the beaten track this offers the most westerly part on this side of the mountain. Hillwalkers can take this as their starting point across Brandon Mountain or through the archaeologically rich valleys of the Conor pass onwards to Dingle. If you are prepared,
it would indeed be a wonderful hike across uneven terrain rising up from the ocean to the dizzying heights above. Winding your way away back along the road from Brandon
village, you still have a climb ahead of you by road. The Connor Pass will take you 1500ft above sea level, it is the highest mountain pass in Ireland.
Like a bird in flight, you will experience the ear popping elevation of these mighty mountains and unsurpassed views of the surrounding landscape. Many have commented that it feels like being in a film set- the surreal beauty of the Dingle Peninsula is out of this world. When you visit for yourself you will be in no doubt why National Geographic named Dingle the “most beautiful place in the world”.
Tarbert Tairbeart an Old Norse(Viking) term meaning “draw-boat” Framed by woodland to the South and the Shannon estuary to the North, Tarbert remains a bustling port. The island is connected to the mainland by a short strip of land.
From the island of Tarbert there is a car ferry service to the town of Killimer, near Kilrush in Clare. Operated by Shannon Ferries this unique service provides a link between route N69 in Kerry and the N68 in Clare. The Tarbert Lighthouse came into operation on the Island on March 31, 1834 One of Ireland’s only Fortresses built since Independence, Fort Shannon, was built to protect the river Shannon against hostile warships in 1942 during “The Emergency” (as WW2 was known in Ireland).