The Ultimate Ring of Kerry Itinerary: One Day Ring of Kerry Car Route

I will start this Ring of Kerry Itinerary by saying that this is a one day Ring of Kerry car route because that’s the route I did. However, I stayed in Killarney for two weeks and I also popped back to see some of the other stops, like the Gap of Dunloe on separate days. So at the end of the itinerary, I’ll also be sharing additional Ring of Kerry must see stops if you have time to add them to your itinerary.

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most famous destinations and attractions to visit in Ireland. After the Cliffs of Moher and Dublin, the Ring of Kerry is usually the next location added to people’s Ireland itinerary and for good reason.

The Ring of Kerry is a spectacular 180km route in Southern Ireland which is most often started in Killarney and follows the circular coastal road around the Iveragh Peninsula, ending at Kenmare or back at Killarney.

This is a Ring of Kerry driving itinerary intended for those with their own vehicle or rental vehicle during your time in Ireland. Personally I believe your own vehicle is the best way to see the Ring of Kerry and to have the flexibility to stop and enjoy the stunning scenery whenever you want.

 

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Ring of Kerry One Day Tour

winding road with mountains in the background

Ring of Kerry drive

If you don’t have your own vehicle though, there are still plenty of options for a Ring of Kerry coach tour to see all the sights.

Check out Ring of Kerry tour with Get Your Guide. with Get Your Guide. I personally use Get Your Guide for all my tours whenever I can because the local tour guide is always super knowledgeable and they pack as much as possible into a day (I know that’s not everyone’s travel style but I love to do as much as possible!).

This Ring of Kerry tour itinerary covers all the main spots on the driving route with plenty of fun, additional stops to experience Irish culture, like visiting a traditional Bog VIllage with the thatched cottages. Or if you do the tour in the summer, a traditional Irish sheepdog show at Kells!

Book here.

 

Is the Ring of Kerry Worth it?

Simply? Yes.

It’s the second most popular driving route in Ireland for a reason! (After the Wild Atlantic Way route of course!)

The scenery is stunning and the great thing about a 180km drive is that even in the summer months when it’s busier, it’s not like visiting an attraction or a city where the crowds are huge, there’s plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the scenery and the drive. 

 

Ring of Kerry time to complete the full loop

This one day Ring of Kerry itinerary covers all the best Ring of Kerry stops to plan your day on this epic Ireland driving route. Plus optional stops to add if you’re staying for longer | ring of kerry ireland road trips | ring of kerry ireland route

The Ring of Kerry travel time of course varies depending on how long you have, how many places you want to stop at and weather and traffic can be a factor too on the windy, single lane roads.

It is definitely possible to complete the loop in a day. We left Killarney at around 8.30am and reached Kenmare for dinner at 6.30pm. It is approximately a 45 minute drive back to Killarney from Kenmare.

So in total, we spent about 11 hours on the Ring of Kerry route including our stops.

Bear in mind that daylight hours are much shorter in autumn and winter. We did this trip in August so the days were long and light. If you visit in autumn or winter you could have 8 hours of daylight or less so that will need to be factored into your trip. 

There are a few stops in this itinerary that can be adapted for that depending on if you want to include a walk or what your interests are.

 

Ring of Kerry direction to travel in

Personally we travelled the Ring of Kerry anti-clockwise - Killarney to Rossbeigh, down the west coast of the peninsula, back up the east coast and finishing in Kenmare.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with going clockwise but we knew most of our stops were on the west side of the peninsula so wanted to make good time and have good light for that.

We also decided to finish our day with dinner and a brewery in Kenmare so we could visit the town. So it made sense to end our day there before our drive back to Killarney.

 

What are the Ring of Kerry roads like?

The Ring of Kerry road is much like all the other rural roads in Ireland - narrow, winding and with close rock walls or cliff faces on the side!

If you’re planning on driving in Ireland anyway then you’ll have no trouble on the Ring of Kerry any more than you would elsewhere in Ireland.

I appreciate that the narrow roads can be intimidating, especially for those travelling from abroad who are used to much wider lanes. Take it slow and take bends cautiously would be my advice. 

While there are plenty of passing places if you do come across farm traffic, I was surprised by how fast the tour coaches drive along this route and seeing a huge coach coming towards you is a little unnerving, so that’s the only extra thing I’d say to be prepared for if you’re visiting the Ring of Kerry during peak season.

 

The big question when visiting Kerry: Should you choose the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula in one day?

Having visited both the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula on separate days, I personally (and honestly) preferred the Dingle Peninsula. However I think that’s because I was blown away by the scenery and how much there was to do and yet you barely hear about it compared to the neighbouring Ring of Kerry.

There’s definitely no reason not to visit the Ring of Kerry and I would choose to do both of them if I went again.

 

Ring of Kerry driving route map

I’ve highlighted the Ring of Kerry route on google maps here. This screenshot also shows the Ring of Kerry stops on the map - the green pins are all mentioned in this article.

Ring of Kerry Google Map Route - follow anti-clockwise

 

Best Stops on the Ring of Kerry in One Day

This itinerary will allow you to see the main sights on the Ring of Kerry in a day. Although these are the Ring of Kerry best stops, in my opinion, this guide follows the main road route so it’s easy to add your own stops, make changes or adapt the itinerary if you have less time or daylight hours.

 

Rossbeigh Walk and Beach Overlook

view of a sandy beach strand peninsula with blue ocean and cloud covered mountains in the background

View of Rossbeigh Strand

About 45 minutes drive from Killarney on the Ring of Kerry road, you will reach Rossbeigh Strand - a stunning beach on a peninsula with sand dunes and incredible views of the Dingle Peninsula across the bay.

Here is your first chance to either stick with this itinerary or cut it shorter because we stopped here to do a 2 hours loop walk from Rossbeigh Beach, around the hill/mountain you can see across the road opposite the car park, which brings you back via the Rossbeigh Beach Overlook. This was one of our favourite easy walks in Ireland.

We found various instructions for the walk, some of which took us over the mountain (which we didn’t want to do) and the easier walk (which we did) around the base.

girl walking up farm track with sandy beach and bay in the background

Rossbeigh Beach Overlook

We parked at the Rossbeigh Beach Car Park which is free and there are plenty of spaces plus a cafe and toilet facilities.

  1. For the loop walk, follow the road back up the way you came until you reach the Glenbeigh Fairy Forest. You could start from here too but there’s only a handful of parking spaces which are usually full in peak season.

  2. Follow the fairy trail. This is popular with families to see the fairy houses attached to trees throughout the wood. Continue on the trail, past the end of the fairy route and continue on the path around the hill. The path is clearly marked.

  3. You’ll eventually come out on a narrow tarmac road. Continue uphill with the hill on your right hand side.

  4. You’ll go through a small settlement of houses. Enjoy the views here too.

  5. When you reach a crossroad you’ll see plenty of signs directing you. Turn right, back towards the coast.

  6. Follow the road again and you’ll see the sea and eventually reach the Rossbeigh Beach Overlook which gives you a spectacular view of the beach and Strand.

  7. Then just walk back down the hill here to the car park.

If you’re short on time, I really recommend parking at the beach and walking up the hill to the Rossbeigh Beach overlook for these spectacular views. Doing that will only take 10-15 minutes from your route.

 
colourful yellow shopfront

Shop in Cahersiveen

Cahersiveen

Continue south on the Ring of Kerry road until you reach Cahersiveen. This is a lovely, typically colorful Irish town and is a good stop for refreshments.

For something unique, check out the Oratory Pizza and Wine bar in a beautiful old church!

From Cahersiveen, you can also cross the bridge and reach Ballycarberry Castle and Cahergall Stone Fort.

 

Valentia Island - Knight’s Town and Skellig Boat tours

view of lush green coastline and the ocean with islands in the background

Nature on Valentia Island with Skellig Islands in the distance

I highly recommend visiting Valentia Island, even just to drive through as we mostly did. Valentia Island is an island just adjacent to the peninsula and is accessible from the Ring of Kerry when you drive down to Portmagee and cross the bridge. It’s also accessible by ferry from Reenard West, more directly off the Ring of Kerry road.

We entered via the bridge at Portmagee so we were not limited by ferry times.

The drive from Cahersiveen to Portmagee bridge is just 15 minutes.

Valentia Island is a real hidden gem with stunning scenery and is famous for its rich geographical and ecological landscapes.

Valentia Island is also the birthplace of global telecommunications, with the first transatlantic cable being laid between Valentia Island and Newfoundland in August 1858 to allow transatlantic communication.

Take some time to drive around the island, stop at Knights Town and enjoy the quaint town, learn about the history, walk along the pier and enjoy a cuppa with a view at The Watch House Cafe.

Visit Valentia Island Lighthouse and stop at the Geokaun Mountain Cliffs to enjoy the view of the bay with islands dotted in the blue Atlantic Ocean. You’ll also find one of the signature Wild Atlantic Way markers here too!

If you do intend to stay longer, Valentia Island is a great base for a night or two. Stay at the Royal Hotel Valentia, take a boat trip from the harbour or even a tour out to the famous Skellig Islands!

If you are planning to visit the Skellig Islands, Valentia Island is where you need to be. Two Skellig Island tour operators depart from Portmagee Marina and another leaves from The Skellig Experience on the Island. 

 
view of fields and mountains in the distance

Views on the Skellig Ring

Skellig Ring

After you leave Valentia Island, I highly recommend continuing on south from Portmagee, heading towards Kerry Cliffs (signposted). 

This road is the Skellig Ring, an additional 18km ring road that adjoins the Ring of Kerry. You will have turned on to it when you left the Ring of Kerry at Ohermong towards Valentia Island. If you look on a map/Google Maps, you’ll see the Ring of Kerry and this additional minor road which is like an added loop on the bottom of it.

This drive was one of the most spectacular parts of the Ring of Kerry drive for me. The winding roads are much less driven than the main Ring and on a clear day you can see out to the Skellig Islands which look so dramatic even from a distance.

To give you an idea of how untouched, remote and rural this area is, the Skellig Ring area is actually home to a designated International Dark Sky Reserve. If you’re an astronomer or keen stargazer of any kind, this is the place to be! Visit Kerry Dark Sky Tourism to find out more about this internationally renowned Dark Sky Reserve.

We loved this drive and it’s well worth doing, even just to get to the next stop: The Kerry Cliffs!

 

Kerry Cliffs

soaring, rugged sea cliffs at kerry cliffs

Kerry Sea Cliffs

I loved Kerry Cliffs just as much as the Cliffs of Moher, probably because I didn’t really have any expectations of them and they were just spectacular

Kerry Sea Cliffs are over 1000ft above the Atlantic Ocean, which are actually taller than the Cliffs of Moher! 

Kerry Cliffs are also home to thousands of notable sea birds and on a clear day, they are an amazing vantage point to see the Skellig Islands from, as well as the tip of Valentia ISland and the rugged coastline stretching out either side of you.

There’s a large car park with a cafe and toilet facilities. Admission to the Kerry Cliffs is €4.

 

Sneem

Follow the Skellig Ring road back to the Ring of Kerry and rejoin the Ring of Kerry driving route at Waterville (don’t miss the big lobster holding a Guinness on the side of a building!)

Follow the road and enjoy the beautiful scenery until you reach the colourful town of Sneem.

We didn’t stop here for too long, but I did jump out of the car to snap a couple of photos of what’s often called one of the most colorful towns in Ireland.

You could stop here for food or drinks if you wanted to, there’s one last stretch of coastal Ring of Kerry scenery before you reach Kenmare - your last stop.

 
blue brewery building

Tom Crean Brewery in Kenmare

Kenmare

On to your last stop on the Ring of Kerry, Kenmare is just 40 minutes from Killarney and back to where you started!

We stopped here for dinner and drinks, as you might know, we’re big brewery fans and like to visit local breweries on all our trips.

We had a quick bite to eat and drink at Kenmare Brewhouse then headed to the Tom Crean Brewery Kenmare.

Tom Crean was an arctic explorer with a fascinating story and journey. His granddaughter, Aileen, now runs the family-owned B&B and restaurant while her husband runs the brewery which is next door.

The story of the brewery, Tom Crean and the family history is fascinating and we were welcomed in and felt like we were having a chat with friends while we sampled a beer or two. We left after a great conversation, a book about Tom Crean and a few beers for the designated driver (and me!) to enjoy when we got back to Killarney.

 

Ladies View

When you leave Kenmare, make sure you continue on the Ring of Kerry road which takes you through Killarney National Park. If you go the other way, you’ll miss out on some epic views of the valley and the Killarney Lakes.

There are viewpoints you can quickly pull into and enjoy which are right on the side of the road. Ladies View is the most famous (and busiest!) It even has a cafe-restaurant with panoramic views over the valley.

Also check out:

  • Moll’s Gap Viewpoint

  • Looscaunagh Lough Viewpoint

  • Owengarriff River Viewpoint

 

Other must-see Ring of Kerry stops

These are additional stops that we also visited on the Ring of Kerry route during our two week stay in Killarney. These are stops closer to Killarney that we drove out to for a hike or an afternoon adventure.

You couldn’t do them on a Ring of Kerry 1 day itinerary but if you’re visiting the Ring of Kerry in 2 days or more, I highly recommend adding these Ring of Kerry suggested stops to your itinerary too!

 
stone bridge over a river in a valley

Gap of Dunloe view

Gap of Dunloe

There’s a chance you’ve seen pictures of the Gap of Dunloe on your trip already, the scene is pretty idyllic, looking down into a valley with a winding road and a river running through it.

We saw a picture of it first on an advert behind the desk of a rental car agency we used!

Getting to Dunloe from Killarney takes just 15 minutes, then follow the single track road into the valley and you’ll see the lake, the Wishing Bridge and the Gap of Dunloe.

The road is narrow, single track only but there are plenty of passing places. I’d recommend entering from the Dunloe side as we came across barely any traffic coming the other way but there were a few cars going the same direction as us.

Once you reach the top of the Gap, the drive down the valley to the other side is also beautiful!

 

Ballaghbeama Gap

Possibly my favourite of all the scenic drives in Ireland! 

Ballaghbeama Gap is such a hidden gem and very underrated compared to its famous neighbour - the Gap of Dunloe!

Located around 1 hour south from Killarney, it almost cuts the Ring of Kerry in half. It would be great to add Ballaghbeama Gap to your Ring of Kerry 1 day itinerary as you approach Kenmare, but it’s accessed by a road further inland from the Ring of Kerry. The entrance to the road is circled on the screenshot below.

The drive is single track but we didn’t meet another vehicle throughout the whole drive across the Gap. 

The landscape was beyond stunning and the steep cliff faces we drove through reminded me of Cheddar Gorge or Winnats Pass in the UK - only much longer and more dramatic!

We stopped so many times for photos, I highly recommend adding this underrated drive to your itinerary.

 

Carrauntoohil

If you’re an avid hiker then it’s possible that you’re in the area because you’re planning to climb Carrauntoohil already. 

Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain at 1038 metres and it is spectacular.

Many people travel from all over the world do this climb, tackle the Devil’s Ladder and see the spectacular views from the top - cloud cover permitting!

The Devil’s Ladder is the most popular ‘tourist’ route and takes around 5-6 hours, covering around 11km/7 miles. Other trails will likely take much longer.

If you’re not a regular or well-practised hiker, it’s highly advised to do this hike with a guide and definitely do not attempt it in bad weather!

We were keen to do this climb, but unfortunately the weather was not good enough that we felt comfortable with it. Definitely one we’ll be back for!

Find out more about Carrauntoohil, the routes and the dangers of climbing it here.

 

Skellig Islands

skellig islands in the distance in the ocean

If you are planning to visit the Skellig Islands, Valentia Island is where you need to be. Two Skellig Island tour operators depart from Portmagee Marina and another leaves from The Skellig Experience on the Island. 

There are two types of Skellig boat trips. One is a landing trip where you land on Skellig Michael and climb the carved steps to the monastery - although good fitness is required! You’ll also circle the island if weather allows you to see the famous Gannet colony - one of the largest in the world! Landing tours generally cost around €100 per person.

Alternatively, eco-tours do not land on the islands but instead sail around them with a highly qualified guide providing information about the history of the islands, the monks that lived there from the 6th century and the ecology of the island too. You’ll also see the Gannet colony. Eco boat tours generally cost around €40 per person.

All boat tours only run between April-October due to the weather and tours are prone to being cancelled last minute due to the changing weather conditions and unique conditions surrounding the islands. 

We didn’t have time to do a tour but if we had, I was interested to book with Skellig Boat tours.

 

Killarney National Park

lake and mountains at sunset

Killarney National Park

Part of what kept us in Killarney for so long (2 weeks out of our 2 months in Ireland) was this wonderful town’s proximity to the spectacular Killarney National Park.

I was just in awe of how lucky the residents of Killarney are to have this National Park literally on their doorstep - you leave town and you’re straight in the National Park immediately!

If you’re staying in Killarney, I highly recommend an easy after dinner or sunset stroll around Ross Castle and the surrounding lake area. Parking is free and just a few minutes down Ross Road from Muckross Road in the town centre.

Other places to visit in Killarney National Park.

  • Ross Castle

  • Muckross Abbey - really cool ruins!

  • Torc Waterfall

  • Torc Mountain trail

  • Muckross Lake Loop

  • Water activities on the lake

 

Summary: One Day Ring of Kerry Itinerary

There’s no doubt about it that the Ring of Kerry is worth its status as one of the best places to visit in Ireland. If you are short on time, don’t be overwhelmed by the number of things to do on the Ring of Kerry, this one day itinerary is totally doable and you won’t regret the long day seeing these spectacular locations.

Hopefully this guide helps you plan your visit to the Ring of Kerry, what to do and where to go, whether you’re driving the Ring of Kerry in one day, or spending a few days in the area.

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This one day Ring of Kerry itinerary covers all the best Ring of Kerry stops to plan your day on this epic Ireland driving route. Plus optional stops to add if you’re staying for longer. | ring of kerry ireland road trips | ring of kerry ireland beau
This one day Ring of Kerry itinerary covers all the best Ring of Kerry stops to plan your day on this epic Ireland driving route. Plus optional stops to add if you’re staying for longer. | ring of kerry ireland road trips | ring of kerry ireland beau