Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Driving the Ring of Kerry: How to Do Ireland’s Iconic Route

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I spent so much time plotting out the Scotland leg of our trip that I must confess I completely neglected Ireland. The nice that is that, hotels aside, both countries are places that can be tackled without a lot of preparation in advance. Driving The Ring of Kerry, the Emerald Isle’s most famous route, was our most scenic portion of our trip to Ireland, and if you’re looking to recreate this leg, here’s how you can do just that.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Give yourself a whole day to drive the loop. Sure, it looks like a short amount of distance on the map, but I assure you it will take you the entire afternoon.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Stay in Killarney. I’m sure there are other nice towns along the route, but Killarney, which is at the starting point of the ring, is one of my favorite places in Ireland. I didn’t see another town along the ring that could compare (though Kenmare is also worth a gander).

Killarney, Ireland

Don’t wait for the rain to subside. We had a ridiculously, uncharacteristically beautiful day—still, there were patches of rain here and there—but I hear this is the exception to the norm. Like at the Cliffs of Moher, weather can change in seconds, so don’t delay your trip hoping for a break in the clouds because it might never happen.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Drive the route clockwise

This way, you’ll be driving opposite the buses—of which there are many on the very narrow road—and won’t get stuck behind one as it idles along.

… however, if you’re the slightest bit afraid of heights, go with the flow and drive it counter-clockwise

Because driving opposite the buses means they’ll be driving at you head on and—if you’re American like me—on the opposite side of the road at that. This thought didn’t scare me, but my acrophobic mom was having none of it. Scared, too? Drive in the same direction as the buses, we did. Seeing as it was a weekday at the tail end of the shoulder season, we actually didn’t run into much traffic at all. (I assume this wouldn’t be the case in the height of summer.)

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Pull over for photo stops frequently

Particularly when a dog sitting on a donkey is involved. You’ll have to pay to pet the goat, but something tells me you won’t mind.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Dance like nobody’s watching

And even if they are, who cares? You’re in freakin’ Ireland!

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

What tips do you have for driving the Ring of Kerry?

  • December 26, 2012

    We loved this area of Ireland. We were so thankful that we drove this on our own versus taking a bus. It gave us opportunity to take our time and adventure down little side roads. If there is one thing I highly recommend it is the Skellig ring off of the Ring of Kerry. The buses don’t fit on these narrow roads and the scenery is absolutely incredible.

  • December 26, 2012

    That last tip is definitely the most important 😛

  • December 27, 2012

    Ah! I really need to visit Ireland. Looks beautiful!

  • December 27, 2012

    You ladies are glowing from all the fun you had!

  • December 27, 2012

    I’m not really sure how you can not be happy around your sister!

  • December 27, 2012

    Great photos as always! I would love to drive the Ring of Kerry because it looks so beautiful, but the only problems are that I don’t think I’m old enough to rent a car and I have no idea how to drive stick. If I could just find a cute Irish boy to drive me that would be perfect!

  • December 27, 2012

    We did the bus for the Ring of Kerry, and I have zero regrets. I had to do all the driving on this trip since the BF can’t drive a stick, and I was a bundle of nerves basically the entire time. Sure, the bus can’t take little side trips and you’re locked into a timetable, but I was just so thrilled to be able to sit back and get taken for a ride that I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  • December 29, 2012

    Love this post! I really need to do Ireland again. It was such a long time ago and a repeat visit is necessary! Your sister DOES look like she’s having a ball 🙂

  • December 29, 2012

    kl, have you done the great ocean road drive yet? (in melbourne)….this reminds me of it…

  • January 8, 2013
    Caroline Copestake

    Hi Kristin, we love your blog and are currently reaching out to experts who blog about travel. We’re holding a press and blogging event in London later this month, and are hoping you can come. Would you email me, so I can tell you more about it? Thanks, Caroline

  • January 11, 2013
    Just One Boomer (Suzanne)

    We drove the Ring of Kerry in 2012 too. The experience of driving (or rather, being a passenger) in Ireland moved me to write a blog post about driving on the “wrong” side. I can totally relate to your mother’s point of view. Someone commented on my blog that when he drove in Ireland with his wife in the passenger seat, she had bruises on her left hand from holding onto the “Oh Sh*t” handle.

  • February 15, 2016

    I’m thinking about hiking in and around the Ring of Kerry on my next Ireland trip.

  • September 8, 2022
    Steven Andrews

    I must travel to Ireland. Looks lovely! You ladies are shining from all of your fun!

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