Are you a big into birthday celebrations? I’ve never really been one for big parties, but we tend to try and go away for at least a couple of days for each of our birthdays.
This month, it was my husband’s birthday and we still had a couple of accommodation vouchers that we’d received as presents this past year. So, we decided to go on a mini staycation on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland!
(Side Note: accommodation vouchers are an awesome gift for your travel-enthusiast friends!)
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County Kerry, Ireland
County Kerry is one of 26 counties in The Republic of Ireland. It’s right down in the south-west of the country, and only really about an hour or so away from Cork, where we live. So, it isn’t far to go for us at all, but it is SO different to Cork!
It’s quite incredible how a small country like Ireland has such extremely different landscapes, depending on where you are.
Cork is all rolling hills and lush greens, while Kerry, just slightly further south-west, is rugged, barren and mountainous.
We go to County Kerry quite often, usually to Killarney but sometimes to some of the more hidden gems along the Ring of Kerry and broader County Kerry too.
With over 26,000 acres of National Park, Killarney has some stunningly beautiful lakes and amazing walks and hikes to enjoy.
It’s definitely one of my absolute favourite places in Ireland!
Killarney – The Best Accommodation Before Driving The Ring of Kerry
This time, we started our trip around the Ring of Kerry at one of the few true five-star hotels in Ireland, The Europe Hotel & Resort.
If you’re ever planning a visit to Killarney, and want a true timeout, this is the place to stay!
Set right on one of Killarney’s beautiful lakes, my absolute favourite aspect of this hotel is its spa and leisure facilities.
You could literally sit in the heated outside vitality pool for hours gazing around at the amazing scenery. Then there’s the steam room and sauna area, which, unlike many hotels, is truly wonderful. Probably one of the best we’ve experienced in a hotel. It has a truly luxurious feel to it, and is just the right place to unwind after a lengthy trek out in the wild of the Ring of Kerry!
This was actually our third visit to The Europe 😇 Which says a lot as we don’t normally return to the same place all that often.
The beds here are super comfy, and the views are simply breathtaking.
I would recommend the cheaper golf-side room over the more expensive Lakeview rooms though. While the Lakeview rooms are bigger, they’re also right above the restaurants and bars so they’re actually a bit noisier unless you can get one on a higher floor.
There are multiple bars and lounges throughout the hotel where we enjoyed a quiet drink or two in the evening after dinner at one of the two restaurants overlooking the lake.
The Europe in Killarney is definitely the perfect spot to kick off your visit to the Ring of Kerry!
Killarney – Kenmare: Best Spots To Visit Before Driving The Ring of Kerry
Only about 45 minutes away from Killarney is Kenmare – A small town and the ideal starting point to the Ring of Kerry.
Drive the more scenic N71, and you’ll pass Muckross House on your right, and Torc Waterfall on your left just as you’re leaving Killarney.
Muckross House & Gardens
Muckross House is a beautiful 19th century Victorian mansion with lovely gardens that you can easily take a stroll around. You can go into the house for €9 per adult, although we’ve never done so ourselves.
To me, the true beauty of Ireland is in the outdoors, and we’ve not yet become bored of the multitude of walks, hikes and views despite years of visiting the Ring of Kerry!
From Muckross House you have lots of trails to choose from, taking you through what is really only a tiny portion of the National Park. No matter which route you decide on though, I guarantee it’s going to be beautiful!
For something fun and a bit different, why not go on a horse and carriage tour of Killarney national park? (Or, as it’s called in Ireland, a jaunting car ride!)
Torc Mountain & Waterfall
If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, continue on to Torc Waterfall. You could choose to just park at the base and walk a couple of hundred metres up to the beautiful waterfall. But, if you want a spectacular view of Killarney and surroundings, I highly recommend the trek up Torc Mountain.
It’s only 535m high so it doesn’t take too long to climb.
Plus, you can choose between the “long way” and the “not so long way”.
We normally park at the upper car park, which means you take a turn-off to the left just before Torc Waterfall and follow a narrow road for about 1km.
There’s a lot more space to park there compared to the lower car park at the base of the waterfall. Either way, you can easily access the waterfall. But, if your plan is to go up the mountain, the upper car park gives you a small advantage!
Don’t miss the turn-off on the trail to the summit though – If you continue straight on, you’ll end up all the way in Kenmare if you’re not careful 😉
Best Viewing Points on The Ring Of Kerry
Your drive towards Kenmare then takes you past Ladies View and Moll’s Gap. These are arguably some of the best known spots on the Ring of Kerry.
Definitely make sure you pull over for some amazing photos of the panoramic vistas!
Another really beautiful hike is about half an hour past Kenmare. This place is called Gleninchaquin park and is a bit tricky to find, but well worth it.
You might need a bit of nerve to drive the 12 or so km from the turnoff to the park though. In true Irish style, it is narrow and windy! But, there’s plenty of room to park and the walk is amazing!
There is a small charge to enter (parking + walk), but this is put to good use for maintenance of the park.
The tracks are all carefully marked.
The medium-length (red) route is great, although there is also a longer (yellow) walk that we’ll have to go back and try another time. The views, once again, are absolutely breathtaking.
We brought a thermos and packed lunch, which made for a well-deserved break at the top!
Driving The Ring Of Kerry
Your visit to County Kerry isn’t complete without a drive around the Ring of Kerry though.
The best way is to use Kenmare as your starting point, and driving around the peninsula in an anti-clockwise direction back to Killarney.
That way, you go against the flow of the many tour buses that drive the route every day, and so they won’t obscure your view while you drive!
Driving the Ring of Kerry using this route, you drive through Sneem, a popular seaside holiday town, and on to Castlecove.
Stop off there at O’Carroll’s Bar for some lunch right on the little beach with incredibly clear, turquoise water. Not surprisingly, this is another popular summer holiday spot for families. Alternatively, try the Blind Piper Bar just down the road in Caherdaniel before taking a small detour to Derrynane to visit the beach and gardens there.
There’s a nice beach there too although the weather was a bit cool for a swim in the old Irish sea!! Instead, we walked down to the Abbey and Castle which was a nice stretch of the legs after the drive from Kenmare!
Apparently, the castle (which is really just a tower, like most Irish castles) was used in the 15th and 16th centuries to guard against pirates!
From there we had hoped to drive up the Ring of Kerry towards Portmagee and explore Valentia Island. But, at that point it was late in the day and so we decided to just head straight to our accommodation for the night – Quinlan & Cooke Boutique Townhouse in Cahirseveen.
Unfortunately, the weather turned Irish the next day so we’re saving Valentia Island for another visit!
We’re told it is well worth a stop though, including going for a walk on Bray Head.
The Ring of Kerry Accommodation
QC’s guesthouse and restaurant were absolutely lovely. The food was delicious and our room quaint and homely.
We stayed in the “Red Room” on the top floor, which even featured a bathtub right there in our room!
Breakfast the next morning was hung on our door, including fresh pastries and fruit. Other items like yogurt and juice were stored in the little fridge in our room.
In all honesty, there is no other reason to stop in Cahirseveen…. There really isn’t anything there! But it was a good stopping point for the evening, and would have been an easy 15 minute drive back to Valentia Island if the weather hadn’t turned.
Kells Bay Beach, House & Gardens
On the way back to Killarney from Chirseveen, Kells Bay House and Gardens is well worth a stop.
The six gardens are set on 17 hectares, featuring lots of subtropical plants and (once again) amazing views! There’s a few nice walks to do as well, so plan for plenty of time to take it all in! Cost is €8 per adult.
If you like, you can even stay at the guesthouse or stay for lunch at the pretty conservatory cafe, or dinner at their Thai restaurant.
If the weather is warm (yes – it does happen!), then the small, sheltered Kells beach is a great place to spend the day!
We’re already looking forward to going back to the Ring of Kerry again soon!
Do you like to go away for your birthday? What’s been your favourite place to celebrate a special occasion?
Please let me know by leaving a comment below!