The Ring of Kerry is a one hundred and seventy-nine kilometre coastal driving route that takes in a peninsula in Co. Kerry. Its official name is the Iveragh Peninsula, but it is known the world over by its ring route name. The recommended route in guidebooks and by local tourism organisations, is to begin in Killarney and you can choose to go clockwise towards Kenmare, or anti-clockwise towards Killorglin.
Tour buses taking the route generally go anti-clockwise and many locals recommend going clockwise to avoid being stuck behind them. Equally, other locals recommend you should drive in the same direction as the buses so that you do not have to squeeze passed them on the narrow roads you will encounter on the route. Whichever you choose, one thing is for sure, you will be stopping off at some of the best beaches in Ireland along the way.
Best for Peace and Quiet, Derrynane Beach
Half way around the Ring of Kerry is the historical area called Caherdaniel. It is here that one of Ireland’s greatest liberators (Daniel O’Connell) grew up and where one of Ireland’s great historical houses, Derrynane House, now sits. A tourist attraction in itself with its tea rooms open in the summer season, perhaps the best part of Derrynane is the beach itself. A very beautiful, quiet and lengthy sandy beach, it offers magnificent views across Derrynane Bay.
Best for Family Days Out, Rossbeigh Beach
Rossbeigh Beach is a long sandy beach located two kilometres away from the picturesque village of Glenbeigh, on the Ring of Kerry route. In the summer months it is patrolled by lifeguards making it a very safe beach to bring children. The beach has a playground, a shop, numerous sandy dunes, a back and front strand and lots of free parking. It is a destination beach for water sports such as surfing and families can even take a horse-trekking trip on the beach if they wish. While the beach was very badly affected by a severe storm in early 2014, huge efforts to refurbish the beach were put in place to bring it back to its former glory.
Best for a Spot of Lunch, Castlecove Beach
In close proximity to Derrynane Beach, Castlecove Beach is directly on the Ring of Kerry route and it is a great spot to pull in for lunch as it is home to a very popular beach side bar and restaurant called O’Carroll’s Cove. The beach is a calm white sandy beach with perfectly clear turquoise waters overlooking Kenmare Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Sea life can also be found at this beach as seals and dolphins are commonly spotted.
Best Geological Gem, Coral Beach
For those more interested in the geological nature of beaches and looking for something a bit different, Coral Beach near Gleesk Pier in the pretty village of Sneem is a rare gem. It is one of only two beaches in Ireland that is made of coral and not sand. This type of coral is not like the coral you might find in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for example, but a dried and sun-bleached form of algae. For nature lovers and conservationists, this beach is well worth a visit.
Best Off-The-Beaten-Track Beach, St. Finian’s Bay
Small but perfectly formed and certainly wild when the wind is high, St. Finian’s Bay is a secluded beach that takes you off the Ring of Kerry towards Portmagee village overlooking Valentia Island and outwards to views of the Skellig Islands. It lies half way around the Skellig Ring which is not technically on the Ring of Kerry, but well worth driving for the spectacular views. The bay is also known locally as The Glen. It also has a small pier, but probably the nicest surprise is that it is home to The Skellig Chocolate Factory where homemade Irish chocolates are made and sold.
Best for Watersports, Reen Rua Beach
For the activity seeker, one of the beaches on the Ring of Kerry for all forms of water sports is Reen Rua Beach between the village of Waterville and the Ballinskelligs area. This beach is located off the main route road (the R567) and the Skellig Watersports Surf School operates in the local area offering everything from windsurfing, to kayaking and surfing. The beach is particularly good for beginner surfers due to its sandy bottom. Interestingly, the same storms that wreaked havoc on Rossbeigh Beach in early 2014, did the same here. The storms washed away so much sand that it actually unveiled a four thousand year old pre-historic forest in the form of ancient tree stumps.