“You can, but why would you?” questioned our friendly bartender. I had asked if it was possible to drive around the Ring of Kerry in a day. Now he was looking at me with bewilderment. “Be a shame to race through it.” This, I already knew, but my European Road Trip around Ireland with Auto Europe Car Rentals was a tight one and I only had a day to spare. It would have to do.
Pfft, It’s only 179 kilometers.
Set me Straight
“You can, but why would you?” echoed our host at The Ross Hotel in Killarney. “People come here for weeks at a time to see and drive around the Ring of Kerry.” My skepticism was wearing off, and rightfully so. If a day to drive around the Ring of Kerry isn’t enough, Ciara would know. Her family has been living in the area for generations and have been welcoming visitors to experience just how wonderful her backyard is for just as long. Ciara’s grandmother opened the The Park Hotel,Killarney’s 5 Star retreat, and today Ciara runs the newer and boutique Ross Hotel. This would be my home base for getting around the Ring of Kerry, and a comfortable one at that.
With Ciara setting me straight I settled on seeing a few highlights around the Ring Kerry and not the whole thing. With a fresh take and limited daylight I set off. I would head south towards Sneem before turning around and making my way back, but first, as Ciara pointed out, I should see some highlights around Killarney.
Killarney National Park
First up on this quarter way around the Ring of Kerry road trip was a stroll through Killarney National park. The massive (25,425 acres) green space was set up as Ireland’s first national park. Today it is home to wild deer, power walkers, and some incredible scenery.
A Short distance from Killarney you will find the Muckross House. Once a summer home renovated for Queen Victoria’s visit, it has passed hands between Arthur Guinness and a wealthy Californian couple. Today it is owned and operated by the Irish government for all to enjoy.
By this point I was already halfway through my day let alone halfway around the Ring of Kerry. The winding roads and slow traffic didn’t help either, but really, why would you want to drive fast around this?
Piles of Rocks
Besides a pessimistic response, the bartender did have something to offer – the Staigue Stone Fort. This ancient fort was my highlight while touring around the Ring of Kerry. Located up a winding walled road with a width slightly larger than the car I was driving, getting there was half the fun. Said to be built between 300 and 400 AD, this round fort stands much like it was when it was constructed even though there is no mortar holding it together. Once a stronghold to protect a local king, on my visit it was home to hungry sheep and a couple curious tourists.
I should’ve known something as popular as driving around the Ring of Kerry would take some time to truly enjoy it. I only saw a quarter of it leaving much to discover.
Exploring the ring of Kerry, just another reason to return to Ireland.
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Although The Ross Hotel provided me with a complimentary stay,
the experience, opinions, and (assisted) decision to drive a quarter way around the Ring of Kerry are my own.