Clarity: The Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Way

I have often heard non-Irish visitors mistakenly call the “Kerry Way” the “Ring of Kerry”. I thought I should just clarify the difference.

The Ring of Kerry is a road that circumvents the Iveragh Peninsula in the county of Kerry in South West Ireland. The scenery is magnificent. You can take a bus journey or drive a car around the peninsula on this road. There are multiple interesting sites to stop and visit along the way, including a bog museum, pubs specialising in Irish food and Irish coffee, souvenir shops etc etc.

Lough Bryn, a serene lake on the Kerry Way

Lough Bryn, a serene lake on the Kerry Way

It’s not for everyone and probably not for the typical hiker. However, if you have very little time or are not able to hike for whatever reason, a day’s driving on the Ring of Kerry can be an absolute delight. The scenery is breathtaking. On the north side your views will be of the Dingle Peninsula, it’s shores and mountains, and likewise on the sound side you will be looking across the the magnificent Beara Peninsula of County Cork.

Looking out across to the Beara Peninsula on the south side Kerry Way near Tahilla

Looking out across to the Beara Peninsula on the south side Kerry Way near Tahilla

Although the road is narrow in places, there are plenty of view points in which to pull over and take pictures and as mentioned, there are plenty of eating and drinking establishments along the way. Be warned ‘though – if you venture out in the wrong direction, you could end up being stuck in or causing a serious traffic jam! The recognised (although not widely publicised!) direction of travel is anti-clockwiise. So for example if you are beginning your journey in say, Killarney, you will be heading in the direction of the town of Killorglin, followed by Cahirciveen, then Waterville, Sneem, Kenmare, then return to Killarney. You should really allow a day to travel the whole peninsula, to give yourself multiple stops along the way. There is so much to see!

A friendly robin

A friendly robin on the trail

Now in contrast, the Kerry Way is a hiking / walking route – there are no cars involved. The entire route is 214 km (133 miles) long. Many people like to set out and hike the route in it’s entirety and stay in lodgings along the way. This might involve carrying all you need in a large backpack, or most commonly, travel light with just a day pack and have your luggage transported each day by a local luggage transfer company, or a company that sells the Kerry Way as a self-guided route. On average a comfortable daily distance would mean taking 10 days to two weeks. The super-fit hiker may prefer to take just 7 days.

A Jaunting Car passed through the Gap of Dunloe, not far from Killarney

A Jaunting Car passed through the Gap of Dunloe, not far from Killarney

So, when you travel with Joyce’s Ireland Hiking Tours, neither of the above is our general method of travel. However, we take part in a combination of the two. We are certainly compelled to drive the Ring of Kerry in order to get to our hiking destinations on the Kerry Way.

For example, on the Undiscovered Ireland South tour we hike the “Old Kenmare Road” – this is the Kerry Way section between Kenmare and Killarney. A strikingly beautiful and moderately easy hike through the mountains and valleys and along the Esknamucky Glen via O’Sullivan’s Cascade waterfall. We then spend three nights at the Lake Hotel on the shores of Muckross Lake on the edge of Killarney. Each room overlooks the lake with a castle ruin in the foreground.

A Kerry Way signpost at the Black Valley on the south side of the Gap of Dunloe

A Kerry Way signpost at the Black Valley on the south side of the Gap of Dunloe

We hike another section of the Kerry Way from Glenbeigh to Rossbeigh on the norther side of the peninsula which overlooks the Dingle mountains. We begin at the foot of a small mountain just outside the town of Glenbeigh. The route takes us up through a lovely pine forest which overlooks the beach at Rossbeigh and beyond to the Dingle Peninsula. The route is very easy underfoot with a nice track through the forest. We continue on to an old road at the base of the mountain and on through an ancient track high above a river lined with fuchsia and other wild flowers. We finish overlooking Dingle Bay and the two peninsulas of Rossbeigh Beach and Inch Beach on the Dingle side. In all this route is approximately 5 miles long and accessible to all regular hikers.

So these are a couple of taster hikes on the Kerry Way – you’ll want to come back for more!