Anyone in search of the real Ireland should head west to County Kerry, which has been attracting visitors with its unparalleled natural beauty - and Ireland’s legendary hospitality - since the 18th century. There is a wide variety of accommodation available in the area to suit all budgets and many cater especially for family breaks.
Riders and drivers have been making their way around the famous Ring of Kerry for hundreds of years, but perhaps the best way to discover the mountains and lakes of Kerry is on foot.
The Kerry Way is one of Ireland’s longest and most popular way-marked paths and closely follows the famous Ring of Kerry around the the Iveragh Peninsula. The peninsula, jutting out into the wild Atlantic, is one of the natural wonders of Ireland, home to the MacGillycuddy Reeks, the country’s highest mountains and some wonderful rocky coves and sandy beaches.
Perhaps the most famous site of the Ring of Kerry is found at the Gap of Dunloe: a pass between the Reeks and the Purple Mountain with a chain of connected lakes - Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough - making for one of the most celebrated views in the British Isles.
The Kerry Way can be tackled as a circular walk, but Kerry is also a wonderful location to explore from one base, perhaps close to the lively town of Killarney, which has been welcoming guests since the 18th century and has a well-developed tourist economy and plenty to keep visitors busy.
Walkers, climbers, wildlife enthusiasts and riders will all be in heaven in this corner of south west Ireland.
There are too many attractions to list in full, but among Kerry’s must sees are:
The Killarney Lakes: part of the National Park with its internationally important yew and oak woods and wildlife including the nation’s only herd of native red deer. This is a view into Ireland’s natural past.
One of the lakes, Lough Léin, is home to some of Ireland’s most important early Christian history on Inisfallen Island. This remote site was the home to St Finian the Leper’s monastery where monks wrote the early history of their country - Lough Léin means "Lake of Learning".
The Bog Village shows how life was lived in this agricultural corner of Ireland before the Great Famine cleared much of the countryside.
Torc Mountain has some of the best views of the lakes in the Black Valley. The waterfall at its base where the Owengarriff River tumbles through steeply wooded slopes is a magical sight.
Any walk needs a break, and there’s no better place in Kerry to spend some time than at Muckross House and Gardens. This world-renowned Victorian mansion is one of Ireland’s most popular stately homes and its setting - in the Killarney National Park - is magnificent. Inside, the home has been restored to illustrate the Upstairs Downstairs lives of the gentry and those who served them. The gardens make the most of the mild Atlantic climate with some rare and exotic residents and part of the grounds have been dedicated to recreating western Ireland’s agricultural life in the 1920s and 30s.
Ross Castle is a reminder of more distant and more troubled times. Standing on its own island on the edge of the Lower Lake, it’s the 15th century stronghold of the Donoghues, one of whom is supposed to be sleeping under the nearby waters. There’s an excellent walking trail around the island that tells the story of some of the 9,000 years of human life here and shows off some of the wildlife that still thrives.
Kerry has so much more to offer walkers - friendly pubs, traditional music - that it’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again.go back