When travelling the South Coast of Ireland, a hike, cycle
or drive through the Ring of Kerry comes highly recommended.
The Iveragh Peninsula is a haven for hikers, offering
exploration of the open countryside, rolling hills, mountains
and beaches. Retracing old "butter" roads, bog roads,
droving roads and mass paths is exhilarating, revealing evidence
of ancient civilisation in the form of Celtic standing stones,
ring forts and ruined abbeys. Just finding out what these
things are, and that they exist is the start of a magic trip.
The South Coast is very well served by public transport and
has plenty of accommodation. There are airports in nearby
Cork and Kerry and Shannon, which is the nearest
entry point by plane. Trains and buses from Dublin
to Cork City are very frequent if a little expensive.
However, as always car is the best way to get around Ireland,
and the drive from Dublin is a smooth five hour affair.
Once in Cork the choice is whether to start the big cycle
from there, or to base yourself in a smaller local town. The
exceptional village of Sneem is an ideal base from
which to explore the rugged Kerry mountains and Atlantic
coastline. Another option is Kenmare, one of the
most charming villages you could hope for. Kenmare has an
idyllic location at the mouth of the River Roughty
on Kenmare Bay, and is covered with flower boxes, local
enchanted shops, and places to eat. Alternatively, you could
undertake a larger road trip circling from Cork along
the coast into Kerry, and back into Cork to finish off.
The South Coast has weather like no other part of Ireland.
Believe it or not, Cork and Kerry are very sunny and hot in
the summer. You are still likely to get the odd rain showers,
but the weather is noticeably better than the rest of Ireland.
Summer (June to September) is still the best time to cycle
the Ring of Kerry as you can work on your tan, and sit outside
with your pints of Guinness well into the night. Bring shorts,
drinking water, and wet gear just in case.
Travel west from Cork City via Ovens to Macroom.
Then turn off for Inchigeelagh through the wild mountain
scenery of the Pass of Keimaneigh into Ballylickey.
There is the Gougane Barra Forest Park along the way
or a trip to Baltimore, Skibbereen and Sherkin Island.
From Ballylickey enjoy the superb views of the much sung about
Bantry Bay. Continue on to Glengarriff, before
the 'Ring of Kerry' proper begins, by heading up north to
Kenmare through rugged mountain scenes. The Ring of
Kerry encircles the Iveragh Peninsula, which features
Ireland's highest mountains, the wonderfully named Macguillycuddy
There are amazing views over Dingle Bay to the north
and Kenmare River estuary to the south from the mountain
range. Travel Southwest to Sneem, then Caherdaniel,
where a fine beach, and water sports, provide an ideal place
to break the journey. Go north to Waterville, Cahirciveen,
Glenbeigh and Killorglin, completing the exceptionally
scenic trip in Killarney. The circular route takes
you back to Cork through the Derrynasagart Mountains
to Macroom, turning off the main road for Blarney
Castle, where you can try to receive some of the legendary
powers of the Blarney stone.
Things to see and do
There are plenty of things to see and do along the way, besides
taking in the wonderful atmosphere and sights.
Fungie the Dolphin Tours
In Dingle, County Kerry, Fungie tours operate every day to
visitor the stranded dolphin who has decided to make a home
alone in the waters of the Atlantic. Fishing boats ferry visitors
out into the nearby waters to see Fungie, the friendliest
dolphin you're likely to meet. He really does swim up to the
boat, and the boatmen stay out long enough for you to acquaint
yourself with the dolphin, which are certainly not native
to these parts. You can even arrange an early morning dolphin
Dingle itself is full of pubs and, both, traditional and
modern live music. It is a little touristy at times, but for
a temporary break from cycling, it is ideal with a guaranteed
night out with fellow travellers in top seafood restaurants,
with music accompanied pints. When the last order is finally
made, and that could be anytime, a romantic stroll along the
moonlit harbour is a fitting end to the day. If you are lucky
enough to be staying a little outside Dingle, you'll still
have the exciting night mountain road crossing, which can
throw up anything from mist and rain, to pitch darkness, and
Make sure you take the coastal cycle over the dramatic Conor
Pass en Route to Dingle at some stage, as it is a real highlight.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park has a great range of lakes, ancient
oak woods, waterfalls, and bog land, and is still the habitat
of the Irish Red Deer. It's a great diversion for some
protected ancient European wilderness.
Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley
Another road that the willing cyclist should tackle is the
famous Gap of Dunloe and on to the spectacular Black Valley.
Close to Killarney this area is a spectacular cycle into the
rocky wilderness. It is reasonably challenging but very rewarding.
Rest in the knowledge that you can kick your feet up on the
lakes the next day! Bring your camera although you'll probably
feel the need to buy some of the artwork or photography made
by the locals anyway.
The Lakes of Killarney
The lakes are famous in Ireland. The views are spectacular,
the journey safe, and some of the individual sites like the
decrepit Old Weir Bridge, and castles on the shores,
seem to belong in a fantasy world.
Cork and Kerry are probably the two most famous sporting
counties in Ireland. Their Gaelic football, rugby, hurling,
and even soccer skills are legendary in Ireland, and any chance
you get to see the counties, or local clubs play should be
The people of this region are very friendly, if virtually
impossible to understand. Their accent is unbelievably lyrical,
and easily mistaken for Irish (especially in the pub). Historically
they have been labelled the 'rebel county' due to the fact
that the British could never really get it under their control,
and a feeling of individuality and independence still prevails.
Bike rental and safety
If you are renting a bike there are a number of places to
get equipment in Cork. Roycroft's Stores in Skibbereen,
County Cork, rent bikes that are slightly better than the
usual equipment. You will need a good roadworthy bike, reflective
gear if you plan to cycle at night, a good saddle, a puncture
repair kit, and a pump. The peninsulas and islands of the
Southwest are perfect for cycling, with light traffic and
an abundance of beautiful places to visit, so traffic won't
be a problem. Do be careful on mountain roads though which
may not have safety barriers, and can also get misty at night.
Locals know the road well and drive accordingly. Make sure
that you are aware of the dangers, however small.