The Ring of Kerry & The Wild Atlantic Way

Created by Colleen Sims * 13 June 2022

View along the drive on the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is a very popular 179 km circular driving route in County Kerry. The route starts in Killarney, not far from our base, and follows the coast around the Iveragh Peninsula. Along the way visitors get to stop off and visit places like the Gap of Dunloe, where we walked yesterday, or Port Maghee and the island of Valentia where we’re heading today.

The Wild Atlantic Way follows a great deal of the Ring of Kerry and for the hikers amongst you there is an established and well marked 214 km walking path called The Kerry Way too… oooh I wish we had more time because this area is just so so beautiful. The Kerry Way is definitely a trail I’d like to walk!

For us though today we poodled along in our car, stopping at places that looked interesting and getting out of the car and going for a wander. We watched a crazy couple prepare to go swimming at Rossbeigh, although to be fair to them when they reached the waters edge they had a change of heart and ran back up the beach! I don’t blame them; it’s cold cold cold today.

swimmers on a cold Kerry beach in Ireland

Valentia Island; Gem of a Destination

We drove around Valentia Island, walked around the Cliffs and the harbour town of Knightstown. It’s a little jewel of a town, we could come back here and just look out at the view everyday! We walked along the harbour walls and the boat docks and we watched two girls giggling on the harbour wall and after much procrastination they held hands, ran and jumped into the cold Atlantic… brrrr!

However, as glorious as Knightstown was we’re not here for the view, the walks or the Ring of Kerry. We came to Portmaghee because tomorrow we’re sailing out to Skellig Michael. As we left Knightstown and drove back in the direction of Portmaghee but before the bridge we stopped off at the Visitors Centre to learn more about the island. The guide told us that no boats had been able to land for a week because the weather has been too bad but one landed today and he told us to keep our fingers crossed because it looked promising for our our boat in the morning. I was keeping everything crossed as I so wanted to walk across those Skellig hills. We stayed and watched a short film about the history of this very unique little island and we had to watch a safety video.

Skellig Michael was a Star Wars film set

Landing on Skellig Michael is very restricted and we were thrilled to be able to get our tickets. The Island is a world heritage site and one of the most inhospitable monastic sites in the world. There are 618 ancient steps to climb, carved into the sheer rock face. I’m glad we’re feeling fit because we needed to climb them to reach the monastery.

A Night in Portmaghee

We’ve booked into a little guest house in Portmaghee to ensure we were at the harbour for 7:00 am. We’d planned a lovely meal in the village, we hoped for a few beers and even maybe a little live music in the bar before bed. The bar had great reviews and we’d been looking forward to this little excursion for some time!

Colourful houses in Portmaghee, Ireland

We walked to the bar but sadly no gluten free beer but hey… the weather looks great, we’re going to Skellig and we’re in good spirits. At the allotted time we returned to the restaurant for our table. They were busy so that our table had been switched to the bar… but never mind because they did have gluten free menu options. There had been the promised live music but apparently not tonight; but we didn’t care, we were in great spirits! We were off to Skellig Michael and nothing would dampen our spirits. Nothing that is, until a message arrived on my phone marked URGENT | Skellig Tour… and just like that our visit was gone.

The island was closed to visitors due to a rockfall; there will be no landings tomorrow. There was nothing to be done. Nature and the elements had done their thing. The spell was broken. We ate our dinner and wandered back to our Bed and Breakfast feeling more than a little disappointed and truth be told Dinner wasn’t so great either!

The Ring of Skellig

We woke early and left our B&B and tried to hatch a plan; I can’t tell you how disappointed we were because today was meant to be our big adventure to Skellig. However part of travelling will mean that plans will change and things will go wrong, so we need to roll with it! We could have taken a boat trip out to the islands but we choose to wait for two days; you never know, maybe the rocks will have been cleared and we’ll be able to land. Instead we decided to take the driving route called The Ring of Skellig, which joins the Ring of Kerry which in turn would take us homewards back to Killarney. As we did yesterday our plan was just to drive and stop and walk as the mood took us.

The Best Cliffs in Kerry

View from the best Cliffs in Kerry, on the Skellig Ring in Kerry

Our first stop proclaimed itself as the best cliffs in Kerry. We parked and paid the entrance fee; we were a little sceptical but it ended up being a pretty impressive trail. It wasn’t a long walk, only a few kilometres but it was quite steep in places. The owners had made great paths along the cliffs with very secure fencing, which was just as well as we got very close to the edge at times. I’m glad we stopped it was a lovely lilttle hike with amazing views.

It was a glorious morning, as always the wind was blowing, but the sky was blue-ish and the sun shone and all the while, as we walked, Skellig Michael gleamed back at us in a calm sea. We would definitely have been able to land today if the rockslide hadn’t closed the island.

We returned to the car and continued along the coast. We stopped wherever road signs suggested there was something to see. We had a system; there are signs for the Ring of Kerry, the Ring of Skellig and the Wild Atlantic Way. We decided that if there are at least two of these and as a bonus, a brown “tourist” sign then we felt it was definitely worth stopping. It worked well for us today.

WoW! Banasceagla Bay

One such place took us to a car park and beyond to a huge huge bay. We walked to one end of the bay to view an old Abbey. Very little remains of the Abbey but the views were good. Then we walked back and around the shoreline, dodging jellyfish, there really are a lot on the beaches so I guess they must be pretty common in Ireland. The sand is soft and golden and the sweep of the bay just went on for miles. It is well protected from the Atlantic by the smattering of outlying islands and it was just glorious. We could have stayed for much longer but time was pressing so after a long walk along the sea shore we returned to the car.

Banasceagla Bay on the Kerry Coast

And so our day continued. More driving, more stopping, more strolling. Today really has been about green green hills rolling down to grey cliffs or golden beaches or a blue sea under a pale blue sky. It we weren’t walking along deserted sandy beaches we were driving through country lanes lined with great froths of white daisies or yellow buttercups. It seemed like Ireland might live in the permanent state of Spring and it was simply glorious. Whilst it wasn’t the day we planned it did turn into a wonderful alternative and we’d never have explored the Ring of Kerry if we’d have landed on Skellig. What lucky retirees we are.

Looking back from a high point on the Skellig Ring over the estuary and the Kerry hills
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