The Dingle Peninsula
Fungi the friendly dolphin has made the Dingle Peninsula internationally famous, but despite attracting increasing numbers of tourists, this beautiful Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area has managed to remain relatively untouristy, unlike the popular Iveragh Peninsula and Killarney.
The thin peninsula has breathtaking scenery around its rugged coastline including the drive around Slea Head and the drive from Dingle to Ballyferriter and the Three Sisters Headland. It has some beautiful sandy beaches including Inch Strand and Castlegregory and the landscape of green fields is dotted with tiny traditional villages and with many ruins of ancient beehive huts, forts and churches. One of the two routes to the bustling port of Dingle town from Tralee takes you over the spectacular Connor Pass, the second highest pass in Ireland.
Ruined 13th century Cathedral and Templenahoe and Templenagriffin churches on the site of a monastery founded by Saint Brendan with Romanesque carvings, guided tours.
Beaches in County Kerry
Golden sandy beaches on the Dingle Peninsula including Inch Strand, Castlegregory beach which is popular with surfers and Slea Head (not safe for swimming). Ring of Kerry beaches include White Strand near Cahirciveen and Rossbeigh Strand, a long sandy beach safe for swimming with a campsite at Glenbeigh. Ballinaskelligs at the end of the Iveragh Peninsula, has a nice beach and on the north coast of Kerry, the long Banna Strand and Ballybunion beaches are popular and often busy with holidaymakers in summer.
The scenic Ballaghbeama Pass cuts across the mountains in the centre of the Iveragh Peninsula and offers an alternative route to the Ring of Kerry
Only the northern edge of the Beara Peninsula is in County Kerry, most is in Cork. The Ardgroom stone circle and Derreen Gardens near Lauragh on the Kerry side are worth visiting, however.
Currently there is only a small ferry service to Great Blasket, the biggest of the six small inhospitable islands off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, which runs from Dunquin. The islands are the most westerly land in Europe. The last residents moved to the mainland in 1953 and the islands are now home to only seabirds. There is a caf? and campsite on Great Blasket.
Limestone cave system near Castleisland and Tralee, which has stalactite and stalagmite formations over one million years old. It was lit and opened to the public only recently, after its discovery in 1983. Caf? and shop, (Open March to November Tel: 066 41244. Entry IR?3)
Fishing in County Kerry
Seatrout, salmon and brown trout can be caught in the rivers Flesk and Laune near Killarney and in the three Lakes of Killarney. Phone Killarney tourist office on 064 31633 for permit details. Sea trout fishing on Lough Currane and trout and salmon fishing on the Inny River, also sea fishing trips from Dingle Town on the Dingle Peninsula and from Waterville on the Ring of Kerry.
Killarney National Park
Much of the stunning scenery around the Lakes of Killarney is inside the 10,236 hectare Killarney National Park just southwest of Killarney town. The main attraction of the park is its lakes, Lough Leane (the Lower Lake or lake of learning), Muckross Lake and Upper Lake which are corralled between the rugged Torc, Mangerton, Shehy and Purple Mountains. As well as wild mountainous scenery the Park also contains a castle, two mansions and some interesting religious ruins. Ross Castle, the 15th century home of the O’Donoghues was the last place in Munster to surrender to Cromwell’s forces. Lake cruises are run from the castle. Boats to Inisfallen Island, which has the ruins of a monastery and a 12th century oratory, also run from Ross Castle. St Finian the Leper founded the monastery on Inisfallen in the 7th century and the 13th Irish history Annals of Inisfallen (now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford) were also written there. Muckross house is open to the public and contains exhibitions on local heritage and crafts as well as 19th century furniture. The Muckross Estate in the centre of the park, has attractive lakeside gardens and an arboretum and also incorporates Muckross Traditional Farms, a set of 1930s style farmhouses complete with traditional livestock. Jaunting car tours run from Muckross. The ruin of the 15th century Muckross Abbey, which was burnt by Cromwell’s troops in 1652, is also near the house. Knockeer House isn’t open to the public, but it has beautiful gardens. The Gap of Dungloe road through McGillycuddy’s Reeks (mountains) and the Purple Mountains, on the edge of the park, is extremely packed in summer, but further along the N71 towards Kenmare there are scenic viewpoints at the Torc Waterfall near the entrance to Muckross House, at the Ladies View and at Molls Gap. Bus and horse drawn jaunting car tours of the Park and the surrounding area leave from Killarney town daily in the summer.
Ring of Kerry
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland and therefore usually heaving with coaches tours in summer, the Ring of Kerry is a 112 mile route along the N70 from Killarney around the Iveragh Peninsula. Sites to see around the Ring, (as well as the rugged coastal scenery) include Staigue Fort a huge ancient dry stone fort with an earthen bank and ditch dated around 200AD with an interpretative centre, the Staigue Fort Exhibition Centre between Castlecove and Caherdaniel, Derrynane National Historic Park and house, which was the home of the O’Connells and has lots of Daniel OConnell memorabilia, The Barracks Heritage Centre in Cahirciveen, the town which was the birthplace of Daniel OConnell, The Kerry Bog Village Museum near Glenbeigh, which has reconstructed 19th century traditional turf cutters cottages. Activities on the Ring of Kerry include lake, river and sea fishing from Waterville, scuba diving, rock climbing and watersports from Caherdaniel. Sandy beaches which are safe for swimming include at those Cahirciveen and Rossbeigh Strand at Glenbeigh.
Kenmare Druid Circle
Large Bronze Age Druid stone circle, which has 15 stones surrounding a dolmen tomb
Route around the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula from Waterville to Portmagee which passes the interesting ruined Ballinskelligs monastery which is thought to have been founded by the Skellig monks after they left the island around the 12th century near a pretty a deserted beach where there is also a ruined castle
Steep rocky islands off the Iveragh Peninsula which can be reached on boat trips from Portmagee, Ballinaskelligs and Cahirciveen. There are limits on the number of people who are allowed onto Skellig Michael at one time so that the well persevered monastery site is not damaged so it is advisable to book ahead. The islands are also impossible to reach during windy weather.
The larger of the two Skellig Islands looks like the steep cone of an extinct volcano and was named Skellig Michael by the monks who made it their home between the 8th and 12th centuries in dedication to St Michael the Archangel and patron saint of high places. The fascinating remains of their monastery include six beehive huts and two churches on a terrace 550 feet above the sea and two other oratory churches on other ledges and a hermitage on the 714 feet high rock’s upper peak. Skellig Michael is eight miles away from the mainland and rough seas make it inaccessible for much of the year, but records surviving from this remote community include the kidnap of one of the monks by the Vikings and the death of the abbot in AD823. The island later became a marriage destination for 16th century couples after the change to the Gregorian calendar meant that they were forbidden to get married during lent on the mainland. Skellig Michael is famous for its rocky cliffs where kittiwakes, storm petrels, fulmars, razorbills, guillemots, gannets and puffins can be seen during summer.
The boat trips don’t land on Little Skellig but often go past to show you the thousands of nesting seabirds
Small island attached to the mainland by bridge near Portmagee, The Skellig Experience centre has displays about the monastery on Skellig Michael and the wildlife of the Skelligs (Entry IR3), boats to the Skelligs, accommodation, pubs, eateries in Knightstown the main town and the smaller Chapeltown, sea fishing trips, scuba diving from the Valentia Hyperbaric Diving Centre , Des Lavelle dive centre, The Dive Centre.