Kilarney is the perfect spot to stay if you want to travel the Ring of Kerry. The small town has charming buildings painted in bright colors with flowers overflowing from the windowsills. It also happens to be a great place to get an amazing hot chocolate. The town of Kilarney wasn’t my favorite town in Ireland, it was full of souvenir shops and candy stores.
We rented a car in Cork to drive through the rest of Ireland. The driving through the countryside to Dingle was full of lush green fields, sheep grazing and stone bridges. It was as if we were driving through a postcard. The landscape is pristine, the roads are completely charming and everywhere you look it is as if the sheep were paid to pose for your camera. Honestly, I can tell you the countryside of Ireland is absolutely exceptional. Although it was cold I rode with my window down taking pictures most of the way.
After a little lunch in a pub in Dingle we headed back towards Kilarney to check in to our hotel and grab a beer after the stressful drive. (You can read about driving in Ireland in this post.)
The next day it was time to hit the road and see the Muckross House and the Torc waterfall. I really wasn’t expecting what we experienced at all. We toured the Muckross house which was nice with some very interesting history. Then we went out on the grounds and were just blown away. Seriously the land the house sits on is in the Kilarney National Park. There are majestic hills, gorgeous lakes, beautiful green lawns all looking like the backdrop of any romantic English movie. I couldn’t believe it was real.
Kilarney National Park
J. wanted to take the horse and buggy (evidently this is a big tradition at the Muckross house) over to the Torc waterfall. It isn’t really my thing but I am glad we did it. The driver was so informative about the area, the land and the history we learned quite a lot. He delivered us to the tunnel opening which leads to the Torc waterfall. As I stepped through the small tunnel it was as if I arrived in another world. The rocks, trees and river banks were covered in a deep green moss. Each rock shimmered from the water of the waterfall, as the fall leaves elegantly fell from the trees. Slowly a lump started rising in my throat as I realized how lucky I am to stand in places as beautiful as this. It was nothing short of magic. The waterfall was beautiful and completely unexpected.
So far in Ireland I have been drinking Guiness beer. It feels really wrong not to. The choices are pretty much Guiness or Coors Light or Budweiser. There are some other offerings of imports but really if you aren’t drinking Guiness in Ireland, you are sinning. One night we did step out of the box and walked to Kilarney Craft Brewery to branch out. The craft beer they were making was really good and so was the pizza.
Ring of Kerry
The next day we were off to enjoy the Ring of Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way. There are two options to drive the Ring of Kerry. All of the tour buses drive the Ring counter-clockwise. So, one option, if driving on your own, is to drive this direction as well. The other option is to drive clockwise. The benefit of driving clockwise is you are not following behind all of the tours and the buses. The benefit of driving counter-clockwise is you don’t have to pass the tour buses on the very, very narrow roads. If you choose to drive counter-clockwise start early or late to avoid the crowds.
We decided to drive clockwise and take on the challenge of passing the buses. I am really happy we did it this way. We hardly ever saw a tour bus (it was a bit off season) and had most places all to ourselves. J. drove most of the day so I could take pictures. As we pulled out of the hotel parking lot I had no idea how many pictures I would take. Going clockwise from Kilarney meant experiencing the most romantic and picturesque parts of the Ring first. As the day drew to a close I was really happy about that since the sun was going down and we were pretty stressed from driving.
For us the small places, the unexpected ones, were really the showstoppers. The little towns were fine but they couldn’t hold a candle to the waterfalls, the small churches, the picturesque valley views, and the babbling creeks.
Completely by accident we saw a sign for the Kerry Cliffs, which they claim are the most beautiful cliffs in Ireland. My focus had been on the Cliffs of Moher so I knew nothing about the Kerry Cliffs. When J and I see a sign claiming something is the most or the best it is a challenge for us. So, we took the route through the beautiful country to find the Kerry Cliffs. After we pushed through the insane wind and made it to the cliffs it was immediately evident why they claim to the most beautiful cliffs. While we hadn’t seen the Cliffs of Moher yet I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than the majestic drops into the turquoise colored waters. We shared the whole area with only 4 other people which made the experience even better. We were able to stand on the edge of the cliffs and watch as the waves crashed against the massive formations in total silence, except for the massive wind whipping around us.
Once we left the cliffs we took a wrong turn and ended up on little one lane roads until we found ourselves back on the main road and headed back to Kilarney. At this point we had spent the better part of the day driving, taking photos and making random stops. The sun was starting to set and we definitely did not want to be on the roads after dark.
That night we were lucky enough to catch an Irish soccer final on TV in the pub. We had a great time watching and drinking Guinness. We saw so much beauty that I think we needed the distraction of the game to process it all.
I don’t know if it is possible to be prepared for how incredibly beautiful and seemingly untouched the area was. In the world there is nothing like the Ring of Kerry. For me Ireland isn’t about the towns it is about the scenery. The unspoiled nature that greets you at every turn.
Still no Robinson or Doyle pubs or restaurants. The search continues….
Where we stayed: The Brehon Hotel (The service here was incredible and they even had vegetarian options on the menu for dinner and at the pub!)