Ireland’s County Kerry: Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas

July 24, 2011

Dingle harbour evening

The peninsulas of Ireland’s west coast remind visitors why they spent a small fortune to hire a car. Best explored slowly, they present a stunning trifecta of misty mountaintops, cosy beaches and medieval sites. In between are beautiful villages with streets that beg to be wandered, pub seats longing for warmth and smiling locals happy to meet you.

Dingle harbour evening

The pretty harbour of Dingle sparkles in the evening.

Our first taste of Kerry’s dramatic scenery came just before we reached the little town of Dingle. The single lane, 456 metre Connor Pass rises above the peninsula to welcome or bid farewell those taking the scenic route. Our time in Dingle was short, only two days, but this was enough time to visit several of its lively pubs where live music seems to start at 9.30pm just about everywhere. Further along the peninsula is a not to be missed loop along Slea Head Drive where the western-most point on the Irish mainland allows for contemplation over the vast ocean beyond.

Beautiful views on the Dingle Peninsula at Slea Head

Bed and Breakfast Ireland

Dingle Peninsula

The dramatic coastline of the Dingle Peninsula

Our next stop was Killarney, a lively tourist town with the gorgeous 10,236 hectare Killarney National Park at its doorstep. We split our time between the park and the Iveragh Peninsula, which is famous for its Ring of Kerry drive. The latter would probably be better appreciated as a two or three day trip on its own but we did it in one day (drivers should allow between five and eight hours depending on how many stops are made and traffic). It’s often covered in fog as it was on the day we visited and this definitely affects many of the views from the high cliffs overlooking the ocean. It is also possible to do the 179 kilometre route by public bus, tour or bicycle.

bike Ireland

Bikes are a great way to explore the parks and scenery along the peninsulas.

Saint Mary's Cathedral Killarney Ireland

The stonework of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney is incredible.

Islands are also a feature of the peninsula. Valentia Island can be reached by bridge or car ferry (€6 per car) and is probably best known as being the site of the first transatlantic telegraph cable. While this is very exciting for communications professionals like myself, others are likely to be more interested in the peaceful pastoral scenery on the island and the views from Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs, which aren’t free but could be worthwhile on a clear day (we did not have one). We were very sorry to miss out on the Skellig Islands despite rumours of the rough water crossing required to get there. These islands are home to thousands of interesting birds and the historical Skellig Michael monastery. Visits are limited and the boats only depart in the morning. Wikitravel provides a list of the boat operators.

driving in Ireland

Sometimes driving in Ireland looks like this, with fog obscuring views of the ocean to the left.

Killarney National Park is full of majestic mountains and lakes, a castle, gardens and walks. The walks are short and easy, except for the 200 kilometre Kerry Way.

trap Killarney National Park

Horse-drawn carriages take passengers around the Killarney National Park.

Ross Castle Killarney

Guided tours are available at the Ross Castle in Killarney National Park.

Getting there: Dingle and Killarney are located over 300 kilometres southwest of Dublin. From Limerick take the N20 to the N21 and follow the signs. From Cork take the N22. It seems that everyone is operating either a pub, B&B or hotel and we saw many vacancies, even during high season. It may be best to take your chances and skip booking ahead so you have the freedom and flexibility to take in the sights at your leisure.

Travel Blog Success
Get inspired - For Free!
Tips, Inspiration and new updates, delivered directly to your inbox!


  1. Comment by Maggie High

    Maggie High Reply July 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Beautiful and informative post, thank you! I would be so scared to drive in Ireland on those tiny roads in the fog…but that might just be part of the adventure! :)

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you, Maggie. The driving isn’t too bad because the roads are narrow and everyone slows down but we certainly did miss out on some views I fear…

  2. Comment by yTravelBlog

    yTravelBlog Reply July 25, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Love the Dingle peninsula and Ring of Kerry. So so beautiful. We enjoyed the pubs in Dingle as well

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      The pubs are great, aren’t they? Live music, singalongs and some of them are shops in the day and pubs at night – great stuff!

  3. Comment by Emily

    Emily Reply July 25, 2011 at 2:49 am

    You mentioning being excited about something you studied when most people might not find it interesting reminded me of my time in Athens. I minored in classical civilizations, so I was SO excited to see temple after temple after temple, while my best friend stood there going “really? More collapsed columns?”

    And on a totally separate note, I would like to kiss that horse’s nose, please.

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      He is so cute, isn’t he!! I want to kiss his nose too =)

  4. Comment by Jade

    Jade Reply July 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Fun! We didn’t make it to Ring of Kerry when we were there, but seeing these pictures definitely makes me want to book a return flight!

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      You should – I’d say allow one night stopover somewhere along the way to really appreciate it and not get too sick of driving…

  5. Comment by Hecktic Travels

    Hecktic Travels Reply July 25, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Beautiful!  I am really looking forward to this drive in a couple of weeks.  I hope that we can get some cycling in.  Have fun in Cork!

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      We actually saw bike lanes for some of the way so I highly recommend cycling when you’re there. Try to stay one night along the peninsula as well =)

  6. Comment by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

    Felicity Hayes-McCoy Reply July 25, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing them. I live half my life in inner-city London and half In Ireland, close to Slea Head. I hope you’ll get a chance to come again, hear the music in the village pubs as well as in Dingle, and explore more of the roads back west. There’s a lifetime’s enjoyment to be had :) I blog about life in both places  on my website. (But I have to admit the shots on my posts about Ireland have the edge on the London ones!)

    Hope you’ll get to Skellig Michael too sometime. It’s an extraordinary place.

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks so much, Felicity! Looking forward to checking out your blog =)

  7. Comment by Krista

    Krista Reply July 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I am so enjoying your Irish posts. :-) Love your wonderful photos and descriptions. :-) Makes me want to bundle up and head for a trek in the Irish countryside. :-)

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Thanks so much, Krista! You will definitely need to bundle up =)

  8. Comment by Sherry

    Sherry Reply July 26, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans to go to Ireland anytime soon.  But I just wanted to say that I am learning a lot and I really enjoy kind of being there with the two of you. Such beautiful landscapes with an air of romance. 

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

      Thanks so much, Sherry! Wish you were really along with us…you’d love the photo opportunities! =)

  9. Comment by Andi Perullo

    Andi Perullo Reply July 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    That 1st pic is GORGEOUS!!!

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      Thank you!! =) I was so happy with the way the twilight harbour shots came out

  10. Comment by Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    Stephanie - The Travel Chica Reply July 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    What a wonderful introductory paragraph.  I didn’t even need to read the rest… I’m sold!

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 27, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      Haha – well I guess my job is done then – thanks! =)

  11. Comment by Annie

    Annie Reply July 29, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Ireland is sooo pretty!! The Dingle Harbor reminds me of the bay in Galway, it was so beautiful to walk along and see the town lining the sea. 

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 30, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      We loved Dingle too – it twinkles! =)

  12. Comment by Anonymous

    Anonymous Reply July 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I didn’t make it to Killarney, but Dingle has a certain mystic and marvel to it. While you do have to fork over quite a bit for a car (I hope you guys didn’t buy the rental car insurance…that’s the real scam!), it is worth it to be able to see some of these Peninsulas. Although I was terrified driving that single lane road on Connor Pass!

    • Comment by Andrea and John

      Andrea and John July 31, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      That was a scary road, wasn’t it? We also have developed extreme disdain for the 1 1/2 lane roads that plague Ireland.

      Re insurance: luckily our travel insurance policy picks up the excess charges in case of an accident so we didn’t have to pay any extra. We usually don’t buy it but did have an unfortunate experience once of getting into an accident in a rental car in Australia (not our fault). It took almost six months to get the $3,000 excess fee returned to us!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Go top