on October 6, 2008
Few places in Ireland are hyped as much as the Ring of Kerry. Perhaps this is a problem because after completing this circular drive around the Iveragh Peninsula, we were a little disappointed.It is not that it isn’t pretty. In fact the mixture of hills, forest, blanket bog, river, lake, sandy beach and crashing waves is very enjoyable. Some of the small towns are attractive and because of the mild winters in this part of the country, the almost sub-tropical vegetation was a surprise. It’s just that we expected more.One of the problems was the weather. Ireland is green for a very good reason; it rains a lot. As we drove around the ring we alternated between rain and sunshine. Nothing is particularly attractive in the rain so we probably lost much of the charm.We drove from Kenmare to Sneem where we were severely overcharged in a local bakery. That was a bad start. Pretty Caherdaniel restored our spirits somewhat. The town is wedged between the sea and the hills and there is a little harbour and sandy beach. There are several camp grounds around here and a couple of B&Bs. Derrynane House has some interesting artefacts and there is a stone with letters from the ancient Irish alphabet.The next town is Waterville, a popular beach on Ballinskelligs Bay. There are some pubs, restaurants and shops but probably the most interesting thing for the visitor is the life-size statue of Charlie Chaplin on the waterfront. There are also some smart B&Bs, at least one reasonable hotel and a very pleasant guesthouse.Undoubtedly the part of the drive we enjoyed the most was a detour off the ring of Kerry along what is known as the Skellig Ring. For me the small settlement of Ballinskelligs was the highlight. There is not much here, which is part of its charm, except for a pretty bay, sandy beach and the ruins of an old priory, two old ring forts, a scattering of houses, art gallery and pub. There are great views back towards the peninsula and in the summer boats leave from here for the popular Skellig Islands.The narrow road between here and Portmagee is a delight and worth going miles to see. There are some lovely mountain and sea views particularly around wild St. Finan’s Bay. Amazingly there is a chocolate factory in this remote area. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went by. Portmagee is another village with a small harbour and handful of pubs and coffee shops. It is probably most noteworthy for its bridge across to Valentia Island and its museum called the Skellig Experience.Next stop was Catherciveen, a larger town which straggles along the main road. The weather had deteriorated by the time we reached here so we have few memories of anything much from here to Killarney, the largest settlement in these parts. (See the Travelling the West Coast journal).
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