The Gleneagle Hotel is located in Killarney, one of the leading towns in Ireland when it comes to tourism. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Kerry to see the stunning natural sites like The Ring of Kerry, The Skellig Islands, and the Dingle Peninsula. Check out our top visitor attractions in Kerry:
Ring of Kerry
Out at the very edge of Europe, on South West Ireland’s wild Atlantic seaboard, the Ring of Kerry circles the Iveragh Peninsula.
The Ring is one of Ireland’s best-known attractions. And with good reason, for it takes visitors through magnificent natural beauty. But it’s the lovely contrast between the warmth of the people and the elemental nature of the place that makes it so special, and worth slowing down to explore.
There’s the human scale of small towns, little villages and sraid bhaile (tiny settlements) linked by the Ring, with a long history of welcoming visitors.
Then there’s the scale of nature, across the Ring: at Iveragh’s heart is Ireland’s highest mountain range and highest peak, Carrauntoohil – part of an ancient glacial landscape that ranks among the best in Europe. Inland, the Ring crosses Killarney National Park – with heart-stopping views of lakes and peaks, waterfalls, ancient woods of oak and yew, and Ireland’s only herd of wild native red deer. Rare white-tailed sea eagles drift overhead. To the west, seals ‘pup’ in sheltered Kenmare Bay. And on the shores of Valentia Island are the Tetrapod tracks – the earliest fossil footprints in the world.
The official Ring of Kerry signs the route from Cahersiveen to Waterville but do not miss the ‘unmissable’ Skellig Ring scenic drive and Skellig Michael – one of the wonders of the world. Take time to visit Valentia Island accessed by ferry just outside Cahersiveen and a bridge near the picturesque village of Portmagee. From there visit the Glen and Ballinskelligs with its great Blue Flag beach and all things these places offer.
You can “do the Ring” within a day. But the Ring will truly reveal itself if you take the time to enjoy it fully.
There is also an established long-distance walking route named The Kerry Way, which takes its own route, and a signposted Ring of Kerry cycling path which uses older quieter roads where possible. The Kerry Way roughly follows the scenic driving route of the Ring of Kerry.
In short, the Ring of Kerry scenic drive on the Iveragh Peninsula has everything. From the mountains to the shoreline, the walks to water sports, the eating, drinking and other entertainment you can’t go wrong. Stop off in any of the towns along the way and you’ll be in heaven.
The Skellig Rocks, Skellig Michael (also known as Great Skellig), and Little Skellig, are towering sea crags rising from the Atlantic Ocean almost 12 kilometers west of the Ivereagh Peninsula in County Kerry. Located at the western edge of the European landmass, Skellig Michael was the chosen destination for a small group of ascetic monks who, in their pursuit of greater union with God, withdrew from civilization to this remote and inaccessible place.
1300 years ago, early Christian monks built a remarkable hermitage at the top of this jagged ocean crag – then at the furthest limits of the known world. This mysterious and awe-inspiring place – described by George Bernard Shaw as “part of our dream world” – is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It can be reached (for a sometimes life-changing visit) by the adventurous on a small boat, only when the weather allows.
Skellig Michael is also one of Ireland’s most important sites for breeding seabirds both in terms of size of colonies and diversity of species.
The well-preserved monastic remains have retained a strong spiritual after-life which appeals strongly to the human psyche. Visitors cannot but be awestruck by the physical achievements of these early monks which, when combined with the sense of solitude, ocean and bird sounds evokes a quiet sense of magic. This is beautifully expressed by George Bernard Shaw who, following a visit in 1910, described this ‘incredible, impossible, mad place’ as ‘part of our dream world’.
The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a scenic narrow mountain pass running north-south in County Kerry, Ireland, that separates the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in the west, from the Purple Mountain Group range in the east. It is one of Kerry’s most popular tourist destinations due to its scenery, lakes, and waterfalls. The Gap, a public road through the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, is one of the most visited tourist routes in Ireland, famous since Victorian times.
Within The Gap of Dunloe are five lakes, Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough. The lakes are connected by the River Loe. Between the first two, Coosaun Lough and Black Lake is the Wishing Bridge on which it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true. There are stone bridges along the way which make for breath-taking lookout points. Nestled at the entrance to the world-famous Gap of Dunloe lies Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a 150-year-old family-run bar-restaurant, and craft shop. The walk from Kate Kearney’s Cottage, to the full Head of the Gap, is 6 kilometers and takes around 1 hour (and another hour for the return journey back to Kate Kearney’s Cottage). Visitors can also travel by jaunting car (pony carriage) from Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the head of the Upper Lake and take a boat to Ross Castle Killarney.
Gallarus Oratory, in Ballydavid County Kerry, was built between the seventh and eighth century and is the best-preserved early Christian church in Ireland.
The iconic Gallarus oratory is located in the heart of the Kerry Gaeltacht, on the very western tip of the Dingle peninsula. With its distinctive appearance, often referred to as resembling an upturned boat, the church is now a well-known tourist attraction. Constructed entirely out of locally sourced stone, the church is corbel vaulted. This entailed gradually overlapping the stones so that each course projected slightly inwards until the arch was closed at the apex of the roof.
As the oratory is the only intact specimen of its type, it has attracted considerable attention, starting from antiquarians in the middle of the 18th century.
According to local legend, if a person climbs out of the oratory via the window, their soul will be cleansed. This is, however, physically impossible, because the window is approximately 18cm in length and 12cm in width.
Gallarus Oratory Visitor Centre is located alongside Gallarus Oratory.
Muckross House & Gardens
This nineteenth-century Victorian mansion is set against the stunning beauty of Killarney National Park. The house stands close to the shores of Muckross Lake, one of Killarney’s three lakes, famed worldwide for their splendor and beauty. As a focal point within Killarney National Park, Muckross House is the ideal base from which to explore this landscape.
Muckross House is one of Ireland’s leading stately homes. The elegantly furnished rooms portray the lifestyles of the landed gentry, while downstairs in the basement one can experience the working conditions of the servants employed in the House.
The Gardens at Muckross House are renowned worldwide for their beauty. In particular, they are noted for their fine collections of azaleas and rhododendrons, an extensive water garden, and an outstanding rock garden hewn out of natural limestone.
Muckross House is also home to a number of skilled craft workers who can be viewed using traditional skills in the crafts of weaving, bookbinding, and pottery in the adjacent walled garden center.
Located approximately 6km (3.6 miles) from Killarney town center, Muckross House and Gardens represent the focal point and heart of the Killarney National Park. This is Ireland’s oldest National Park and it includes the world-famous Lakes of Killarney, as well as the mountains and woodlands that surround them. What a wonderful way to spend a day in Kerry.
There is no charge for admission to Killarney National Park and Muckross Gardens.