The 180km Ring of Kerry drive in south-west Ireland is justly well-known – with gorgeous panoramas of bays, inlets, lakes and mountains, and views to the Unesco world heritage website (and site of the newest Star Wars movie) of Skellig Michael island (pictured above), 12km off the tip of the Iveragh peninsula. But there’s a lesser-known various, that’s unique, eye-opening, and avoids the tour buses that clog the Ring’s roads, particularly in summer time.
Ireland map Illustration: Bek Cruddace
This drive spins off from the western fringe of the Ring. On day one, head north from Waterville on the N70, and after about 5km take the R567 south-west in direction of Ballinskelligs Bay. You at the moment are on the Skellig Ring, the place brown indicators proudly proclaim “No Buses” and “Cars Only”. The occasional minibus driver will courageous the rolling and twisting route, however principally these are distant and slim nation roads, typically little wider than a single automotive, or tractor.
Portmagee village, Iveragh peninsula. Photograph: Alamy
The Skellig Ring is in a gaeltacht, Irish-speaking, space and in locations signposts will solely be in Irish. Turn south on to the R566, and a brief method alongside is the Cill Rialaig arts centre, at Dún Géagáin; cease off without spending a dime artwork exhibitions and natural salads (€9.50) within the cafe.
On a headland because the R566 heads in direction of Portmagee is a primary sighting of “the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world” (George Bernard Shaw), Skellig Michael, and its sister Little Skellig, home to a considerable gannet colony. Depending on the sunshine, the 2 islands can appear both swimmable – or midway to Boston.
Little Skelling as pictured from Skellig Michael. Photograph: Alamy
Just earlier than the surf seashore at St Finian’s Bay is, surprisingly, a chocolate manufacturing unit – the high-quality, artisanal Skelligs Chocolate, with free excursions and tastings, store and cafe. Further north, the R566 climbs Coomanaspig Pass, providing one in all Ireland’s most interesting views, to Valentia Island, Dingle and the Blaskets. An indication advertises a 10-minute stroll to “Kerry’s Most Spectacular Cliffs” (grownup €four, under-12s €2); the declare is justified.
Stay at “traditional yet contemporary” Moorings bar, restaurant and guesthouse (doubles from €90 B&B) in Portmagee, departure level for many boat journeys to the Skelligs. On day two, cross over the bridge to Valentia Island on the R565. Bypass the disappointing Skellig Experience Visitor Centre and take the primary left, signposted to Geokaun mountain.
A room on the Royal Valentia, Ireland
Valentia is 11km lengthy, but a day journey in itself, with 266-metre Geokaun (parking €5); the Tetrapod Trackway prehistoric footprints; a lighthouse (grownup €5, under-12s €2.50); an interesting heritage centre (€three.50, under-12s free); and likable Knightstown, with its cafes, bookshop and historic Royal Valentia Hotel (doubles from €89 B&B). Glanleam House close by has subtropical gardens and B&B rooms from €110. Top place to eat is O’Neill’s The Point, a ferry-hop (automotive €eight) away on the mainland (seafood from €eight.95).
On day three, proceed inland and rejoin the N70 south, finishing the Skellig Ring. Turn left at New Chapel Cross for the drive to Glencar by way of Ballaghisheen Pass, which runs over the roof of the peninsula, in direction of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrantuohill (1,038 metres). The view from Ballaghisheen throughout excessive plains is extra harking back to the American West than Ireland’s West.
Carrauntoohil mountain mirrored in Lough Callee. Photograph: Getty Images
At Glencar, the Climbers Inn (dorm mattress €25, doubles €80) has a store, pub grub and rooms. A bit additional east, cross Blackstones Bridge to drive the winding shore of enigmatic Caragh Lake. Unless you’re staying at one of many swanky Victorian nation home inns by the lake – Carrig House (from €99 B&B) or Ard na Sidhe (from €210 B&B,) – the drive ends the place the lakeside street rejoins the N70 Ring of Kerry route.