Road trip on the Ring of Kerry
Updated: May 7
Recently I have done a lot of road trips and I was at it again in Ireland. Before this visit to this western part of the island, I had never heard of the Ring of Kerry or what there was to see and do on the 179km (111 miles) circular route and I had to check it out. Starting off in Killarney I headed south to Kenmare, west to Waterville before heading north-east back to Killarney. Here is the lowdown on places I saw and some of the places I stopped to rest, eat, drink and play.
This has to be my favourite town in Ireland (to date), not because it's a major tourist attraction (but to local standards it is a huge touristy place but hey, the population around here isn’t big and sometimes a deer may wander into town looking for a good time), but because of its charm, how the locals want to engage with me. have long conversations and the restaurants here are simply amazing. Did I also mention that the town has a bar or two?
Well the sights, I didn’t actually check any out in the town but the area is a good place to get some sleep, eat and drink. Here is what I checked out in my short time in this amazing city. Regarding food, I couldn’t try out all the places to eat, if I did, I would’ve come away weighing an extra few kilos. Here are my favourites. Tatler Jacks on Plunkett Street, a great place to get a good drink but the food here is excellent. There may not be a lot of seating so make sure to have a reservation or get there early like we did. Serves a variety of food from the usual meats, pastas, chicken meals, burgers to curries. O’Donoghues Public House on Plunkett Street was amazing. From the warm welcome, the customer service, to the food was stunning. I had problems getting through the main meal as I had a starter but hey, I was enjoying myself here in this cozy bar.
Treyvaud’s, a very well run family restaurant where I met one of the owner’s who knew what sort of food I should be served. The food here just melted in my mouth and I came away with a very big grin on my mouth. The restaurant also has a letter near the main entrance (in a frame) from St James Palace in London, in a response to the restaurant owner about inviting Prince William and company across to Killarney for a meal. For a quick snack (or an ice cream shall I say), on Main Street there is Murphy’s which has ice cream from the nearby harbour town of Dingle. I tried this place twice as their main product was ice cream with gin (also from the town of Dingle).
My favourite bars in the town, I only checked out a few (but managed to stay for several hours in each). All of them have fantastic staff, great drinks on offer and to be honest, not too expensive.
There is also a theme bar on Lewis Road called The Shire, which is based on the hit motion picture “The Lord of the Rings”. When I was there I kept getting a few surprises from the one and only Gollum who kept sneaking up on me or grabbing my shoulders as I waited at the bar for a pint of the local brew.
On Main Street there is Reidy’s which back in the day was a sweet store which rumours have it (or maybe true), that alcohol was served at the rear. However when I went to the place it was huge and like a maze to walk around. It has several different small rooms and a couple of bars dotted about to keep the customers happy. I loved this place when the music kicked in by a local band which got the locals rocking.
Ok, saying that there weren't really any sights in town, well, that’s not true. My favourite place to check out was the Killarney Brewing Company where I got to try out a few samples of the beer brewed on site before being taken on a tour. See bottom of the post for a full review.
Now back in the car I headed south and first stop was Ross Castle which is situated on Lough (Lake) Leane and has stood here since the 15th century. Guided tours do take place but a lot of visitors come here for hikes as it is also situated in the Killarney National Park and boat tours on the lake.
Torc Waterfall was the next stop and is situated just off the Ring of Kerry (by a parking lot). The tall waterfall is situated at the base of Torc Mountain and there is a fantastic hiking route to the summit which starts from the steps next to the waterfall to which I did (thinking that I was going to get a view of the waterfall from above but never came across it!)
Heading south on the N71 (the road) I passed many viewpoints on the southern side of Loch Leane and I just had to capture these amazing moments. It was so peaceful, not a soul in sight and it felt like I had the whole national park to myself. This was a truly amazing moment for us.
Further up the mountain I came to an area known as Ladies View. The view overlooking the Loch Leane and the surrounding mountains down below was once again, a truly amazing moment and again, I had the place to myself. To celebrate, I just had to grab a beer and some cake at the cafe which is also situated here.
The next town I came across was Kenmare, a charming little town with charming high streets dotted with small boutique shops, small restaurants and local bars. It can get busy here but I was lucky and managed to get a table to sample more cakes and the delicious hot drinks on offer.
The road then rings west towards the Atlantic Ocean and (as I did the Ring of Kerry over two days) the best place to get breakfast was in a charming small town called Sneem. The Village Kitchen is located just west off the bridge which goes over the River Sneem. Here I was treated to a full Irish breakfast which was simply divine. The cafe does however get busy as the word got about but if you can get breakfast, then come here.
The next sight I came to was the Staigue Stone Fort which was about 4km north of the main road before reaching Castlecove. Here I came across a ruined stone ringfort which was probably built during the late Iron Age (so around 300-400AD give or take) and was built as a defensive stronghold for a king or a local lord.
Then I just drove, drove, drove, capturing amazing views over towns and the Atlantic Ocean. There are several viewpoints (which are safe to stop in) but not too many. Driving in low season, I found that there were many coaches to avoid on the road so my advice is, don’t drive too crazy. There are other amazing places to stop at like Muckross House, Gap of Dunloe, Molly’s Gap...but I didn’t have the time to do everything and I hope to come back and check out the rest one day. When exploring western Ireland, make sure Killarney and the Ring of Kerry is on the list. The views simply blew my mind and my breath was taken away.
Also check out the nearby Dingle Peninsula and here are a few highlights....
Killarney Brewing Company: a fine Irish brew
Whilst driving around on the Ring of Kerry, I stopped off in Killarney in County Kerry for a few days. The food and drink scene in the town is amazing and makes a great base to see places like the racecourse, the castle and the national park nearby. However, if I have time to visit a brewery (if there is one in the area), then I have to check it out. Killarney Brewing Company is based on the main road south of the town (Muckross Road on the N71 - also on the Ring of Kerry), and from the outside, it looks like two or three buildings rammed together and gives off a warehouse look (but a colourful one). However the magic is inside the building.
A little bit of history first. The guys who founded the Killarney Brewing Company back in the 1800s took over the building which was the old Killarney Mineral Water drinks facility. It was a bit run down I hear but after a bit of tender loving care, the building now hosts one of Ireland’s new top independent craft breweries and taprooms.
The tour. For the first time in a brewery tour (and I have done a few), the tasting of beers is first to get visitors into the mood. I sure love a good old Irish brew (this is what I call a beer...a brew. In my home country a brew is a cup of tea but for me, in Ireland, a brew is a beer!). There were four beers to taste and all the beers here are named after local myths and legends.
The first was the German amber beer which I noticed the toasty malt taste straight away. The beer was smooth and as soon as it went down me, the aftertaste was just perfect, not too heavy and was just right. I do like my amber beers and this is one of the best ones I have tried in Europe. The beer here is named ‘The Banshee of the Kenmare Road’. The legend behind it was that one evening when the moon was out, a few people were driving their car passing the abandoned Derrycunnihy Church. Their car radio went silent. Then the driver looked over his shoulder to see a ghost appeared on the back seat of the car next to a passenger, only to disappear again moments later. After speaking about this, the driver found out that a few decades ago, a similar looking ghost, a lady in fact, was thrown from a car and hit her head against the ground and died close to the very spot where the driver saw the ghost on the Kenmare Road.
The second beer is a Belgium type ale which the brewery used malts and brewing techniques from the country. I can taste the fruity aroma from this beer, a sort of pear, melon and apple flavour, which is also a bit spicy from the hops they used. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I did enjoy this Belgian style ale. This one is called Spailpin Saison and legend is not so much of a legend, but fact. This type of ale is called a Saison which has been produced in the Belgium countryside since the 1700’s. Each farm had its own recipe which contained hops and a few spices. Brewed in the winter and the farm workers could enjoy the beer in the summer months the following year while they were working on the hops for the following winter. The Spailpin (just to clarify), was a seasonal farmworker in this part of Ireland and they were poorer than most people around here. They would travel from farm to farm during the harvest months with their families just to earn a living, put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
The third beer I tried and I was quite fortunate to try it (due to the festive season coming up after my visit), is a Belgian Dark Ale known as Christmas in Killarney. The colour of this ale kinda ranges from a light brown to a dark brownish colour. The taste has a hint of caramel and chocolate (I have to admit, I didn't really notice them too much) but I noticed there is a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. The ale isn’t too cold and is a great one to drink during the winter months. The actual taste is smooth and goes down like a treat. There isn’t really much of a legend to the naming of this ale, just an Irish thing of Christmas is a time to be at home, with family or friends and raise a glass of beer to celebrate all things festive.
The fourth beer is my favourite. Known as the Devil’s Helles Lager, this one is a pale, golden brew which has been fermented coldly and conditioned for a fantastic crispy finish. There is a honey and malty aroma to this lager, to which, goes down like a treat. I drove to this part of Ireland from England and I took loads of bottles of this lager back home. That is how much I loved this beer. The legend behind the name, there was a battle between the Devil and Thor (a viking mythical character). Thor threw a lightning bolt upon a devil (ok, maybe more than one bolt, he was going crazy, throwing lightning bolts one after the other). The Devil got cheesed off so he retaliated by tearing up the earth and hurling it back. The resulting basin filled up with water and is now known to locals as the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
I had the beer tasting in the tap room (which is the main room as soon as visitors come through the main entrance but I have been told most of the time the tasting takes place after the tour with some story telling), which is also where visitors can grab a pizza to eat whilst having a pint of the finest local brew.
Upstairs was the actual talk on the beers, how they were produced, especially the fact that the beers produce here use the natural water from nearby Mangerton Mountain which is also known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl as mentioned earlier - the water flows from the summit here before going into a lake, Lough Guitane then the water is taken from there to the brewery). The tour guides are from this area, so listening to them with the Irish accent, some witty humour made this talk interesting. Their knowledge is amazing, not just on the beers but the history of the area. The tour also has a video shown (which is not boring guys, totally love the way it was made) in the video room.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short time here at the Killarney Brewing Company and learnt a lot. However I enjoyed tasting the beers more and loved the lager so much. As I said, I even went to the local shop and took lots of bottles home with me. Even when I was in the restaurants or bars in the town, if they had it on tap, I was drinking the lager there. I rate the lager very highly. I just wished they sold it here in England. I think another trip to Ireland is needed.
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