This is our second post on the Iveragh Peninsula, better known as the Ring of Kerry. Read our first post here. Our series will continue, with features on the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas.
Again, this post is based on travel by car from Kenmare, homebase of the Ireland Untour.
Visit the Skellig Ring to venture off the beaten track. This scenic road winds through lovely towns and ruined abbeys and seaside villages. Better yet, the tour buses cannot reach it. Here are some highlights, though we encourage you to venture off on your own.
The Kerry Bog Village Museum in Ballincleave is a historic 18th century famine village with informative exhibits that shed light on the rural history and local everyday life and struggles of the period. Warm yourself by the fire and learn about the hardships and hard work of the community.
Waterville is a charming coastal town overlooking the Ballinskelligs Bay, with shopping and lunch options, a lovely stretch of beach, and picnic tables with a view. This town was a favorite vacation spot for Charlie Chaplin, who is remembered with a statue in town.
The Cill Rialaig Art Centre in Ballinskelligs is another winner, especially if you love art. The area hosts local and international artists, and the center itself has an active residency program. See the fruits of their artists here, in a gorgeous contemporary gallery space hosted under a traditional thatched roof. The cafe offers excellent food.
The Skellig Chocolate Factory is a small shop, but worthwhile if you like chocolate. Peer into the factory area, sample their Irish Whiskey truffles, and grab a hot chocolate in the cafe. If you are traveling with kids, ask about the playground nearby, with a mini zipline and memorable coastal views.
Valentia Island is just off the coast of Portmagee, accessible by driving bridge or ferry. Visit the heritage center here to better understand the human and ecological history of the area. Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs will be high points of your visit here.
The Skellig Islands are a marvel, a vital birding center with an active whale population in the area. Skellig Michael is not for the faint of heart. Its 6th century monastery was established by some intrepid monks. The distinctive stone beehive huts are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The island is very steep, accessed by boat. It is incredibly rewarding if your physical stamina and the weather and surf all align to afford you the opportunity for a visit. Note this is not safe for younger children.
Both Skellig Michael and Little Skellig are wildlife sanctuaries, home to puffins and other bird colonies, with rich sea life in the surrounding waters. If you are not up for the climb, you can see the island from a better vantage on a boat cruise that passes close by. Catch cruises from Portmagee. Advanced reservations are a must. Note sailing is weather dependent.
Enjoy the Iveragh Peninsula and the back roads of beautiful County Kerry! Read more advice on enjoying your time on the Ring of Kerry in this blog post.