Ireland's Ring of Kerry, Part 1: Forts, Waterfalls, Forests, and Estates

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This is the first installment of a four-part series on the three peninsulas (and scenic drives) of County Kerry, in the wild southwestern part of Ireland. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss the rest of the Iveragh Peninsula and our posts on the other two!
 
You may have never heard of the Iveragh Peninsula, but you’ve surely heard of the Ring of Kerry, and that is the scenic driving trail that traces the best vistas of this lovely coastline. But some of the peninsula’s finest treasures are off of the main road. 
 
Here is a rundown of the peninsula, with access based on your use of a rental car. Our write-up is oriented for access from Kenmare, charming homebase of the Ireland Untour. We advise you to pace yourself and stop often to enjoy the views. For more tips on touring the Ring of Kerry, see our post on it.
 
Here are some of the area’s can’t-miss highlights.
 
 
Killarney National Park & Muckross House and Farm
 
Killarney National Park is a treasure, a pristine, lush green forest full of ferns and moss-covered trees. Enjoy the walking and hiking trails through this greenest part of Kerry. Don’t miss the Torc Waterfall and the walking trails from this well placed pull-off.
 
From here you can easily drive to Muckross House, or you can take a horse and buggy trip there. The buggies are fun to watch, though they are not the best way to see and tour the house, as the standard trip includes only a 30-minute stop there before your horse-drawn return.
 
The best way to see Muckross is to drive and park in its ample lots. Explore the beautiful 19th century Victorian mansion and its impressive adjacent gardens. Lose yourself in the grandeur of its formal garden or on the meandering trails of its upper green.
 
The historic Muckross Farm is a delight for kids and adults alike. Explore the historic buildings that have found a home here. You can visit an old school house, farm buildings with animals, and old farm houses outfitted in period decor. Live demonstrations show you how to milk a cow, teach you about farm practices from the 1930s and 40s, and show you how soda bread is made over an open fire. (Sample some with home-churned butter!)
 
Killarney National Park and the Muckross House and farm are best seen together in a single day. Adding more to this itinerary may leave you feeling weary.
 
 
Sneem and the Staigue Fort
 
Sneem is a charming little town near Kenmare, and a good rest stop for shopping and refreshments. Its brightly painted facades are typical of the area. You’ll find a small sculpture park and sensory garden to visit as well.
 
Continue on in this direction and follow signs for the Staigue Fort, one of Ireland’s most majestic stone ring forts. It is a massive structure of stones piled and held for centuries without mortar, with walls that are 18 feet high and 13 feet thick in spots. 
 
You can climb to the top for a nice view. As with many structures like this one, date is hard to determine, though best guesses put it at about 300-400 AD, in the late Iron Age. Also as is somewhat common, the structure is on private land. The family has a donation box at the entry site, and they run an ice cream concession stand nearby.
 
The Derrynane House is also well worth a visit. Former home of Irish political hero Daniel O’Connell, who won equal rights for Catholics in Ireland with his effective non-violent approach. He was a sort of grandfather of grassroots organizing and is beloved among the Irish. His idyllic coastal estate is lovely and offers a valuable glimpse into local life in the 19th century.
 
Tune in again, or subscribe, to catch our next post on our favorite part of the Ring of Kerry, the Skellig Ring.
 
 

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