The Ring of Kerry is the jewel in the crown of Irish tourism; it is easy to see why visitors return time and again to this 178 km (112-mi) circuit of the Iveragh Pertinsula. This is a wild and out-of-the-way region, sparsely populated inland but lined with quaint little towns along the coast. Superb scenery bombards the senses at every turn; rugged mountains, perfectly sculpted by the last ice age 10000 years ago, frame 120 km (75 mi) of unspoilt beaches. Several operators offer coach tours, but for those wanting greater flexibility, travelling by bicycle or car is the best option.
Starting from Killarney, with the wonderfully named Mcgillycuddy's Reeks (Ireland's highest point) to your left, the first port of call is Killorglin, a town where time has stood still. Replete with traditional Irish fare, it is an excellent place to stock up or simply relax and have a meal. From here on the views get even more spectacular and the road between Glenbeigh and Kells offers the most magnificent coastal scenery. The area is brimming with history and if you can take your eyes off the natural spectacle, the Ring of Kerry provides fascinating glimpses of the ancient heritage of Ireland - Iron Age forts, Ogham Stones and monasteries abound.
The route then hugs the coastal road, offering several chances to cross to the Skellig Islands, a paradise for birdwatchers. The loop takes you through the charming towns of Waterville, Caherdaniel and Castlecove, all of which are worthy of exploration and, if you time it right, the sunsets over the Atlantic can be sensational. The final stretch runs along the Kenmare River until finally, with the water behind you, the road passes through the wooded Killarney National Park, full of rivers, waterfalls, lakes and wildlife.
By bike or car
WHEN TO GO
TIME IT TAKES
It can be done inside a day, but the longer you take the more you see. It is worthy of a least a week of anybody's time.
Killorglin - home of the pagan Puck Fair.
The beach at Waterville.
Caherdaniel - Derrynane Estate home of Daniel O'Connell.
The 2500 year-old Staigue Fort.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The Ring can get monstrously busy in high season (June to August). Just before and just after these times it is quieter and more rewarding.