One of those rare Irish gems that has stood up to the increased traffic from tourism, County Kerry is still deeply rooted in preserving its iconic Irish scenery and tranquility. Located in southwest Ireland, County Kerry is incredibly popular with travelers looking to eschew the typical tourist sectors and soak in the fresh, green tranquility of natural Ireland. The county includes some of Ireland’s most famous landscapes and architectural landmarks, including the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, the town of Killarney, the Skellig Islands, Ross Castle, and Muckross Abbey. If you’re looking to experience the heart of County Kerry, then let Back-Roads Touring lead the way!
With beautiful azure waters surrounding impossible green hills, the Dingle Peninsula is stunning beyond human comprehension. Once labelled as “The Most Beautiful Place On Earth” by National Geographic, the Dingle Peninsula has something to offer every kind of traveler, whether it’s gorgeous beaches, breathtaking scenery, or charming village life in the town of Dingle. The beaches of the Peninsula are golden and the fishing is plentiful, expressed in the local seafood-focused cuisine and in the finest restaurants in other parts of the country. Jagged cliff edges jut out from the frothing sea, frosted in Irish greenery. While the area is a protected “Gaeltacht”, or Gaelic-speaking area, you would be hard-pressed to find any local who pronounced Dingle by its Gaelic name, An Daingean.
If you’re looking for the best sightseeing route in all of Ireland, look no further than the Ring of Kerry. Combining the fresh coastal scenery with the inland green pastures and rustic villages, the Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular routes in the entire country. The entire route measures at 179 kilometers, doable in a single day but many visitors opt to stop overnight and break up the trip. Because of its fame, the route can be crowded with tour buses and independent travelers all scrambling to view their slice of majestic Irish scenery. The route can be done on bike if you’re looking to avoid the expense of renting a car, or tour buses are always available for a fee if you’d like to be guided along the route.
The Skellig Islands are two steep and rocky islands 13 kilometers off the coast of County Kerry. Described by George Bernard Shaw as “the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world” for their resilience to erosion by the Atlantic, the islands are famous for their large populations of Northern Gannet, Storm Petrel, Kittiwake, and Puffin birds. The larger island, Skellig Michael, however, is the only island visitors are allowed to land on, after a rough and choppy crossing from the mainland. Skellig Michael is home to one of the earliest Christian monasteries in Ireland, one that survived 9th century Viking raids and housed 12 monks and an abbot until the 12th century when they left for the mainland. The ruins of the monastery are still standing and accessible by 600 steps carved into the rock face (small children and those with mobility issues need not apply).
The name many visitors think of (besides Dublin) when Ireland is mentioned, Killarney is a real pro at delivering not only amazing natural scenery with its national park, but also delicious cuisine and fantastic accommodations. The town is aesthetically charming despite its strong economy funded by tourists, thanks to efforts by the local town council to ban plastic and unseemly signs. Shops will often compete with each other and see who can make the most beautiful shop face out of wood, stained-glass doors, and remnants of other signs. Killarney holds many secret winding and turning lanes, perfect for the explorer in all of us thirsting to find those little-known shops or cafes off the beaten path.
Restored by the Dúchas, Ireland’s Heritage Service, Ross Castle is a 15th century lakeside castle, once home to the O’Donoghue clan and one of the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s forces during the Irish Confederate Wars. One trick that helped stay the castle’s surrender was its winding staircase; each step was set at a different height to break the stride of any invaders, making them harder to climb. Legend has it that the O’Donoghue leapt out of one of his windows with his desk and his horse into the lake below, and now lives at the bottom in a grand palace, still overseeing all of Ireland. The castle is only accessible by guided tour, and spaces fill up quickly so you’ll want to pre-book as far in advance as possible.
In the confines of Killarney National Park, the first national park of Ireland and established in 1932, is Muckross Abbey. The abbey was founded in the 15th century for Franciscan friars by Donal McCarthy Mor. The abbey has survived countless acts of violence and raids by Cromwellian forces during Oliver Cromwell’s siege of Ireland, and consequently was reconstructed and rebuilt several times. Today the abbey is without a roof, but still continues to strike a poignant and striking pose against the Irish skyline. The courtyard is especially beautiful, with a single yew tree surrounded by a cloister.
Explore Ireland At Your Leisure With Back-Roads Touring
This tour combines the best-known icons of the ‘Emerald Isle’ with lesser known local gems. Journey through this charismatic country steeped in history, with wild open vistas, spectacular coastlines and picturesque villages. Explore the best of Northern Ireland including the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway. And in southern Ireland be captivated by the dramatic natural splendour of the Inishowen Peninsula, Connemara, the Dingle Peninsula and the Wicklow Mountains.
Ireland is renowned for its warm welcome and Irish craic. This tour is an ideal introduction to a diverse land dominated by wild, breath-taking vistas and vivacious people. Gaze in awe at the sheer scale of the Cliffs of Moher from the sea below, travel through County Clare, home to exceptional scenic delights and charming villages. Try Irish cuisine, sample a variety of whiskies and meet local characters in timeless pubs.
Tucked away in a far flung corner of Europe lies Northern Ireland – a proud, wild and enchanting land where ancient kings once ruled. Often overlooked, the six counties of Ulster create an indelible impression with the Giant’s Causeway – a geological marvel – vying for attention against wild Atlantic coastlines, and rugged terrains guarded by stout fortresses. Belfast offers fascinating insights into its troubled past with tours of once notorious sectarian areas.
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