Ring of Kerry Cycle

I recommend every cyclist should tour the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a 179 km winding route for tourists in County Kerry.

The traditional Ring of Kerry cycle tour consists of one day. However, splitting it up into a three-day tour will enable you to see the beauty of the countryside and visit every attraction.

I want to take people off the main route to Portmagee, Valentia, back into Portmagee again, then onto St Finian’s Bay, Ballinskelligs, finally back on the Ring of Kerry at Waterville.

This route is known as The Skellig Ring which is well worth the detour as it boasts the most beautiful scenery in the county. This is something you can’t do on a one-day tour of the Ring of Kerry.

Plus, you miss out on all the tiny side trips where you can immerse yourself in real, honest Irish culture and countryside.

An Epic 3 Day Journey:

The Ring of Kerry with its rugged mountains and an epic coastline makes it one of Ireland’s most visited areas. It is an excellent destination for cycling in the whole of Europe.

Often called the Iveragh Peninsula, The Ring of Kerry is a western coast peninsula. It is part of the Wild Atlantic way, which has astonishing scenery.

Veiw from Coonanaspig of Valentia
Veiw from Coonanaspig of Valentia (Skellig Ring)

Make plans to cycle the Ring of Kerry, and perhaps meander down some of the side roads and into smaller villages following the Wild Atlantic Way. These are the more remote sections along the coast.

From Killarney, remember that the general traffic goes in an anti-clockwise direction. You can think of Killorglin as your route’s 1st stop to get you going.

The Ring of Kerry is famous for its charity cycle race. Taking place each year in July, millions of euros are raised for different charities through the annual support of participating volunteers and cyclists.

The majority of the Ring of Kerry is flatland, with just a few hills. The strong winds and harsh weather, however, does not always translate to an easy ride.

3 Day Tour:

Day 1:

  • Killarney to Killorglin is 21km
  • Killorglin to Glenbeigh is 13km
  • Glenbeigh to Cahersiveen is 27km
Fish Statue at Beaufort Bridge
Photo by Patrick O’Sullivan

Once you leave Killarney going to Killorglin for 5 km on your left-hand side you will see Lough Leane. This is the biggest of the 3 Killarney Lakes.

After that, you will be cycling parallel with the River Laune. Don’t be surprised to see fishermen on the River Laune because it is a good spot for catching salmon and trout. Also, you might spot canoeists from Cappanlea.

Statue of the King Puck in Killorglin Kerry
King Puck

Situated along the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry is Killorglin and you will be able to see the King Puck statue on the town’s edge as you cross the town bridge into Killorglin.

Puck Fair festival takes place every year from the 10th of August to the 12th of August. There is a parade and crowning of a wild King Puck goat. See my web page on Puck Fair here.

Known for its water sports, mountain walks, and outdoor activities, Killorglin contains the Castle Conway Ruins.

Stop by some of the town’s cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the traditional cuisine of the Irish consisting of fish dishes or seafood locally sourced from the River Laune. Crossing the River Laune take the 1st right to avoid going up the steep hill.

Entrance to the Kerry Bog Village
Kerry Bog Village

After leaving Killorglin travel about 7.5km and you will see the Red Fox (Pub & Restaurant) on your right. Adjacent is the Kerry Bog Village. Step back in time and explore Ireland’s rural history, heritage, and lifestyle.

The houses are thatched, and you will see what the farmers used on the land in the 19th century. See my webpage on Kerry Bog Village Museum here.

200m from the Red Fox there is a clearing where you could stop the bike easily. In the morning in the summertime, there will be 2 to 3 people selling antiques and paintings. 

Traveling onto the next village you will come to is Glenbeigh. It is a lovely village which in the summertime, the people are spilling out onto the path from the pubs having great crack

Mountain Stage near Caherciveen
Photo by Sean McInerney

Outside Glenbeigh, you will have your first climb on the road. It is only 2 km but when you get to the other side it will be well worth the wait because you will be on Mountain Stage.

Here you will have the first real glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. There are two viewing points looking out over Dingle Bay. On the other side of the bay, you will see the Dingle Peninsula.

Statue of Caherciveen Monks
Photo by Sean McInerney

On the bike again, you will be traveling towards Caherciveen, where you will have your first night’s rest. Cahersiveen lies on the river Fertha at the foot of Beentee Mountain. In recent years, a stunning marina has been added to the town.

Other main attractions include the stone forts of Cahergal and Leacanabualle, Ballycarbery Castle, the Old Barracks, and the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church. Visit my web page on Caherciveen here.

Day 2:

  • Caherciveen to Portmagee is 16km
  • Portmagee to Valentia Island and back into Portmagee again is 18km
  • Portmagee to St Finian’s Bay is 9km
  • St Finian’s Bay to Ballinskelligs is 7km
  • Ballinskelligs to Waterville is 13km
  • Waterville to Sneem is 35km

Rise early because this will be the longest day of the trip. Now, instead of going from Caherciveen to Waterville (Ring of Kerry cycle), You will be turning off at the Caherciveen creamery to head for Portmagee.

I will be taking you on the Skellig Ring. Honestly, in my opinion, I think it should be on the Ring of Kerry because it is the most beautiful part of the county. Don’t worry we’ll be coming back to Waterville a different way. 

Beehive hut on Skellig Michael
Beehive hut on Skellig Michael

Portmagee is a small quaint Village. It is the meeting point for people to go out to Skellig Michael. If you want to go out to the Skellig’s, I would advise you to book it well in advance as it is such a popular attraction that you may not be able to book it at the harbour.

Only a certain number of people are allowed on board for safety reasons. Look at my article on Skellig Michael here.

Another great place to visit in Portmagee is the Kerry Cliffs. It is Kerry’s answer to the Cliffs of Moher. Quite Spectacular, they are the closest point to the Skellig’s from the mainland that you can get. It is very reasonable to visit there.

VALENTIA LIGHTHOUSE
Photo by Sean McInerney

Valentia Island is linked to the mainland at Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge. The main village is Knightstown where the Caherciveen ferry lands. If you want to decrease the journey you can always take the ferry across from Cahersiveen.

It leaves from The Point in the summer months. Another village on the island is Chapeltown. There are quite a lot of attractions on the island, most notably the Lighthouse, the Slate Quarry, and the Tower at Bray Head.

Don’t forget to see the Altazamuth Stone, Fogher Cliffs, and Glanleam Beach. If you do a loop of the whole island, it is 18km.

Crossing the bridge again back to Portmagee, you should have a little bite to eat in the Moorings (Pub & Restaurant). Every time we go down to that part of the county, we sit out watching the hustle and bustle of the village (weather permitting).

Beautiful Scenery looking down on Cahersiveen in Kerry
Coonanaspig Mountain

You should have a rest here before tackling the highest point of the trip. You will be going up Coonanaspig Mountain right behind Portmagee. It is so steep, even some experienced riders get off their bike halfway up and walk the rest of the way.

It is well worth it though because at the top there is a viewing point which is spectacular. You will be able to see for miles around. Going down the other side is just as steep and has many hairpin bends or switchbacks.

Further, along your trip at the end of the steep mountain on the other side, you come to St. Finian’s Bay. You may see some people swimming on that beach. I highly recommend you don’t take a dip because there are crosscurrents in the bay.

Experienced swimmers have drowned here. If you want to take a dip wait until you get to Ballinskelligs Blue Flag Beach. It is just a few km’s up the road. 

Now near St Finian’s Bay is the Skellig Chocolate Factory. See how chocolate is made and have a free taste. There is also a coffee shop & restaurant here where you can sit down and relax.

On the road again, you will come across Ballinskelligs beach. It is just before Ballinskelligs Village. Take a dip in the inviting clear water.

Statue of Mick O'Dywer in Waterville
Statue of Mick O’Dywer in Waterville. Photo by Niall O’Sullivan

The next town you come to is Waterville. See my web page on things to do in Waterville here.

It was the hometown of Mick O’Dwyer – A famous Kerry footballer. He was the manager of the Kerry football team during the 1970s and 1980s.

Statue of Charlie Chapin in Waterville
Statue of Charlie Chapin in Waterville. Photo by Niall O’Sullivan

There is a statue of Charlie Chaplin in the middle of the village as this was one of his family’s favourite holiday spots. Whether you are looking for beautiful scenery, world-class golf or spectacular food, a nice pint of guinness in a traditional Irish pub then Waterville is the place to be.

No wonder this location is considered to be the seafood capital of Ireland with its great variety of seafood including prawns, muscles, lobsters, crabs, and the many different varieties of fish.

Renowned for its 18 hole golf championship links, Waterville is also a cyclist’s paradise who want to immerse themselves in the “real” Ireland. To keep you entertained there are heritage tours, horse riding, Skellig trips, golfing, culture and fishing.

Buy a banana because there are 2 or 3 hills coming up. The first one is the worst but not as bad as Coonanaspig Mountain behind Portmagee. It is called Coomakesta Pass.

At the top, there is a viewing point where you can see Scariff Island and out to the Atlantic Ocean. The next town is Caherdaniel. This was the home of the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell. See my website page here. 

Coomakesta Pass looking down on Caherdaniel Strand
Coomakesta Pass

Caherdaniel is a village located in the Ring of Kerry’s Ivergah Peninsula. Caherdaniel Parish begins in the Glenmore wonderful valley with its rivers and beautiful lakes. This is a world-famous fishing destination.

When you cycle over the Coomakesta Pass from Loher Fort, you will be amazed by the view overlooking the vast Atlantic Ocean, Kenmare Bay, Deenish Island, Scariff, and Derrynane Beach.

On the old butter road, you will pass through Caherdaniel Village, home to ancient writers and poets. Kerry Way is now a mix of new and old atmospheres as the quaint village stands on the Derrynane Bay shore. See my webpage on Derrynane Beach here.

White Strand in Castlecove
White Strand in Castlecove. Photo by Niall O’Sullivan

Close by is the village of Castlecove, which has a beach called the white strand. If you miss the Caherciveen Ring Fort, Staigue Fort is around here. It is a superb example of an old megalithic Irish ring fort. It is a little bit off the beaten track, turning left just before Castlecove. It is well signposted.  

Lastly you come to Sneem where you will have your second nights rest.

Day 3:

  • Sneem to Kenmare is 26km
  • Kenmare to Killarney 23km

Sneem has always been associated with a relaxed way of life. Located right on the famous Ring of Kerry route, Sneem is nestled between the wild rugged coast and the mountains. It offers some of the county’s best views, which you will experience as you cycle through.

The Sneem River splits the village in two. Sneem market features craft shops and art for you to enjoy every Tuesday. In the vicinity, there are approved Riding Stables that provide you with the most scenic trips.

Water sports are available and include canoeing, diving, sailing, windsurfing, and sea kayaking. Rainbow trout is widely available 4 km away at Lough Fadda. There is a lovely beach in the area with rugged mountains that hiking enthusiasts will love.

There are signposted trails for walking, such as The Kerry Way and The Fermoyle walking loop. The trails are roughly 14 km long and can take up to 5 hours to complete.

Outside front of Staigue Fort
Staigue Fort

The Kerry Geopark Information Centre is in Sneem. The Geopark features a sensory garden and includes local geology. Just 5 km away is Staigue Fort, one of the largest ring forts in Ireland.

A sculpture of Steve Crusher Casey
Steve Crusher Casey

A sculpture of Steve Crusher Casey, a world champion wrestler and a local hero has been presented to the village. On several occasions, Charles de Gaulle, French President visited Sneem as well.

It is no wonder that Sneem has won many national awards with its Italianate church, a quaint and colourful village with manicured lawns. Sneem is quite picturesque, to say the least.

The next day you will be going from Sneem to Kenmare. Along the way, the sea will be to your right. By hugging the coast, you will be in for a beautiful sight.

KENMARE BRIDGE
Photo by Sean McInerney

In Irish, the name Kenmare means Head of the Sea, which refers to Kenmare being the head of Kenmare Bay. In the centre of Kenmare town, three main streets form a triangle. These are known as Marquis and Shelbourne Street, Henry Street, and Main Street.

A haven of tranquility, Kenmare features breathtaking scenery with an unspoiled natural environment. Kenmare is part of the Ring of Kerry, making it a good location to stop off for some lunch. Enjoy horse trekking, riding, and golf.

Church in the centre of Kenmare
Kenmare Church

One of the largest of Ireland’s stone circles is near town. There is a boulder dolmen in the centre and fifteen stones around the circumference of the circle.

Poor Clare Sisters is a convent in the town founded in the year 1861. It is said that Vikings have raided the town area, which at the time was called Ceann Mhara.

At one point in time, Kenmare lace became famous around the world. A suspension bridge over the Kenmare River was opened in 1841 and was said to be the first suspension bridge in Ireland. A new concrete bridge replaced this in the year 1932.

Scenic view at Moll's Gap
Moll’s Gap

Leaving Kenmare, you will do your last climb. It ends at Moll’s Gap. There is a place here with gorgeous panoramic views. The place was named after Moll Kissane who had a pub in the 19th century where she served poitin made from potatoes. 

Because this area is so popular with the locals and tourists, there will be a lot of cars, buses, and jaunting cars on the road back into Killarney. The road is very narrow, and you will have to stop and start again during the height of the tourist season.

Ladies View Killarney on a bright summer's day
Ladies View

Halfway down you will come across Ladies View. It is well worth stopping here. The view is magnificent and will be of the 3 Killarney Lakes. Across the road, there is a café and a gift shop for souvenirs. 

Riding back to where you started from 3 days earlier, you will pass Killarney National Park. Don’t be surprised if you see deer on the road. Visit my webpage on Killarney National Park here.

Other Popular Points of Interest includes:

The Ring Of Kerry’s Best Season To Cycle:

Famous for unpredictable weather, even summertime in Ireland has temperatures dropping rapidly from scorching to chilly. Suddenly, a previously clear sky can become a downpour, with strong winds.

Get up extra early if you want to cycle in the summertime. The main roads around the peninsula can be full of tourists in the Summer. Consider Winter a suitable cycling season if you can withstand the Irish temperatures.

Mountain Stage, Kerry
Mountain Stage

Experienced cyclists will tell you that late Spring or early Summer is probably the best season to cycle during the months of May and June. These are the sunniest, driest times of the year. Gear up accordingly if you plan to go camping because the night air can get very cold.

Cycling the Ring of Kerry can be done in one day but then you will miss out on all the beautiful scenery and attractions along the way.

Conclusion:

Instead of a 1-day tour, a 3-day tour of the Ring of Kerry is highly recommended. The Ring of Kerry is the world’s most spoken-about cycle route and for good reason.

In the summertime, the Ring of Kerry is particularly popular with people renting caravans and cars to drive along the ring. There are no side lanes on the narrow, unmaintained roads and if you want to join the crowd on summer weekends, you will need to take extra precaution.

It has gained in popularity due to the annual event held each year on the first Saturday of July. Thousands of cyclists are attracted by this event with varied activities.

Stretching the cycling route of the Ring of Kerry from 1 day to 3 days on this custom-made cycling tour is much better than trying to do everything in 1 day. The reason is that in 3 days, you will be able to take in all the most popular sights and spots of the Ring of Kerry.

After all, the 208 km Ring of Kerry and the Skellig Ring hugs the Irish coast and features the most spectacular land and seascapes.

One of Europe’s absolute highlights, the Ring of Kerry and the Skellig Ring should be added to your Bucket List.

Check out my web pages on the Ring of Kerry Drive, The Skellig Ring and Slea Head Drive.

See my web page on Slea Head Drive

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