A Small Village that Connects the Many Attractions On and Around the Skellig Ring
The small village of Portmagee is what connects County Kerry’s hidden gem, Valentia Island, to the mainland. The village, which is home to some 120 or so people, is so small, you don’t need transport to get around as you can walk from one end of the village to the other.
This little village’s main feature is the access point it serves to Valentia and the dramatic Skellig Michael cliffs and of course, picturesque natural beauty, which is a staple anywhere in Ireland.
For this reason, the village gained the moniker ‘the Ferry’ among locals. Portmagee was the first village in Ireland to receive the Fáilte Ireland National Tourism Town Award back in 2012.
The village gets its name from the previous resident, Captain Theobald Magee, who was an infamous smuggler in the 18th century who ferried contraband spirits, tobacco, etc.
Bars and Restaurants
The Bridge Bar
The best place to grab a bite and drink at Portmagee is undoubtedly The Bridge Bar at the Moorings Guesthouse. They are open all day year-round and serve delicious food. They play traditional Irish music at the weekend, accompanied by set dances on Friday and Saturday nights.
During the busier months of July and August, they have an ‘Irish night’ every Tuesday, where local talent showcases Irish music and dance at its best. The overall vibe is unbeatable.
The Bridge Bar usually has daily specials, which you don’t want to miss. If possible, get a table next to the window so you can enjoy the gorgeous view.
Fisherman’s Bar is another great place to enjoy a wonderful dining experience. The food is delicious, the service is great, and the prices are more than reasonable – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drop by.
Driftwood Surf Café
Driftwood Surf Café in The Glen is a great place if you want to enjoy a cup of coffee while enjoying the scenic Atlantic Ocean. They serve delicious, locally sourced food and are known for fabulous service, but the location is undoubtedly their biggest attraction.
The grassy, rocky steeps and slopes featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi are none other than Skellig Michael – twin peaks of rock jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Their sharp and rugged appearance as the waves crash into them from all sides makes them a truly extraordinary and memorable sight.
The massive Skellig Rock structure is mostly inaccessible because of the strong Atlantic currents. Once you’re there, 618 steps await you, which were built by the monks who once called the island home.
When you are here, you can spot several archaeological features, a 6th-century Christian monastery, and a 9th-century hermitage site (*estimated; actual dates unknown). Checkout my web-page on Skellig Michael.
The Skellig ring is a 32-km route that connects Portmagee, St. Finian’s Bay, and Ballinskelligs. It branches off the Ring of Kerry road before Waterville. The route is mostly country roads through villages, such as Dungaegan and The Glen, with the ocean on the right-hand side.
There are plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat along the way, but mostly the route is about enjoying first-rate scenery on a quiet road.
The coastal drive along the Wild Atlantic Way is a great diversion from the Ring of Kerry so you can get a respite from the constant bus traffic in the busy months. To get on Skellig Ring, take a left onto the R567 from the N70 while driving clockwise on the Ring of Kerry.
The road is narrow and on the route, expect to see Portmagee, Valentia Island, and St. Finian’s Bay as you pass.
On the Skellig Ring, close to Portmagee, lie the 1,000-feet high Kerry Cliffs. As the name suggests, they’re widely regarded as the most spectacular cliffs in Ireland’s County Kerry, which isn’t a tall claim when you consider their ideal location next to the Atlantic Ocean, which offers the perfect viewing point for Skellig Michael and Puffin Island.
These cliffs provide spellbinding panoramic views for about 30 miles.
Many even visit the extraordinary Kerry Cliffs to observe the colonies of cliff birds here. The location is fenced, so it is safe for kids and dogs to enjoy. They have a coffee shop where you can sit back and enjoy a cuppa as you soak up the beauty around you.
Plus, there are toilets, which make the trip more convenient. You will probably be done in 45 minutes, so it’s not very time-consuming either. Overall, you’re guaranteed a phenomenal experience for a very nominal entry fee.
If you’re one for long walks in the lap of nature, try the Bray Head Loop Walk at Valentia Island. The 7-km walking route takes about 2-3 hours, and its even terrain makes it suitable for everyone.
The route to Bray Head is a steady climb that offers fabulous views of the coastline and Skellig Michael. Bray Tower, an abandoned signal tower, is at the summit of Bray Head and offers the best views of the archipelago and the ocean. The walk here is not only scenic but historic.
Below the Bray tower, to the west, one can see ‘EIRE’ written in large letters using stones. The initials served as a marker for pilots to identify the Irish coastline in WW2. Ireland was neutral in the Second World War.
Near the car park is another interesting location of historic importance, where the first Trans-Atlantic Cable was laid in 1866. Almost halfway to the Bray Tower, one can see a heritage site to the south – remnants of old buildings from the early Christian era.
While the entire walk is quite doable for most, make sure you keep an eye on children near exposed cliffs.
To begin the Bray Head Loop, use the Bray Head Car Park, which is more than spacious. Take note though, the road to the car park is one-lane.
Another place to go is Geokaun Mountain & the Fogher Cliffs which are on the far side of Valentia and you will be looking over Dingle Bay. The top of Geokaun Mountain is accessible by car but the road is narrow.
On the Skellig Ring, between Portmagee and St. Finian’s Bay, you’ll come across the Coomanaspig Pass, which offers amazing panoramic views of Dingle Bay and Valentia Island. The pass is one of the highest places to reach by bike or car in Ireland, so it’s an adventurous ride if you’re brave enough to try.
On your way, to your right, you’ll notice a shrine to Mother Mary, beside which is the Tobairin Holy Well. It’s not known how old the well is, but it’s been here a while, and it’s covered in crosses scratched by pilgrims.
Almost 25 years old, Skellig Chocolate is a local chocolate maker in the Glen, Ballinskelligs, renowned for its delicious treats. Visitors can opt for a tour of their factory, which includes a tasting of their wide range of chocolate varieties.
Chat with the chocolatier and get recommendations for what’s best They have a café, where you can grab something delicious to eat and drink. The factory and café; are wheelchair accessible and provide high chairs on request.
While in Portmagee, you can opt for a sea-angling charter to take a few hours off and enjoy fishing. Joe Roddy and Sons Skellig Trips and Angling, who operates two passenger boats that ferry visitors to Skellig Michael or offer angling packages (full-day, half-day, afternoon trips).
They’ve been in the business for over 40 years and are friendly, helpful, and go the extra mile to make sure you have a great time. Whether you’re booking with them or another provider, prior booking is a must.
Coom Wedge Tomb
Near the Skellig Ring, you can visit the Coom Wedge Tomb, which is a prehistoric site of the Neolithic Period. The tomb is aligned West-East and is about 16 feet long and 5 feet wide. A 10-foot chamber lies within, covered by a single rock slab. The entrance, which lies to the west, has an antechamber with three large stones on each side.
Coom Wedge Tomb is also known as Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Bed. As per the story ‘The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne’ in Irish mythology, the demigod Diarmuid and Gráinne were pursued by Fionn mac Cumhaill, the latter’s betrothed, when they eloped.
They hid in caves and where there were no caves, Diarmuid made shelters such as the Coom Wedge Tomb.
Portmagee has so much to offer as a small village and provides a lot of value in terms of all the places around and the scenic views. It is the perfect location to check out other beautiful spots along the Skellig Ring and explore Valentia Island.
Whether you should stay here would depend on what your itinerary is like. If you’re going to be busy exploring nearby gems, then I recommend you stay a night or two.