A Day Trip to Kerry: driving the Ring

Today we are rounding up our trip. In the next 5 hours we will drive the Ring of Kerry and return to your hotel in Killarney. Half way through the journey, we will stop for a dinner and meet two celebrities. Oh, speaking about celebrities…

Recently our talented blogger friend Resa McConaghy from  Art Gowns blog created a gorgeous art gown Contessa Fiori

Photo © Art Gowns

Contessa demanded a castle, and picked the one from my blog. I cannot tell you how honored I feel. My first thought was to invite the beautiful Contessa and the other Art Gowns to join us on this trip, but then I realised that we are traveling on a budget… So I arranged a yacht for Contessa Fiori and the other exquisite Art Gowns. They took off from Valentia island, and are on their way to the Puffin island right now – which is a counterclockwise journey. We will be traveling clockwise – don’t be confused by the online disputes about the right direction. Most of these disputes started before the roads were improved, and if you do get stuck behind a slow vehicle, it is only because of your bad luck on that particular day. This can happen on both directions.

Meanwhile, please visit Resa’s blog to admire her art.

There are two ways to drive the Ring of Kerry from Kenmare.  Some of you might prefer driving west by N70, which is perfectly fine. You will pass some cute villages and drive very close to the sea edge for a minute, but I’d rather go back to the Molls Gap and enjoy the 10 km scenic drive one more time. Then I will take the northern route R568 from the Molls Gap towards Sneem. We will meet in Sneem in a half an hour.

I like the northern route because of its rugged scenery and a chance to see sheep, horses and goats ( they are a great addition to any picture).

The Ring of Kerry

This round object looks like a lost tennis ball, but it is not. It is a cute colony of fine moss.

We meet at the Murphy’s Bar in Sneem. If you have more time, you might want to stay in Sneem for a couple of days. There is so much to do. 

We continue driving for another hour, stopping at the pull-offs.

Now we have reached the Coomakista Pass. After this large bend and before we start our descent to Waterville, there is a large parking lot where we will stop for a minute.

The rain starts picking up, but the view is beautiful nevertheless.

Statue of the Virgin Mary called the Lady of Wayside, was erected in 1954. Some articles say that the statue is overlooking the Ballinskellig bay, which is not true. The Lady is facing the road, and looks down.

There is a man selling hand-woven St. Brigid’s crosses for €3, a bargain. The crosses are made from rushes, and will dry very soon, but they look so lovely. Probably every Irish family has a Brigid. The crosses are supposed to be made and hung over a door on the February 1, St. Brigid’s Day, but it won’t do any harm if I get one now.

Before I open my mouth to ask for a photograph, the man retires to his van and unwraps a sandwich. I don’t wait for him to return, and take a picture of his dog and his accordion.

We are about to start the most beautiful descent. Thankfully, there are a few spots to stop and enjoy the view.  Our clockwise drive allows us to be closer to the edge (we are driving on the left side you now), which is also a bonus.

And now, the drum roll..! (Well, some bird photographers will roll their eyes and say ‘she did her best’) Anyway, this is indeed the best (and the only) picture I took of a Red-billed chough.

Choughs are often heard before they are seen. This was exactly the case. I was deep in photographing a fuchsia at the roadside, when I heard the distinctive call and almost dropped my camera. The chough was flying quite high, and it was clear that the bird has no intention to land. I lifted up my camera and this is what I got.

You can tell that it is a chough by the deep primary feathers that look like ‘fingers’, and also the red legs and bill. When choughs fly in a group, they sometimes perform stunts – like flying upside down. This amazing bird is endemic to Ireland, Isle of Man, and the far West of Wales and Scotland. The last Cornish chough died in 1973, but a pair have appeared and settled in Cornwall in 2001. Now their numbers grow. There are another seven subspecies of Red billed chough around the world. In some countries, the bird is depicted on postage stamps, including the Gambia, where the bird does not actually occur.

We finally arrive to the village of Waterville.

A lovely promenade that runs along the shore is a nice place to stretch your legs after the long drive. And there are birds!

Rock pipit keeps an eye on me.

It is a time for a meal. This little village is tourist-centered, and we won’t have problems finding a place to enjoy some deliciously prepared seafood. Read the most relevant reviews, but don’t get discouraged by those whose reviews sound like a script for stand-up. The Lobster is my favorite.

A few words about two bronze cast statues with Ballinskellig Bay in background. They stand close to each other, and both are dear to the hearts of the villagers.

The famous Little Tramp statue was unveiled in July 1998, and since 2011, Waterville has been holding an annual Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film festival in the end of August.

How did the Little Tramp end up in Waterville? On their first visit back in the 1950s, Charlie Chaplin and his large family came to Waterville and were turned away by a porter at the Butler Arms Hotel as there were no vacancies. The Chaplins humbly boarded their car and drove off to Kenmare. The owner of the Butler Arms, alarmed by someone with a greater knowledge about celebrities, rushed behind them catching up just a few miles beyond the town. He took them back and accommodated them in his family quarters. For the following decade, Waterville became their holiday village, and today the Chaplin’s children and grandchildren still enjoy Waterville and the old friendships.

Football legend Mick O’Dwayer first saw Charlie Chaplin in the 1950s and hardly believed that the elderly white-haired gentleman was that famous funny character dressed in a tight jacket and baggy pants.

Mick O’Dwayer is 82, and it was a surprise for him to be immortalized in bronze. “Normally they wait until someone is dead before they do something like this” he joked at the opening ceremony in 2012. They call him ‘the uncrowned King of Kerry’ for a good reason.

We leave Waterville and resume our journey. When you visit next time, I encourage you to make a deviation from the Ring route and stay a day somewhere on the Iveragh Peninsula so that you can travel to Valentia island, and the beautiful Skellig islands. You might want to google the latest information on boat tours before you make your plans.

We pass the eleven span Gleensk Viaduct that was a part of the Great Southern and Western Railway Line. Closed in 1960, the railroad could be a stellar tourist attraction these days with all the spectacular views. Unfortunately it won’t happen. The railway was dismantled, some bridges closed, and even hiking on some section of the former railway is not advised. Construction of a 5.7 km long greenway near Cahersiveen has been discussed since 2013. If you are interested in hiking, here is a great list of trails.

The viaduct is worth a short stop ( there is a place to park right under the pylons, but remember that you are driving on the left side and be careful making the right turn). You can also park a short distance away and walk back to take a picture like the one above.


A video for those who are forever in love with trains and railroad tracks.

The railway line from Farranfore to Valentia harbour has two tunnels at Drung Hill. You can see them if you stop in the place where these two pictures were taken. There is an ample parking lot and the view is breathtaking.

Dingle peninsula on the other side.

The rest of the Ring is not that spectacular, but lovely. We stop at this neat shop, and then drive straight to Killorglin.

After crossing the bridge, drive  through the roundabout and park for a minute so that you can walk back to the river and take a picture of the King Puck from across the road ( read about the King in this blog post) That’s young me there in the picture 🙂 Didn’t have a chance to stay in Killorgleen any longer.

king puck

Back in Killarney we have just enough time to visit the Ross Castle.

It is not clear who built the tower house and when, but more likely it was built by some of the O’Donoghue chieftains in the late 15th century.

The trails around the Ross island and copper mines are a place of magic.

Once I got lost after leaving the main path. I could see the trail, but was not able to cross the mossy area – first, I didn’t want to damage the centuries-old biotope, second, I sure didn’t look forward to stepping in a mucky water hole on the way. So, I just had to walk all the way back.

Our epic 16 hours long trip is over! This is my hotel – they repaint it now and again, so I made the picture in b&w to avoid confusion. I like it for the perfect location and price.

I am glad to be back home before Christmas.

 Have a wonderful week!


  1. I consider myself fortunate to be following you on those trips, each of which are a feast to the senses. I read the post in which you were hit by flu and remembered goats and later on photographed them too. The black and white image of the hotel is a classic.

    1. Thank you so much for being a good travel buddy! 🙂 Killorglin is a great little town with interesting traditions. I never stop there because of the lack of time, and that one is the only picture I still have.

  2. Hello Inese,
    Thanks for another beautiful trip – amazing scenery, and interested by the St Bridgid crosses – I’m just working up something on Candlemass, candles and snowdrops, and know that commemoration of St Brigid was another festival based around February 1st/2nd. I wondered if there are strong Irish traditions around candlemas?
    Best wishes

  3. What a post! Complex and so informational! Tremendous beauty seen in each and every photo. What a great job you did on this post. Wow, just wow! And as for Resa’s gown, I’d recognize her work anywhere. ☺️

  4. Wow Inese, that was an epic trip! Thank you for all of the info, historical and for touring. What a breathtaking country Ireland is. You made a wonderful post for us all, with your photos of the countryside and more.
    I’m dying to know, have you ever been to Kilcoe Castle?Jeremy Irons bought it years ago. He was telling me about it when we were working together. It seems to be restored now.
    THANK YOU for featuring Contessa Fiori in this post. You are lucky to have sent the Art Gowns on by yacht! They would have been a total hassle out in the countryside, what with their tails tangling up in all that gorgeous nature.
    I adore all of the animals, now and always.
    The ball of moss, lol, looks like a smiley face emoji, with its mouth puckered up from lemons.
    The Charlie Chaplin tale is wonderful. I have one from my GLaM blog. I took some pics of a mural with him. It is on the side of one of the oldest, most dilapidated hotels in Winnipeg. Turns out he stayed there (it was the bees knees then) with other performers in the days of Vaudeville. When there, he wrote his brother a letter on the hotel’s stationary. It said he was leaving Vaudeville and heading to Hollywood. The letter still exists. The rest is history, including your story of the Little Tramp..
    A most excellent post, Inese! Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Resa, and especially for the honor to assist your charming Contessa Fiori 🙂 Delighted to hear that Charlie Chaplin stayed in the Winnipeg hotel in such a pivotal point of his career. I think I remember your blog post and the picture of the mural. Another connection, so exciting!
      No, I haven’t been to Kilcoe castle, but I know where it is, and I was in the area some years ago, on my way to Bantry. So cool that you were working together. Jeremy Irons is such a prolific actor.
      Thank you again, Resa, and I look forward to many more travels in the future!

      1. I would never NOT come by you. The scenery and the greenery is very diff from Scotland I guess it is why they call it the Emerald Isle I especially love your capture of Ross Castle and yes it is a capture in every way. But then down below you have these trees all moss-eaten. And it’s breath taking xxxxx

        1. I love Scotland yet I have only been to Edinburgh. My daughter and her husband have traveled a little bit further to the northern Scotland, and they were in awe. You guys have your own share of Emerald 🙂 Thank you again for joining the trip. The pictures are combined from 2006 to 2018.

  5. i’m grateful for being taken
    along with beautiful road to Kerry, inese!
    wonderful knowing that Charlie Chaplin
    was welcomed & honored there.
    your travels are quite a gift to me 🙂

      1. my dream is that after seeing
        this post people would find
        themselves outside enjoying
        a brief retreat
        in nature’s freshness & healing!
        when i posted last night
        i was also considering my joy
        at being outside & offline.
        thanks for asking, dear inese.
        wishing you a happy day 🙂

  6. Beautiful photos, Inese. I love the rugged country and the soft colors of the landscape. Congrats on capturing the chough on film and I’m so glad to hear that they’re making a comeback. 🙂 So much to comment on. I so enjoy your posts.

    1. Thank you so much, Diana! Yes, I sure used the platform for boasting this time 😉 The Ring of Kerry is a tourist destination, but I hope every visitor finds something very personal to remember.

  7. Wonderful images, thanks. Decades ago I hitchhiked in late autumn with a friend around the Ring of Kerry. I may have mentioned this before – in a sequel to Course of Mirrors, called ‘Shapers,’ still in editing stage, Derrynane (nr. Caherdaniel) features as a twentieth century stop over between the mystical past and mystical future of the storyteller. The incredible coast line has remained powerfully in my memory.

    1. So delighted to hear that you were inspired by your Kerry experience! I included a list of the favorite trails in my post for those who want more than just driving the Ring. The treasures are hidden from an ordinary tourist eyes, but they are there 🙂

      1. I think I’d like Ireland. All I can remember of being a little kid there is wasps and tennis courts and the old man shedding a tear at a museum all about the potato famine. We really have to go back ~ George

          1. I’m pretty sure the Irish must be laughing – quite rightly – at the English Brexit morons right now. At least I can say I’m half Celt on mum’s side. I remember the Irish take time out to laugh a lot. I like that. ~ George

            1. Oh George, I am afraid there is nothing to laugh at. The purpose of the EU is to stay united, politically and economically. Fifty years later, this fact is forgotten.

              1. I agree Inese. A year ago I lost a sound design opportunity in France because of the doubts about Brexit. So its cost me already. Basically I hate Brexit. 9/10 Brexiteers are racist in my view. ~ George

                1. Oh so very sorry George. You won’t be alone, I guess.
                  Racist? So I would probably think if I didn’t know some brexiteers who have in-laws of different races and consider themselves cosmopolitans. It is just one of the many stupid things humans do when they are given an opportunity.

                2. You’re most likely spot on Inese. It’s probably just me fixating on the fact that every Brexit voter I know or have seen in the media generally talks the words, “‘We’ don’t want the foreigners coming over here taking our jobs”. I wonder who they mean by this word ‘We’! Never mind, I guess. I just have to get on with life. The next few days in parliament should be interesting! ~ George

                3. George, don’t upset yourself watching the Parliament antics. Everything will work out in the end. Foreigners are welcome nowhere, they are getting a quiet treatment wherever they go. This is a reality. But it is possible to be a good, honest, cultured, mature person in any country, regime and politic. You just don’t have to participate in unfairness or bigotry, that’s all.

                4. Thanks. I’m addicted to the news generally, Inese. But I’ll give it my best shot when it comes to the theft of my identity – well I’ll try. Hope it’s not too cold over the Irish Sea. It is here ~ George

  8. Lovely writing and beautiful photographs to go with it. Thank you. I love the story about Charlie Chaplin being turned away, it almost sounds like a scene from one of his films.

  9. I enjoy the 16 hour trip with you. Thank you for the tour and the stories at different places. The chough flying is great. I like the “fingers” looking and how he (she) tilted his(her) head a bit in the picture. The flower picture after the flying high chough just reminds of the one I saw planted in a pot in front of the hotel in Galway where I stayed. I took a picture of them but it isn’t look as nice and clear as this one. Great choice to have B&W render of the rail road track and such a nice perspective view of it.

    1. Thank you so much! I was taking pictures of the flower when I heard the bird’s voice 🙂 It is one of the birds’ species I am ‘hunting’ for years. The flower, Fuchsia, grows naturally in Ireland, but it is not native. It doesn’t do any harm though, not like the Rhododendrons. I couldn’t find my pictures of the evergreen Strawberry tree that is a native species for Kerry. It is beautiful.

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