Categories: EuropeIreland

A Little Green…Exploring Ireland’s Rugged Ring of Kerry

A gentle sprinkle of rain dusted the windshield of the car as the smell of wet grass leaked through the air vent of my rental car – I slowly puttering my way around the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland, more popularly known as the Ring of Kerry.

The Ring of Kerry is an extremely popular tourist destination – overrun with tourists, in fact, if you’re visiting during peak season. But off-season, the Ring of Kerry is very sedate and I only encountered one large oncoming tour bus careening a sharp corner on a small (tiny actually) winding road.

With Curtis, another backpacker I met in Cork, still in tow we took on the Ring of Kerry over the course of two days. Because we had the rental car we made a point of picking out some smaller towns for a bit of a wander. Sneem was one of our best picks, it’s a perfectly tiny Irish town with one of everything and a huge river gushing through.

The ice cream is note-worthy and slippery stone steps lead down to one portion of the river bed – a perfect place to perch and devour the freshly made ice-cream. The real fun though is to be had on the other side of the river. I eagerly straddled gaps and jumped rocks to make it to the center islands abloom with a riot of purple heather and brilliant yellow flowers.

My secret confession to you? I’m not all that adept at jumping and balancing on slick rocks. I left the river with one side of my body drenched from a failed attempt to launch myself between two hulking rocks. This is a reoccurring incidence in my life – picture me slipping and sliding through the San Gabriel River with many pounds of camping equipment strapped my back in the Angeles National Forest…

I was a wet Shannon…

I’m not ready to give up though! It has to be a learnable skill, right?! Back me up here.

Anyhow, after puttering around Sneem for a bit and taking some time to relax to the sound of the rushing river, we headed toward the more rugged and less-traveled Skellig Ring. As beautiful as the landscape was we learned a hard lesson – many hostels close down in off-season! Plans for the night were foiled and we instead continued driving and bunked in Caherciveen and enjoyed a couple of pints and fun lively Irish music as a reward for the long driving day.

The Ring of Kerry is gorgeous and ends in the Killarney National Park. The park is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and encompasses a huge portion of the land around the city of Killarney. There are a lot of bus tours in the area, but I opted to park and walk through the small lightly marked tourist trails– especially finding the tiny paths that led away from the Muckross House and other key attractions.

My efforts to escape the crowds were rewarded when I spotted two red deer – Killarney National Park has Ireland’s only remaining herd of the red deer, so I felt pretty lucky to spot this guy. We had a staring contest for several minutes (that could be a lie – it felt like several minutes but was probably closer to 30 seconds!) before he scampered off.

Killarney’s lakes are just stunning – I feel like I overuse that word sometimes, but it’s just so accurate sometimes. They were magnificently pretty with deeply blue and brown peaty waters contrasting with the bright, almost unnatural green grass surrounding the lakes.

The weather only partially cooperated so I spent the better part of several days slightly damp but surrounded by wet, lush, green Irish countryside, so really, it’s not like I have room to complain too much  ;-)

Enjoy more travel photos from Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.

This post was last modified on February 14, 2014, 5:44 pm