Both the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula are exceptional in their own rights. They are both nestled on the western coastline of Ireland and offer their visitors spectacular landscapes. While each drive is undoubtedly beautiful, there are a few key differences and similarities to keep in mind when deciding whether to drive the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula. Here is everything to know when determining which drive you should set out on.
In general, if you’re looking for a longer drive with a number of different places to stop off and enjoy, then the Ring of Kerry is an excellent option for you. On the other hand, the Dingle Peninsula drive is shorter and great if you’re short on time but still want to see similar scenery and interesting sites.
Ring of Kerry
With its luscious green hills and pristine lakes, the Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular routes to drive on the western coastline of Ireland. Read on for what you should know when driving the Ring of Kerry.
The easiest, and arguably best, way to experience the Ring of Kerry is by car. This allows you the greatest freedom when seeing everything the route has to offer. There are several places where you can pull off the road for a view or turn onto roads that lead to tucked-away sites. You can browse Rentalcars.com to compare car hire prices.
The alternative option to driving yourself is to sign up for a guided tour such as this full-day tour. Tours usually last the entire day and take visitors around to the highlights on the Ring of Kerry, plus tour guides will have a wealth of knowledge to share about the route
Most visitors start in Killarney (though you can also start in the nearby village of Kenmare). They arrive by bus, car, or through a small train station.
Depending on where you’re arriving from, you may have to transfer trains at a larger station nearby. The most affordable way to arrive in Killarney is by bus, but it’s not always the quickest if you’re short on time.
The Ring of Kerry is well-marked, so you should have no difficulty sticking to the correct route if you’re driving yourself. There are several small towns along the way for you to stop at for lunch or a snack during your day trip.
The road is 120 miles (193 km) long, but you should plan to spend the entire day driving as there are many places where you can stop for a great view. You should also plan to get an early start, hitting the road at 9 AM or earlier.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re driving yourself, drive the route clockwise. Tour buses always drive counter-clockwise and driving the opposite direction ensures you don’t get caught behind a line of tour buses.
Most people drive around the Ring of Kerry in a single day. Even with making plenty of stops, one day is more than enough time, unless you’re planning on making a detour and hopping on a boat to the island of Great Skellig to explore Skellig Michael, which will add on a significant amount of time.
If you’re staying in Killarney and want to spend time seeing the highlights in the park, you can drive a portion of the Ring of Kerry and explore the park.
Things to do in Ring of Kerry
Torc Waterfall is one of the most popular sites along the Ring of Kerry. This 20-meter tall waterfall is a short hike from the parking lot. It’s a favorite stop in Killarney National Park, and a good way to spend the morning if you’re taking some time to explore the park.
That said, the parking lot is small and tends to fill up quickly during the middle of the day. It’s best to get an early start if you’re planning on hiking in the area.
Killarney National Park
As the first national park in Ireland, Killarney National Park does not disappoint. It was established in 1932 and spans 10,000 hectares. Parts of the park, like the Muckross House and Abbey, can be accessed by foot from the town of Killarney.
There are paved paths throughout the main sections of the park and many visitors rent bikes to get around. The park is full of a huge variety of habitats, each featuring their own flora and fauna that make Killarney National Park unique.
The Gap of Dunloe
No drive on the Ring of Kerry is not complete without a stop at the Gap of Dunloe. It’s a huge selling point for visitors when they’re weighing the Ring of Kerry vs. Dingle Peninsula. The gap seated between two mountain ranges, creating a stunning canyon filled with luscious green grass and pristine lakes.
The traditional way of reaching the gap is the park at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and walk to Lord Brandon’s Cottage for the view. It’s one of the most popular parts of the Ring of Kerry, and because of this, tends to be one of the busier stops.
Here is one of the most photographed places in Ireland. When you visit, it’s easy to see why. Ladies View is a viewpoint that looks out over a valley with winding rivers and a colorful landscape. The name comes from Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who visited the outlook in 1861 and greatly admired the view.
There is a small lot where you can park and admire the view. There is also a small cafe that could be a good place to take a break on your drive. The best time of year to visit is during the summer and the fall–fall colors make for a spectacularly colorful viewing.
Moll’s Gap is another famous canyon overlook. It offers tremendous views of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. The road to the outlook is well-marked, but narrow, so drive carefully. There are several places where you can pull off to soak in the view, but be mindful of other drivers.
If you have some time to spare, there is a small cafe called Avoca where you can grab a cup of coffee and pastry to round out your Ring of Kerry drive.
Where to Stay in Killarney
Old Weir Lodge – If you’re traveling on a mid-range budget, you’ll love this quaint guesthouse in Killarney. A perfect base for the Ring of Kerry, they have a number of great rooms on offer, a great location close to the town centre and there is also a hearty breakfast available daily. Click here to see their availability
The Killarney Park – Those looking for a luxury base after enjoying the thrills of the Ring of Kerry are sure to love this opulent hotel. Located in the center of Killarney, they have a number of wonderful rooms to offer and plenty of luxe amenities to ensure that you’re well taken care of after a long day of sightseeing. Click here to see their availability
The Black Sheep Hostel – Budget and solo travelers will love this convivial hostel in Killarney. The perfect base for exploring the Ring of Kerry, they have both dorms and private rooms on offer, there are great common areas, a good atmosphere and clean facilities. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Killarney hotels!
Figuring out if you should visit the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry is no small task. With its stunning coastline, fascinating history, and charming towns, the Dingle Peninsula is a great way to experience Ireland’s western landscape. Here’s what you should know.
As you’re weighing Ring of Kerry vs. Dingle Peninsula, keep in mind that Dingle is further away from Dublin than Killarney. If Dublin is your starting point, make sure you have ample time to travel across the country and back without feeling rushed.
Dingle is located on the westernmost point of Ireland. It’s recommended that you spend 2-3 days in the area to see it without feeling rushed. Most visitors kick off their Dingle Peninsula drive from the town of Dingle.
You can either rent a car (browse Rentalcars.com to compare prices) or schedule an organised tour from Dingle such as this half-day tour, this full-day tour or this private tour. Renting a car grants you the freedom to see the route at your own pace.
The Dingle Peninsula drive is about 30 miles (about 50 km), but you should expect to spend an entire day driving the route. Between making stops and potential traffic (and maybe a few sheep in the road), a full day gives you plenty of time to admire the scenery on the peninsula.
The drive around the Dingle Peninsula must be driven clockwise as the roads are very narrow. It’s recommended that you get an early start, ideally by 9 AM or earlier, to avoid getting caught in tour bus traffic. Make sure to drive carefully as you will most likely encounter bicyclists on the route.
Things to do in Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula Drive and Slea Head Drive are often used interchangeably.
Slea Head is one of the first stops on the drive and one of the most iconic outlooks. It is the westernmost part of the Dingle Peninsula that protrudes out from the coastline offering visitors picturesque views of the rugged coastline, vibrant blue water, and bright green terrain.
You can walk a small, narrow path to the outlook. It’s well worth you time to pause here to admire the stunning view.
As one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, Conor Pass is a highlight on the Dingle Peninsula. It spans about 12 km across the center of the Dingle Peninsula, but driving the pass is not for the faint of heart.
This road is narrow and twisty, carving along the side of a mountain. However, the views from here are unmatched. The two main stopping points for views are at Pedlar’s Lake and Conor Pass Car Park. As you drive, keep an eye out for cars coming from the opposite direction.
The road is too narrow for two cars to pass in many places, so you might have to pull off to let other cars through.
Stretching for four miles against a largely untouched coastline is Inch Beach. It’s located close to Dingle, so you can visit it on your Dingle Peninsula drive or on a short day trip from town. Inch Beach offers great scenery for an afternoon walk, but this isn’t why the beach is famous.
Surfers flock from across the country to try out these waters. Ireland might not be the first place that comes to mind considering where to surf, but Inch Beach is a renowned destination. Even if you’re not a surfer, you can kick back on the sand and watch others test their skills on the waves.
These strange little cone-shaped huts are a charming stop on your Dingle Peninsula drive. They are believed to have been constructed from the 8th to 12th century CE by monks who followed Saint Peter and it is a great place to explore early Irish heritage.
Today, only a handful of the original 400 bizarre abodes stand, but visitors are able to walk right up to and even inside some. If you’re interested in finding more historic stone structures, visit the Gallarus Oratory.
Dunquin Pier is a small, but mesmerizing stop on the Dingle coastline. Upon arrival, you’ll walk down a twisty path to reach the pier, but you get the best view from the cliffs above. Wear sturdy shoes and be careful of where you’re walking.
The ground can be muddy and cliffs are unfenced. This is a great place to stop for a lunch picnic or take a break to admire the view. It also tends to be very windy, so dress accordingly. Many visitors heading to the Blasket Islands will hop on a ferry from Dunquin Pier.
Where to Stay in Dingle
An Capall Dubh B&B Dingle – This bed and breakfast in Dingle Town is perfect for mid-range visitors looking for a lovely spot to stay within easy walking distance to the pub. They have a range of rooms on offer, have free parking and there is a hearty breakfast included each morning. Click here to see their availability
Dingle Bay Hotel – Located by the pier in the town of Dingle, this hotel is the perfect place for those looking for a quaint and comfy base in this area of Ireland. They have a range of rooms on offer, and on-site restaurant and bar (with breakfast available each morning) and free parking is available for guests. Click here to see their availability
Milltown House Dingle – If you’re looking for a bit of a luxury stay in Dingle, then this seafront hotel is an excellent option. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from, an ideal location for exploring the area and countless other amenities to ensure guests have the perfect stay. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Dingle hotels!
Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula: The Verdict
Whether you’re visiting the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula, you are guaranteed beautiful scenery and impressive historical landmarks. You can see both the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula in one day.
Both routes have countless places to pull off to take in the scenery, however the Dingle Peninsula is less well-known and generally sees fewer people. If you want to contend with less people, the Dingle Peninsula might be right for you.
If you’re an avid bicyclist, you’ll want to head out of the Dingle Peninsula. The route is a popular one for those on bikes and tends to be safer as traffic all goes in the same direction.
If you’re short on time, take the Dingle Peninsula route. It’s about a third of the length of the Ring of Kerry. You’ll get to experience equally beautiful scenery without a huge time commitment.
That said, the Ring of Kerry has more to offer overall and is one of the most iconic drives in Ireland. There are smaller towns positioned along the route, which make it more possible for you to go slow and see the route over two days. You’ll also have access to a famous national park and more guided tours available to you.
When you compare the Dingle Peninsula vs. Ring of Kerry, you really can’t go wrong. Both routes beautifully capture everything the westernmost regions of Ireland have to offer.
Are you trying to decide which Irish road trip is the right one for you? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!