Kerry, Ireland: A Travel Guide

So you’re interested in taking a trip to beautiful County Kerry, Ireland? May I congratulate you on your excellent choice of destination and as a reward for your good taste here’s a comprehensive travel guide to my home county.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS 

Kerry Geography: Kerry’s geography is its best asset. Kerry is located in the South West corner of Ireland. Counties Cork and Limerick are to its east with the River Shannon estuary to its north, dividing it from County Clare. The Atlantic Ocean borders Kerry’s west coast and it is here you will find the county’s two well-known peninsulas: Dingle and Iveragh. A small part of Kerry spills into the Beara peninsula.

The 10 highest peaks in Ireland are located in Kerry making it a mountaineer’s paradise. 9 of those peaks are located in the mighty McGillycuddy Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland.

McGillycuddy Reeks Beaufort

McGillycuddy Reeks

North Kerry is predominantly flat but the rest of Kerry’s topography is mountainous. The Mullaghareirk, Derrynasaggart and Caha mountains are found along Kerry’s east border with Limerick and Cork.

The McGillycuddy Reeks cover the Iveragh Peninsula and most of South Kerry. The Mangerton Range is found outside Killarney. The Sliabh Mish mountains are found on the Dingle peninsula along with an unnamed range at the western tip of the peninsula which includes Brandon peak.

Hag's Glen McGillycuddy Reeks

The Hag’s Glen in the McGillycuddy Reeks. A popular half-day walk.

Along with mountains, Kerry has a wealth of rivers, the River Laune being the largest. Gorgeous lakes are scattered around the county with the Lakes of Killarney the most well-known. A plentiful supply of beaches are along dotted the Atlantic coast with 14 receiving the prestigious blue-flag designation.

Rossbeigh Beach Kerry Ireland

Rossbeigh Beach outside Glenbeigh on the Ring of Kerry. The Sliabh Mish mountains of the Dingle Peninsula form the backdrop.

Devil's Punchbowl Killarney

Devil’s Punchbowl in the Mangerton Mountains of Killarney

In summary, if you are looking for an outdoor holiday destination then Kerry, Ireland is a great choice.

Administrative Kerry: Tralee is the largest town in Kerry and is the administrative capital of the county. Killarney is the second-largest town in Kerry and is considered the tourist capital of Ireland.

Kerry Weather: Irish weather is utterly unpredictable but there are some patterns. The Valentia Observatory in Kerry, operated by Met Éireann, usually records the highest levels of rainfall in Ireland. On the upside, the station records the highest average temperature. With a warm and wet climate, Kerry is tropical relative to the rest of Ireland.

On the downside, Ireland’s wind, rain and storms are usually south westerly Atlantic systems which means Kerry bears the brunt of the inclement weather. Kerry County Council’s Twitter account (@countykerry) is excellent for up-to-date public information relating to severe weather such as road closures.

Best time to visit Kerry: Most general sight-seeing tourists visit Kerry between April and September but the county can be visited all year round, given the wide variety of attractions. Kerry is very popular for business tourism, holding national and international conferences throughout the year.

Places to visit in Kerry: I’ve listed these areas in my Places to Visit in Kerry post.

Gaeltacht areas: An Irish-speaking area is called a Gaeltacht and Kerry has two such areas: Corca Dhuibhne on the Dingle peninsula and Uíbh Ráthach on the Iveragh peninsula. If the road signs are completely in Irish then you’re in a Gaeltacht area. My posts on Slea Head Drive and Dingle to Tralee cover these areas.

Things to do in Kerry: Kerry is renowned for outdoor activities with water sports and hill-walking/mountain-climbing the most prominent. I recommend The Reeks Guiding Company for guided walks in the McGillycuddy Reeks, Torc Mountain and Mount Brandon.

Killarney Mountain Festival celebrates the art and science of adventure and I collaborated with the festival to produce a Things to do in Killarney guide for their patrons.

For great value scenic boat tours or sea fishing trips of the Kenmare Bay region you should check out The Rosa – Sea Fishing & Scenic Tours which operates out of Kilmakilloge Harbour on the Kerry side of the Beara Peninsula. Licensed by the Department of the Marine and fully insured, the Rosa’s on-board facilities include tea/coffee, a toilet and life-jackets for adults, children and dogs.

Along with the scenery, Kerry has a plentiful supply of cultural places of interest. Top of the list is UNESCO World Heritage site Skellig Michael. Other notable places include Killarney National Park, Derrynane National Historical Park, Staigue Fort, Gallarus Oratory and the Ogham Stones of Dunloe (near Gap of Dunloe).

Indoors, entertainment can be had at numerous indoor venues including Siamsa Tíre (National Folk Theatre of Ireland) and the Kerry County Museum, both located in Tralee.

For vintage, retro and handmade goods such as clothes, art, craft and jewellery check out Old Market Flea on the second Sunday of every month and Vino and Vintage Killarney on Friday evenings of Bank Holiday weekends. Both are based in Killarney town. Food Producers Market Square is a food market, also based in Killarney town, and runs every Friday from 10am – 2pm.

We know how to throw a party and two of the most famous festivals in Ireland are Kerry-based: 400 year old Puck Fair in Killorglin and fortysomething Writers’ Week in Listowel.

You cannot visit Kerry without seeing a Gaelic football match, one of our national sports. Our footballing ability is our full-time obsession and one of the key bragging rights we have so please go see us at our best. Hurling is played in the north of the county.

To get a flavour of Gaelic football here’s a YouTube link to the 2017 Munster Senior Football Final as Kerry take on their arch-rivals, Cork. The game was played at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney.

Accommodation: Kerry has an extraordinary ability to house visitors with a wide range of budgets, from backpacking students to Heads of State. A large variety of high-standard accommodation is available, from hostels to 5-Star hotels, and I recommend booking.com as the portal into Kerry’s accommodation choices. Airbnb has a large presence in Kerry as well.

Is Kerry safe to visit: Kerry is one of the safest places in Ireland in terms of personal safety and is ideal for solo female travellers. Despite this excellent safety rating, I still don’t recommended hitch-hiking alone.

TRANSPORT 

HOW TO GET TO KERRY

Air: Kerry Airport is located outside Farranfore village and has direct flights to the following destinations:

Aer Lingus: Dublin

Ryanair: London Stansted, London Luton, Frankfurt Hahn, Berlin-Schönefeld, Alicante, Faro

Train: Kerry has 4 railway stations: Rathmore, Killarney, Farranfore and Tralee, with the latter station as the terminus. I highly recommend booking tickets in advance on Irish Rail’s website to get the best deals and to reserve a seat. Direct trains run from Dublin to Tralee and from Cork to Tralee. It’s possible to reach Kerry via the Dublin to Cork route by changing at Mallow.

The busiest trains to Kerry will be those departing Dublin on Friday afternoons/evenings and returning to Dublin on Sunday afternoons/evenings. Trains are usually booked out for large sporting events in Dublin.

Bus: The Bus Éireann routes into Kerry are as follows:

Route 40: Cork City to Tralee via Killarney

Route 13: Limerick City to Tralee via Listowel

Route 14: Limerick City to Killarney via Kerry Airport

Route 72: Athlone to Tralee via Limerick City

Route 252: West Cork to Kenmare

Route 257: Macroom to Killarney via Millstreet

Private company, Dublin Coach, has direct buses from Killarney and Tralee to Limerick and Dublin cities with a connection at Dublin’s Red Cow Interchange for Dublin Airport. Dublin Coach is colloquially known in Kerry as the Green Bus.

Car: There are five main routes into Kerry from neighbouring Cork and Limerick:

N22: Cork City – Killarney

N72: Mallow, Co. Cork – Killarney

N71: West Cork – Killarney via Kenmare

N21: Limerick City – Castleisland

N69: Limerick City – Listowel

Ferry: Shannon Ferries operates from Killimer (Co. Clare) to the North Kerry town of Tarbert.

GETTING AROUND KERRY

Ring of Kerry road Killorglin to Glenbeigh

Ring of Kerry road – Killorglin to Glenbeigh section

Car is by far the quickest way of travelling population-sparse Kerry but, as I mention in my Tips for Driving in Ireland post, driving can be challenging especially in a geographically diverse county like Kerry. There are other options available if you have time on your side.

Bus: Bus Éireann, the national bus company, is the main provider of bus services in Kerry. The below lists their routes within the county:

Timetable No. Route
270 Sneem – Kenmare – Killarney
271 Tralee – Castleisland – Kerry Airport – Killarney
272 Tralee – Listowel – Ballybunion
273 Tralee – Cloghane
274 Tralee – Ballyheigue
275 Tralee – Dingle
275A Dingle – Ballyferriter – Dunquin/Gallarus – Ballydavid
278 Tralee – Fenit
279 Tralee – Killorglin
279A Killarney – Killorglin – Caherciveen – Waterville
280 Ring of Kerry (Summer only)
282 Ring of Beara/Kenmare – Ardgroom (Summer only)
284 Tralee – Farranfore – Killarney

Local Link Kerry is a government-funded initiative and operates buses between smaller villages and larger towns. Many of the services only operate once per week but it also provides services which run 5-7 days a week such as its Iveragh service. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet with rural dwellers.

I’m delighted that you’ve taken an interest in visiting County Kerry, Ireland. It’s a place I call both home and paradise. Much as I love travelling internationally, Kerry is the arrivals hall I always return to. Put it on your to-do list and you won’t regret it.

For general information on Ireland check out my Planning a Trip to Ireland post.

Kerry Ireland Travel Guide

 

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