Enchanting Ireland is a blog trilogy about a 9-16 days romantic round trip through Ireland. This is the second part of the round trip description, including Kinsale, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Bunratty, Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch and Galway via the Wild Atlantic Highway. Click here to see the other parts of this series.
Starting point: Kinsale
The idyllic town Kinsale, 30 minutes south of Cork, is the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Highway route. Or final point, depending on your preferred direction. In this blog post I will describe the destinations along the southwestern part of this route clockwise: from Kinsale up to Galway (and further on to Clifden, Connemara in part 3).
The town of Kinsale is full of colorful little houses and shops with flowers, a picturesque bay, ambitious restaurants, interesting shops. Desmond Castle and Charles Fort are the local historic sights.
Killarney is definitely worth visiting because of many things. Stay for at least 2-3 nights here! We loved walking around at the Killarney National Park including Muckross Abbey, Muckross Lake, Lough Leane, Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall.
When in Kilarney, drive the Old Kenmare Road and walk, cycle or take a tour around the Gap of Dunloe (6 km) at Purple Mountain (832m) and the Black Valley. Take a boat trip to Innisfallen Island if you have some more time left. Or, if it’s the right time (mid-May, mid-July and 3rd week of August), place a bet on your favorite horse at Killarney Racecourse!
Killarney is a great base for the next highlight of this trip: the Ring of Kerry. At the end of the ring you can either come back to Kilarney and spend the night there, or drive further north to your next stop (Dingle or Bunratty).
Must: Ring of Kerry
Driving around the country, I am sure you will notice that Ireland is loaded with beautiful, narrow, winding roads. The Ring of Kerry is a gorgeous special route over the Iveragh peninsula in the south(west) of Ireland. No matter it’s sunny or rainy, any time of the year worth driving.
The Ring of Kerry follows the N70-N71-N72 route that you can drive clockwise or counterclockwise (=my recommendation) between Killarney and Waterville, via Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, Sneem, Ceherciveen, Glenbeigh and Killorglin. In total Ring of Kerry is around 180km. There is an extra bypass possible at the R565-R566-R567 to Valentina Island and The Skelligs (UNESCO heritage).
It can be pretty crowded at the Ring of Kerry so to avoid the touring cars and tourist traffic jams you may want to go early (shortly after sunrise) or pretty late (around sunset) or go off-season (before or after school and national holidays). For a specific map for the Ring of Kerry route check out this site.
Rather not drive yourself and/or would you like to join a group? Consider the Full Day Ring of Kerry Trip including Killarney Lakes and National Park.
Optional extra: Dingle
If you have more time (10 days or more), add an extra stay at Dingle peninsula at the south end of the N86. Drive the R559 (40km, half a day), visit Dunbeg Fort, Slea Head, Dunmore Head, Clogher Head, Ballyferriter (pastel-colored cottages), Riasc, Kilmalkedar and Gallarus Oratory (ancient church).
In Dingle, spot dolphin Fungie and eat fresh fish at Dingle Harbour. There are also a bunch of cute shops.
B&B Dingle: Ashe’s B&B
Optional extra: Bunratty
Bunratty is a good location to spend a night on your way from Killarney and the Ring of Kerry on the way to the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara. Not an absolute must-do, but this small village with old castle is convenient by location and full of pleasant B&Bs. Our best B&B of our last Ireland trip was here! Next to the castle there is a nice traditional place to eat: Durty Nelly’s (est. 1620). Excellent location for a one night stay.
Must: Cliffs of Moher
The number 1 natural tourist attraction of Ireland is definitely the Cliffs of Moher. And for an obvious reason. It is a beautiful piece of coast line. You can walk around for a few hours and admire the savage sea below slamming against the rocks.
Just be careful on the edges because the Cliffs of Moher are not only the most popular tourist attraction of Ireland, also the deadliest. It’s actually #7 on the deadliest tourist hotspots around the world.
The Cliffs of Moher are located in Liscannor in the County Clare, 1 hour from Bunratty and 1.5 hours from Galway. I would recommend to stay at either Bunratty, Galway or Doolin, depending on your exact routing, timing and preferences. In Doolin there is not much else to do but is the closest to the cliffs.
After visiting the cliffs, I would recommend to go to Lahinch to watch the surf dudes hit the waves and to have a good, healthy lunch or early dinner at Joe’s Café.
Optional extra: Galway
“My pretty little Galway girl…” You know that song by Ed Sheeran? If you have more time (at least 10-16 days in total), add an extra stay or stop-over at Galway, between Cliffs of Moher and Connemara. Galway is a very alive, typical Gaelic city with a long history including many international trade connections in the Middle Ages.
If you wonder about practical stuff for this round trip such as:
- How to get there & around
- When to go
- What it costs
Then please check out the general overview for this blog post trilogy: Enchanting Ireland: a romantic round trip of 9-16 days.
For more information about the Wild Atlantic Highway:
- open full route map in pdf (requiring at least 2.5-3.5 weeks)
- visit the official website
- download the app
End of part 2
For the next destinations of this round trip, mainly focused on the Connemara region, plus Lough Derg as optional extra on the way back to Dublin, please continue to the third part of this blog post trilogy: Enchanting Ireland: Connemara, my favorite region.
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