The 180km Ring of Kerry drive in south-west Eire is justly well-known – with gorgeous panoramas of bays, inlets, lakes and mountains, and views to the Unesco world heritage web site (and site of the newest Star Wars movie) of Skellig Michael island (pictured above), 12km off the tip of the Iveragh peninsula. However there’s a lesser-known different, that’s authentic, eye-opening, and avoids the tour buses that clog the Ring’s roads, particularly in summer season.
Eire map Illustration: Bek Cruddace
This drive spins off from the western fringe of the Ring. On day one, head north from Waterville on the N70, and after about 5km take the R567 south-west in the direction of Ballinskelligs Bay. You are actually on the Skellig Ring, the place brown indicators proudly proclaim “No Buses” and “Automobiles Solely”. The occasional minibus driver will courageous the rolling and twisting route, however largely these are distant and slender nation roads, typically little wider than a single automotive, or tractor.
Portmagee village, Iveragh peninsula. : Alamy
The Skellig Ring is in a gaeltacht, Irish-speaking, space and in locations signposts will solely be in Irish. Flip south on to the R566, and a brief means alongside is the Cill Rialaig arts centre, at Dún Géagáin; cease off totally free artwork exhibitions and natural salads (€9.50) within the cafe.
On a headland because the R566 heads in the direction of Portmagee is a primary sighting of “essentially the most implausible and inconceivable rock on this planet” (George Bernard Shaw), Skellig Michael, and its sister Little Skellig, dwelling to a considerable gannet colony. Relying on the sunshine, the 2 islands can appear both swimmable – or midway to Boston.
Little Skelling as pictured from Skellig Michael. : Alamy
Simply earlier than the surf seashore at St Finian’s Bay is, surprisingly, a chocolate manufacturing facility – the high-quality, artisanal Skelligs Chocolate, with free excursions and tastings, store and cafe. Additional north, the R566 climbs Coomanaspig Cross, providing considered one of Eire’s best views, to Valentia Island, Dingle and the Blaskets. An indication advertises a 10-minute stroll to “Kerry’s Most Spectacular Cliffs” (grownup €four, under-12s €2); the declare is justified.
Keep at “conventional but modern” Moorings bar, restaurant and guesthouse (doubles from €90 B&B) in Portmagee, departure level for many boat journeys to the Skelligs. On day two, cross over the bridge to Valentia Island on the R565. Bypass the disappointing Skellig Expertise Customer Centre and take the primary left, signposted to Geokaun mountain.
A room on the Royal Valentia, Eire
Valentia is 11km lengthy, but a day journey in itself, with 266-metre Geokaun (parking €5); the Tetrapod Trackway prehistoric footprints; a lighthouse (grownup €5, under-12s €2.50); a captivating heritage centre (€three.50, under-12s free); and likable Knightstown, with its cafes, bookshop and historic Royal Valentia Resort (doubles from €89 B&B). Glanleam Home close by has subtropical gardens and B&B rooms from €110. High place to eat is O’Neill’s The Level, a ferry-hop (automotive €eight) away on the mainland (seafood from €eight.95).
On day three, proceed inland and rejoin the N70 south, finishing the Skellig Ring. Flip left at New Chapel Cross for the drive to Glencar by way of Ballaghisheen Cross, which runs over the roof of the peninsula, in the direction of Eire’s highest mountain, Carrantuohill (1,038 metres). The view from Ballaghisheen throughout excessive plains is extra paying homage to the American West than Eire’s West.
Carrauntoohil mountain mirrored in Lough Callee. : Getty Photographs
At Glencar, the Climbers Inn (dorm mattress €25, doubles €80) has a store, pub grub and rooms. Somewhat additional east, cross Blackstones Bridge to drive the winding shore of enigmatic Caragh Lake. Until you’re staying at one of many swanky Victorian nation home lodges by the lake – Carrig Home (from €99 B&B) or Ard na Sidhe (from €210 B&B,) – the drive ends the place the lakeside highway rejoins the N70 Ring of Kerry route.