While every part of Ireland has something special to offer, County Kerry in the southwest is truly chock-full of incredible things to do and see. From the charm of classic towns like Killarney and Dingle to rolling countrysides and breathtaking seascapes—the county has a well-earned spot as one of the best places to visit on the Emerald Isle.
Kerry will appeal to leisure drivers, hikers, and even visitors who are simply seeking cozy pubs in small villages. Here is a guide to the best things to see and do while you explore the popular Irish county.
Visit Ross Castle
Sitting majestically on the banks of Lough Leane inside the Killarney National Park, Ross Castle is one of the top castles in Ireland. Even if you don’t have time to walk through the protected nature reserve that makes up the larger park, it is absolutely worth the visit directly to the castle. The fort was built by the O’Donoghue clan in the Middle Ages and has a well preserved stone tower house. Take a guided tour or simply wander the grounds on your own to get a sense of the former grandeur.
Bike through Killarney National Park
One of Ireland’s six national parks can be found on the edge of the town of Killarney in County Kerry. Rent a bike near the entrance to make the most of the well-maintained trails and explore as much of Killarney National Park as possible. The paths along Lough Leane offers views across the water, and there are trails through protected oaklands. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the only red deer herd that lives on mainland Ireland. Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle are two other major sights inside the park with great historical value.
The Ring of Kerry is one of the best-known drives in all of Ireland for good reason. From Torc Waterfall to the Gap of Dunloe, the circuit (which usually starts from the town of Killarney) has some incredible natural wonders and scenic views. The 111-mile loop around the Iveragh Peninsula would take over 3 hours to drive straight, but you certainly want to plan in plenty of extra time for stops. Make sure one of them is Ladies View, where Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting stopped to admire the vistas over the Kerry countryside. Then, have lunch in Portmagee, where the colorful pubs and homes dot the waterfront, and you can even catch a ferry to the famed Skellig Islands.
Surf and Swim at Inch Beach
Ireland has some incredible beaches, and one of the best is Inch Beach in County Kerry. The long stretch of sand is perfect for picnicking, but the waves are also ideal for leisurely swims or catching a few waves. Inch is one of the better surf spots in the area and there is even a lifeguard on duty during the summer months.
Picnic at the Base of Gleninchaquin Falls
Inside a privately owned park on the Beara Peninsula is one of Ireland’s most beautiful waterfalls. The trailing streams of Gleninchaquin Falls spray out over a rocky mountainside, while sheep graze peacefully nearby. The park has a trail to the top of the waterfall, bogs to explore, as well as picnic tables at the base of the falls, so you can soak up the beauty from every angle. Kids will also enjoy the possibility of planning a farm visit to pet all those adorable animals that dot the countryside.
Explore the Dingle Peninsula
While the Ring of Kerry is the better-known road trip in the region, the Dingle Peninsula boasts equally gorgeous landscapes with fewer crowds. Drive over the rolling green hills filled with peacefully grazing sheep before arriving at the sharp cliffside drive along the edge of the peninsula. The town of Dingle is a fabulous place to stay the night, with plenty of cozy pubs and Irish village charm. Plan to take a boat tour or at least keep an eye out for the most popular local—a beloved dolphin named Fungie who has lived in the bay for decades.
Catch Amazing Views on the Slea Head Drive
To reach one of the most westerly points in all of Europe, set out from Dingle on the Slea Head drive. This circular driving route will skirt the tip of the peninsula, offering views out the Blasket Islands. The 30-mile loop follows local road R559, a narrow lane that hugs the cliffs and can feel barely large enough for two cars at certain points. However, the slow speed you'll be forced to travel at is all the better for taking in the views that appear around each bend in the road.
Learn About History at the Cahergal Stone Fort
It is hard to know the exact age of the Cahergal (or Cahergall) stone fort, but it likely dates back at least 1,000 years. Irish stone forts are also known as cashels, and this impressively reconstructed example in County Kerry gives a good sense of the layout of a historic ring fort. It was probably first built as a defensive home, with walls up to 13 feet high and 16 feet thick. There are actually multiple ring forts in this area of Kerry, and the stone structure known as Leacanabuaile lies only about a mile away.
Stop for a Gin at the Dingle Distillery
The award-winning gin at the Dingle Distillery is another reason to make a detour to the village of Dingle. The little seaside town is known for its growing food scene, and also has local beer and liquor producers. The distillery offers tours and walks visitors through the gin-making process, ending the visit with a taste of their award-winning gin as well as their signature whiskey and vodka.
Set among the lush fields of the Dingle countryside, the Gallarus Oratory is a rather peculiar church. At least, most historians think that it is probably a church. The tiny chapel is shaped like an upside-down boat, with the curved hull forming the roof of the stone structure. Approximately 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, the chapel has one single window (so be sure to visit during daylight hours because there are no other lights inside). Built sometime between the 7th and 12th century A.D., the oratory was probably a place of worship for early Christians, as well as a burial place. The most notable feature is the expert masonry that was used to construct the church, so be sure to admire the stones that fit together perfectly, blocking out the sometimes torrential Irish rain.