Things to do in County Kerry
Kerry is as close as you’ll get to the mythical Ireland: that Celtic kingdom of misty mountains promised by glossy brochures, Hollywood and our daydreams. Between the county’s snow-capped summits are medieval ruins, glacial lakes, coastal peninsulas, blustery beaches, deserted archipelagos, secluded hamlets, and larger towns where live music sparks up every night.
Most visitors touch down in Killarney. The townsfolk know how to run a mean hotel and serve an Atlantic catch or a rack of Kerry lamb. Instead of municipal gardens there’s a 10, 000-hectare national park, which can be explored by ‘jaunting car’ (pony and trap) and a boat across the lakes. In the nearby Gap of Dunloe, the road winds crazily beneath the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range, which includes nine of Ireland’s 10 highest peaks.
Tourists often arrive at the coast with the idea that the iconic Ring of Kerry is a ‘place’ they can visit. In fact, it’s a 179km circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula, where the mountains-meet-ocean beauty makes for one of the world’s great road trips. To paraphrase one pub sign, you’ll enjoy Ireland’s best known views… fog permitting. Across a dolphin-inhabited bay, the Dingle Peninsula is home to one of the country’s highest concentrations of ancient sites and Mt Brandon, Ireland’s eighth highest peak. Such magnificent scenery is, of course, a magnet for buses, but the hordes can be escaped by using back roads and mountain passes. As for the local folk, Kerrymen are famous throughout Ireland for their proud provincialism and country cunning. Just listen to the outrageous yarns told by the ‘jarveys’ who drive Killarney’s jaunting cars.
Known as “the kingdom” to its inhabitants, Kerry is one of the most singular places in Ireland, with rich farmlands in the north of the county and astonishingly beautiful mountains, Atlantic islands and peninsulas in the south.
The Ciarrai, from whom the name of the county derives, invaded and occupied the region in early historical times. They claimed descent from Ciar, son of Fergus, a legendary king of Ulster. In the middle ages Kerry was divided between the kingdoms of Thomond in the north and Desmond in the south, dominated by the O’Briens and the McCarthys respectively. It was later dominated by the Norman Fitzgeralds.
If the winter blues are getting you down, an escape to County Kerry might just be in order.With a coastline carved over millennia by a wild ocean, Kerry is the proud owner of Ireland’s 10 highest peaks and a vast national park containing the country’s oldest oak forests.
A paradise for hikers and climbers, Kerry also boasts a plethora of welcoming towns, B&Bs and cosy pubs in which to rest mountain-weary feet. There’s so much to do for the whole family, making it the perfect winter break.
Visit Kerry to find space, serenity and scenic beauty all in one.