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The Kingdom is calling and we can’t wait to go and explore it.
Kerry, the so-called adventure capital of Ireland, boasts the majority of our highest peaks to climb, several lakes to swim in and paddle, steep and winding tarmac to cycle on and adventure races galore to test yourself on. There is an abundance of things to do in Kerry and we can’t wait to return.
The most iconic cycle route in Kerry is undoubtedly the Ring of Kerry. The scenic 170km loop takes in the best views of the Iveragh Peninsula. Particular highlights are Ladies View, Moll’s Gap, Derrynane Beach, the Skellig Ring Road and the Gap of Dunloe. If you have a few days, we recommend encompassing the Dingle Peninsula into your route itinerary. There you will see the old Ireland you read about in folklore. The high mountain passes, breathtaking coastal views, the great beaches and the stunning Blasket Islands.
For a shorter spin, there is a route from Tralee to Fenit via Churchill. A 27 km cycle in the countryside, taking in the wonderful views of Tralee Bay and The Stacks mountains. Pull in for a dip in the fishing village of Fenit.
With the highest peaks in the country here, you know you’re in for a great time. The Coumloughra Horseshoe route takes in the country’s top three peaks – Carrauntoohil, Caher and Beenkeragh. It’s an out-and-out classic with mind-bogglingly brilliant views and some of the best scrambling going. It’s a big day out though and requires navigational skill and a head for heights – that and the cop-on to know if the weather turns you better go to Plan B. If you need a guide check out Outdoors Ireland. They also can organise rock climbing, kayaking, canyoning and stand-up paddle boarding.
Then there is the Kerry Way, a long distance walking route at 215 km. The Kerry Way is simply stunning. Boasting views across emerald green fields and out on to the crashing Atlantic Ocean. There are few better places in the world. The route starts and finishes in the vibrant town of Killarney. The trek through the Iveragh Peninsula can take roughly 7-10 days to complete. Camp or stay in one of the many fine establishments dotted along its entirety.
Walk, cycle or drive to the top of Geokaun Mountain & Fogher Cliffs. The mountain park is the highest point of Valentia Island with stunning 360-degree views of the Skelligs, the Blaskets, the mountains of Kerry, and the Atlantic. Enjoy a picnic with one heck of a view! There is also the Kerry Camino that may interest you, or of course the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntoohil. At 1,038m, the climb is a tough one, but on a good day, the views from the summit are incredible. Take a look at all you need to know about this climb here. An alternative way of bagging this peak is part of the Quest 12/24 adventure race.
Hiking in Kerry: 5 of the best routes
With so many mountains, Kerry is obviously going to be a climbers paradise. If you are new to the sport, both Outdoors Ireland and Kerry Climbing run climbing courses in the Gap of Dunloe. Dunshean Head in the Dingle Peninsula is another worthy stop on phenomenal sandstone sea cliffs. On a course, you will learn climbing techniques, rope work, knots and belaying.
Check out our full review of climbing in the Gap of Dunloe.
Great Blasket Island
Bid farewell to your beloved mod-cons, and hello to life ‘off the grid’. What the Blaskets lack in electricity and infrastructure they make up for in rugged beauty. The island itself consists of mainly mountainous terrain, which sits against the dramatic backdrop of the crashing Atlantic below on the most westerly tip of Europe. You can walk the unique system of unfenced green roads – grassy tracks previously used by the Blasket islanders and these days kept trimmed by the island’s sheep, rabbits and hares. Be sure to take a stroll down An Trá Bán (White Strand), the pristine island beach, and take a dip in the refreshing Atlantic waves. There are daily ferry sailings from Dingle, Ventry and Dun Choin. These sailings are often at the hands of the weather Gods so be sure to check if the ferry is running in advance.
Not only is Valentia Island visually stunning, it is also a geologist’s paradise. The Valentia Trackway, near Dohilla is one of only four places in the entire world which may have the oldest footprints of any land creature ever. The small impressions were discovered in an exposed part of the islands slate rock in 1993. They are believed to be the footprints of an early amphibious creature, known as a Tetrapod. The creature responsible for these footprints was living here 150 million years before the first dinosaur even evolved.
These towering craggy outcrops are located 12km off the coast and can only be reached by boat. They’re well worth the trip, as one of Ireland’s most beloved destinations. Once home to a group of monks who embraced solitude as a way of getting closer to God. Now more famous for featuring in the Star Wars franchise. The Skelligs are a seabirds haven and the chance to witness puffins and fulmars galore fishing off the shore is a sight to behold!
Any stargazers or city dwellers out there need to put this on their bucket list. The International Dark-Sky Reserve in Kerry is the only Gold Tiered Reserve in all of the Northern Hemisphere. On a clear night, you can point your gaze upwards and see thousands of stars, the band of the Milky Way galaxy, nebulas, additional galaxies, clusters, planets, satellites and falling stars!
There are so many beautiful beaches to take a dip in along the Kerry coastline including Ballybunion, Inch and Derrynane. For something a little more adventurous though, up near the top of Dingle’s Conor pass, you’ll find an idyllic little lake called Peddlers Lake. It’s a bit of a climb up to reach it and the water will be chilly… but wow, what a view. There is nothing quite like swimming in the mountains. This particular corrie lake is set against Mount Brandon – the highest Irish peak outside the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Be careful on the rocks as you slide in!
Whether you are seven or 77, everyone gets a buzz from riding a wave. There are a ton of surf schools in Kerry to hone your skills or rent a board. Ballybunion Surf School operates in the four miles of golden blue flagged beaches in Ballybunion. Offshore Surf School offers surfing lessons, board and wetsuit rentals at Inch and Banna beach. For windsurfing, Jamie Knox has a windsurfing school in Castlegregory.
The Kerry coastline also has some great sailing. Derrynane Harbour is the ideal location to learn. Derrynane Sea Sports operates from the sheltered harbour here. It doesn’t matter what age or ability you have, your instructors will tailor lessons to ensure you get the most out of your sessions.
Valentia Island Sea Sports runs sailing courses over the summer in the beautiful and safe Valentia Harbour, with trips to nearby Begnish Island and around to the sheltered Glenleam Beach. If you are already hooked on the sport, consider joining a sailing club like Dingle Sailing Club or Tralee Bay Sailing Club.
Again, there are so many options for sea kayaking. Take to the tranquil waters of Dingle Harbour and Dingle Bay to watch the sunset, visit Fungi and explore the sea caves, while growing your kayaking skills with Irish Adventures.
Sea kayaks are available for rent on Ballinskelligs beach from Skellig Surf. Kayaking in the bay is very safe as it is sheltered from the sea and has plenty of nooks and crannies for exploring!
If you are in Killarney, take the Killarney Kayaking tour – Ross Castle with Mór Active Tours. Discover the hidden beauty of the Lakes of Killarney with a gentle kayak adventure exploring the incredible history of Ross Castle and experiencing the lakes unique wild nature.
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By Orla O'Muiri
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