This is the largest of all the southwest peninsulas, so allow for some time here. The Iveragh contains Carrantuohill, Ireland's highest mountain, making it the literal backbone of County Kerry. Take the famous Ring of Kerry drive, my grandmother's favorite place in Ireland due to its supreme beauty. The peninsula is a place for naturalists and explorers, with lakes, woodlands, and sandy beaches.
What to See and Do
The landscape is gorgeous here and just calling you out to play. Pick up The Kerry Way Map Guide, published by Cork Kerry Tourism, for information about the long walks on the peninsula. Or read New Irish Walk Guides - Southwest, by Sean O'Suilleabhain, published by Gill & Macmillan. Visit Killarney, situated in the heart of Killarney National Park. Drive the gorgeous Gap of Dunloe, set within the McGillicuddy Reeks. Go climbing in Glencar, known as "The Highlands of Kerry." Sail aboard a luxury 37-foot yacht from Cahersiveen around Valentia and Beginish Islands with John O'Donoghue (www.yachtcharterkerry.com). Rossbeigh beach, near Glenbeigh, is famous for the summer horse races, thundering on its sandy banks - enquire locally for dates.
The Iveragh Peninsula is seeped in historic wonders. Visit Cahersiveen, the birthplace of Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator." Tour the Derrynane House and National Historic Park, his childhood home (Tel: 353 (0)66 947 5113). See the Eightercua Stone Alignment near Waterville. Wander the ancient church site of Templenakilla. Visit the Skellig Heritage Centre on Valentia Island. Learn about the history of Michael Skellig, a seemingly uninhabitable rock eight miles off the coast, that was home to an early Christian monastery, one of the best preserved examples today (www.skelligexperience.com). Take a boat trip out the Michael Skellig from the Heritage Centre. Cruise Valentia Island, with its pre-Christian remains, a famous grotto, and the footsteps of ancient life forms. Visit the Ogham stones on the way to Kells - Leacht Fhionain on Drung Hill, and another at Loher. Wander the town of Kells, seeped in history, home to John Golden, associated with the Fenian Rising.
Where to Eat and Drink
For farm-fresh goodness, visit the Country Market, Fridays 11:30AM to 1:30PM at St. Mary's Parish Hall on St. Anne's Road in Killarney. There is also a Sunday Farmer's Market at the Dunloe Golf Course, on Gap of Dunloe Road, from 1PM to 5PM.
For a little decadence, visit Skelligs Chocolates, outside Ballinskelligs - you won't be disappointed (www.skelligschocolates.com, www.cocoabeanchocolates.com).
Waterville has some finer restaurants. Voted Food Pub of the Year '07, QC's in Cahersiveen, definitely worth a taste (www.qcbar.com). The Pancake Cottage, for old-fashioned, sweet and savory pancakes, made to order. The cottage is located on the Sneem-Moll's Gap Road (www.pancakecottage.com). On Valentia Island, The Skellig Centre has Fionans Kitchen restaurant, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Portmagee village. Look also for handwritten signs for "Homemade Bakeing" (sic) pointing the way to local delights on The Ring Line Road, on Valentia Island.
Where to Sleep
Camp at award-winning, three-star park in Cahersiveen -- Mannix Point Camping and Caravan Park (www.campingkerry.com). A fabulous hostel in a gently restored farmhouse in Templenoe, run by avid naturalist Torsten and Sabine - The Greenwood Hostel (Tel: 064 89247, Mobile: 086 3484558, Email: email@example.com).
How to get there
From Tralee, take N70 south toward Castlemaine. Drive the N70 coastal road to Cahirciveen and transfer to the R565 to Portmagee. From Portmagee, you can drive across a bridge and tour Valentia Island. Another option is to take the car ferry from Renard Point, on the mainland, to Knightstown, on Valentia Island. After touring Valentia Island, head back to Portmagee and take the coastal road to Ballingskelligs. Take the R567 coastal road back to the N70. Head south toward Catherdaniel on the N70; stay on the N70 and pass through Sneem, Templenoe, and eventually to Kenmare. Another option is to take the R568 from Sneem up to the N71 up to Killarney, for an utterly breathtaking drive.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
From April to October, when the days are longer and the sun comes out. Set Dancing Workshop in Portmagee in May. The Ring of Kerry Cycle Ride is in July. The Templenoe Regatta is in July. The Cahersiveen Celtic Music Festival is in August. The Puck Fair is a famous event in Killorglin, happening every August. Blasket Island Commemoration Festival in October.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007