The famous Ring of Kerry is a gorgeous, 111-mile loop which traces the iconic coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland. More precisely, the Ring of Kerry route is the N70, which is horseshoe-shaped, but many travelers plan on extending the trip on either end of the N70 to create an epic Ring of Kerry Tour.
Our itinerary includes some amazing modifications, extending the drive from 111 miles to a robust 7+ hour tour of Ireland which includes stops in Limerick and Cork along with landmarks along the traditional Ring of Kerry drive. This allows drivers to add and subtract, enjoying several beautiful days touring Ireland by car.
Looking for other things to do in Ireland? Check out our other Drive to Discover guides where we explore the best road trips in Ireland including a guide to the Wild Atlantic Way, a guide to 7 historic places in Ireland that can’t be missed and a round trip beer tour from Dublin!
Begin Your Ring of Kerry Itinerary in Shannon
The two largest airports in Ireland are in Dublin and Shannon, and if you’re planning to drive the Ring of Kerry route, we recommend booking your airfare into Shannon airport. Rates will be comparable, and it’s a much more convenient location for this drive. You’ll find that Shannon Airport car rental pick-up is convenient, and an excellent selection of vehicles is available. Should you want to visit Dublin, you can extend your trip, driving there from Cork at the end of this itinerary.
1. A Pastoral Drive to Begin the Ring of Kerry Driving Route
Upon arrival, we recommend spending the day in Shannon and Limerick, and arranging a hotel in either historic city. Limerick is just a 25-minute drive from the city of Shannon, and it will welcome you with numerous well-appointed restaurants and pubs to take the edge off your jet-lag and settle you for a good night’s rest. Try Freddy’s Bistro (a relaxed atmosphere set in an old coaching house on Lower Glentworth), or indulge in a steak at the Cornstore Restaurant.
After waking, ask your hotel manager for a breakfast recommendation – something you can walk to – and enjoy the crisp Irish air. Walking the city streets before beginning a driving tour of Ireland is an excellent way to engage with the rhythms of the place you’re visiting, listening in on local chatter as you stroll historic Limerick, Ireland.
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and hop into your Shannon car rental for a beautiful drive southwest on the N21 to County Kerry. This drive will take you through Newcastle and Adare as you cruise toward the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Iveragh Peninsula route which has become so famous.
The next stretch of our Ring of Kerry Itinerary is flexible, and you can customize it to accommodate the amount of time you plan to spend in Ireland.
If you’d like to drive the entire Ring of Kerry route on N 70 in a day, it will take you just under 3 hours behind the wheel. This allows you to schedule time for a few stops for lunch and dinner, ending the day in Kenmare, a beautiful spot on the eastern belly of the Iveragh Peninsula.
If you’d prefer to spend a few days driving the Ring of Kerry route, pausing for a stay in Waterville (this is our recommendation), you’ll enjoy shorter drives and extra time for detours and exploration in the charming coastal cities and villages along this historic route.
In either case, we recommend that you dip south from County Kerry, paying a visit to Killarney – the perfect place to kick off your Ring of Kerry drive and just 20 minutes south of County Kerry.
Next stop: 1 hour & 26 minutes
2. Killarney by Foot, Then On to Cahersiveen along the Ring of Kerry
Killarney is a walking town, and once you arrive in Killarney by rental car, you’ll want to slip into some comfortable footwear and stretch your legs. You’ll probably have time to walk for an hour or two and explore, working up an appetite for lunch at a local pub or bistro.
Make time to visit the historic Muckross Abbey and Franciscan Friary if you want to experience reverence and grasp the deep-rooted history of this city. If you’d like to get outdoors and stretch your legs, Torc Waterfall or Torc Mountain Walk are excellent places to enjoy unparalleled Irish views. One place to visit in Killarney by car is Killarney National Park – here you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of one of this region’s treasured natural jewels.
It’s possible that you will fall in love with Killarney once you arrive, and if you decide to spend the night and stretch your stay to encompass several days before embarking on the next leg of our Ring of Kerry route, consider the Loch Lein Country House (best for romance) or Killeen House Hotel (best for families). You won’t be disappointed – they’re both excellent!
Next stop: 1 hour & 2 minutes
3. Continue Your Ring of Kerry Tour: Cahersiveen, Waterville, Sneem & Kenmare
For the next leg of your Ring of Kerry drive, you’ll head north again before jogging west along the N70 coastal route toward Cahersiveen.
Epic views await you along this route through Glenbeigh, and if you haven’t yet fallen in love with Ireland, this road will sweep you off your feet.
Cahersiveen on the River Fertha is the principal town on the Iveragh Peninsula, and we recommend exploring on foot once you arrive. In addition to the beautiful Catholic Church in town, there are many little nooks and crannies you’ll discover if you pocket your map and keep your eyes peeled while roaming its streets. The Gate on New Street is one such beautiful location.
When you’ve explored Cahersiveen you can either find a restaurant for lunch or enjoy a quick 18-minute drive south and dine at An Corcan Restaurant – the top rated restaurant in this coastal town. After lunch, visit the Skellig Gift Store to do a little shopping, or take a stroll on Waterville Beach. If you’re a golfer, consider spending the night and arranging a tee time at Waterville Links the following morning – a great way to enjoy a bit of classic Ireland with views of the North Atlantic!
Finally, Sneem & Kenmare await to the east – Sneem is a small village which offers a great place to pause for an authentic Irish meal along Ireland’s National Route 70, and Kenmare (Irish meaning “head of the sea” is another small town at the apex of Kenmare Bay.
We strongly recommend stopping in Kenmare, wherever it happens to fall on your Ring of Kerry itinerary, as it’s a beautiful little village which does an excellent job catering to tourists due to its location on both the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara routes, just 20 minutes south of Killarney. There’s a lot to see and do here.
Next stop: 1 hour & 21 minutes
4. From the Ring of Kerry Route inland to Cork
From the village of Kenmare, head east along a scenic inland drive to the historic city of Cork, where we encourage travelers to spend the night. There’s plenty to see and do in this charming city, and you’ll find some excellent seafood restaurants, pubs, and breweries here.
Quinlans Seafood Bar and the Market Lane restaurant are both located near Merchants Quay Shopping Center down at the Port of Cork, which is an excellent place to explore by foot once you arrive and park your rental car in Cork. The Kingsley Hotel is a 4-star option on the River Lee in Cork, and there are numerous other options located in the city as well, catering to every budget.
Next stop: 1 hour & 39 minutes
5. From Cork, Head North and Return to Shannon, Ireland
After your stay in Cork, Ireland head north along the N20 and you’ll be treated to a relaxing drive back to Shannon which takes less than 2 hours, where you can return your Ireland rental car and await your return flight from Shannon International Airport.
Alternately, you could head east from Cork, extending your visit to Ireland by driving to Dublin, where you can spend a few days before flying home from Dublin’s international airport. Dublin is less than three hours from Cork by car.
Why Drive the Ring of Kerry Route in Ireland?
As you’ve probably discerned from our Ring of Kerry driving itinerary, part of the appeal of renting a car to explore Ireland is the flexibility it offers … both when planning your trip, and once you arrive.
The thing we’ve learned about travel in our 60 plus years specializing in European bookings, is that flexibility is paramount, especially when touring Ireland. It’s inevitable that you will fall in love with a sub-region or city on the Emerald Isle, and booking a chartered bus tour hamstrings you when it comes to lingering for a romantic walk or breaking up your day with a short hike to a scenic vista. With a car rental from Auto Europe, you’ll be free to enjoy your Ring of Kerry drive in comfort, style, and you can leave room for spontaneity and a sense of adventure … two things we wouldn’t vacation without!
When you’re ready to book your trip, trust the specialists in our reservations department to help you find the guaranteed best rate. From demystifying local fees, taxes and insurance, to giving you the facts about booking a one-way car rental in Ireland, Auto Europe’s friendly team is here to help make sure your Ring of Kerry driving tour is smooth, hassle free, and a trip you’ll never forget!