During my month-long stay in Ireland, we spent a weekend exploring the western countryside, which was a highlight of my time in the country.
After traveling from Dublin south to Blarney and Cobh and then west to Killarney, we took a scenic drive along the Dingle Peninsula, which you can read about here.
After a long day of exploring the Dingle Peninsula, we made our way to the Relais & Châteaux property, the Sheen Falls Lodge, located in charming Kenmare. This beautiful hotel had the most serene setting, with babbling falls on one side and a bay on the other. I especially enjoyed slow mornings sipping coffee on the balcony of our room listening to the waterfall as well as savoring evening cocktails in their lounge.
Bright and early the next morning, we hit the road to venture along the Ring of Kerry. This is a 111 mile scenic circuit that could easily take you over a day to complete if you stopped and explored each spot along the way. We made a map of must-see places in advance in order to focus our day on the areas we really wanted to experience. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and it ended up being a gloomy, rainy day, which wasn’t the most optimal for taking in the sights. Our favorite spots along the way were the Black Valley and Gap of Dunloe. Despite the forecast, we spent hours…literally…driving through the windy, often desolate roads, stopping every few miles in awe of the scenery!
The Black Valley got its name because the area was without electricity until the late 1970s! The valley is so far off the beaten path of civilization, it’s hard to imagine people living there now, let alone without power! The area is vast with winding, rugged roads and no signs of life for miles except for the countless sheep roaming around.
Prior to this trip, I had seen videos of a dilapidated old stone cottage on TikTok and I was determined to find it. It did not disappoint and it literally looked straight out of a mystical fairytale…or better yet, a murder mystery!
The Gap of Dunloe was a natural wonder. The gap is massive and the roads that run through it are an adventure in themselves! There are plenty of spots you can stop along the Ring of Kerry near the Gap of Dunloe, including a Wishing Bridge, which is very picturesque. The combination of the narrow roads carved through cliffs, the babbling creeks, and vegetation were so unique and so beautiful! So much beauty.
The next morning, we began our journey back to Dublin. Along the way we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, a medieval site that was particularly interesting because of its design and the folklore surrounding it. According to Heritage Ireland, “Irish mythology has it that the Rock of Cashel was formed after the Devil took a huge bite out of the aptly named Devil’s Bit Mountain twenty miles north of Cashel.”
Following our stop at the Rock of Cashel, we explored the town of Kilkenny to stretch our legs. This adorable Irish city is home to the Kilkenny Castle from the 12th century as well as countless shops and eateries.
The Irish countryside exceeded my expectations in respect to its natural beauty and stunning vistas. I can’t wait to visit again and explore more, as I’ve heard Galway and the Cliffs of Moher are equally as amazing.
A few pointers and tips…
-Pack layers and bring boots (walking/hiking boots as well as rain boots) for optimal exploration. I would suggest a windbreaker or rain jacket as one of your layers.
-The best way to explore these areas is by car, which means someone in your party must be comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road. There are organized bus tour groups, but if you want to go at your own pace, I’d really recommend driving.
-During the drives, especially when you are in the Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley, restaurants are few and far between. I’d suggest packing some snacks and water to be safe.
-Download maps of the areas in advance as cell phone service can be very spotty and you will want to know where you are going.
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