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One of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, County Kerry is brimming with scenery that will live long in the memory; an unforgettable mixture of rugged coastline, rolling countryside, bogs and mysterious looking mountains. Visitors looking to experience the romance of Ireland won’t be disappointed in Kerry. As well as the magnificent landscape, there are many fine attractions to explore in one of Ireland’s least urbanised and independent counties, one where a warm welcome awaits around every corner.
Set in the heart of one of Ireland’s finest national parks, Killarney has been plying its tourist trade for more than 250 years. It’s full of quality restaurants, pubs and accommodation, all on the doorstep of beautiful lakes, woodland, waterfalls and moors lying in the shadow of the country’s highest mountains, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
The town’s history dates back to the Neolithic period and, based on the copper ore mined on Ross Island, was home to some important Bronze Age settlements. Over the centuries, expert stonemasons crafted forts and devised Ogham script before, eventually, Viscount Kenmare developed the town as the Irish answer to England’s Lake District.
The majority of the one million visitors who descend on the county every year tend to stick to Killarney and its attractions and the famous Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive around the neighbouring Iveragh Peninsula.
Stretching for more than 110 miles, the longest of Ireland’s renowned circular routes combines incredible coastal scenery with picturesque countryside and fascinating villages providing perfect stop-off points for refreshments. Although the ring can be completed in a day, you could take your time and stay overnight in somewhere like Killorglin or Kenmare.
The coastal scenery is at its best between Waterville and Caherdaniel, with the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael, a jagged 217m high chunk of rock, providing a fascinating diversion. Despite its appearance and isolation, from the 6th to the 13th centuries it was home to Christian monks looking for ultimate solitude.
The more compact Dingle Peninsula, the most western point in Europe at its tip, can also be explored using another circular drive. Its breathtaking natural beauty, mixed with rings forts, ancient ruins and charming towns like Dingle, make it an experience to remember.
Some of County Kerry’s most popular attractions are based around Killarney. As well as the natural wonders of its national park, there is 15th century Ross Castle, Knockreer House and Gardens, the Muckross Estate, with a wonderfully restored 19th century mansion at its heart, and Inisfallen Island, home to a monastery believed to have been founded by St Finian the Leper in the 7th century.
Kerry County Museum, in Tralee, has some excellent interpretive displays, including a Medieval Experience that recreates life in the town, smells and all, in 1450.
The Skellig Experience on Valentia Island chronicles the history of the Skellig Michael monks as well as the island’s lighthouses and wildlife, while the atmospheric ruins of Ballycarbery Castle, and two ring forts nearby, can be found in Caherciveen.