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Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula

When I was planning our trip to Ireland I knew that the Ring of Kerry would make it on our itinerary.  I mean, how could you go to Ireland and not see one of the most popular scenic drives in the country?  But after a few weeks of doing research I discovered other scenic loops such as the Slea Head Drive on Dingle peninsula.

Since we were going to Ireland for 12 days we could afford to add both loops to our list.  Unfortunately not everyone has that opportunity and many visitors have to decide which one they see on their trip.  In this post I’ll outweigh the pros and cons of each loop so hopefully the decision will be a little easier to make.

Can't decide which area of Ireland to explore? This article discusses the pros and cons of the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula
This photo was taken along the Dingle Peninsula

Our Itinerary

Brandon and I spent roughly 3 days on the two loops.  Our journey began in Killarney where we arrived at about 10 am after spending a night in Kinsale.  The whole day there was spent at the Killarney National Park where many of the main attractions for the Ring of Kerry are located.  Later that afternoon we took a quick drive to Kenmare and back since our B&B wasn’t ready for us to check in.  Many travelers choose to stay in Killarney or Kenmare before starting the Ring of Kerry.  The next day we drove the rest of the Ring of Kerry, starting clockwise down N71 and not fully completing the loop but heading straight to Dingle once we passed through Killorglin.

We drove the Ring of Kerry for scenery and didn’t stop at any of the historic sites along the way, having seen all the major attractions we were interested in the day before.  Because of this we arrived in Dingle quite early, at about 2 pm, so we got settled in at our B&B and spent the evening at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle having a few drinks and listening to a trad session.  The next day our fishing trip was cancelled due to high winds so we spent the day traveling along the Slea Head Drive loop, stopping at Gallarus Oratory, a historic structure that’s believed to be a church built in the 9th century.

Best for Scenery: Dingle Peninsula

In my opinion the Dingle Peninsula handily beats the Ring of Kerry when it comes to beautiful scenery.   The coastline is closer and more visible and the farms are more grassy and hilly than along the Ring of Kerry.  I have to admit that my opinion may be a little biased because it was cloudier on our drive along the Ring of Kerry but Dingle really is a beautiful part of Ireland.

Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
Along the Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
Along the Dingle Peninsula

Best for Activities: Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry certainly has more to do along the way than Dingle Peninsula, though in my opinion Dingle has better pubs and music which was a huge part of our trip to Ireland.  Aside from all the activities in Killarney National Park alone, the Ring of Kerry takes you by other places of interest like Derrynane House and Ballycarbery Castle.  You can also make a side trip to the UNESCO site of Skellig Michael which we wanted to do but couldn’t because of that pesky wind.

Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
Ross Castle in Killarney National Park

The Slea Head Drive simply has the Gallarus Oratory plus numerous tiny towns for food, shopping and music.  We did stop at a farmer’s land to pay a few Euros to visit some beehive huts way up on the hill and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the ocean.  Unfortunately I don’t recall where this farmer was located except that it was along the Slea Head Drive before the town of Dunquin.

Gallarus Oratory
Gallarus Oratory
Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
The awesome view from a farmer’s land near Dunquin

Shortest Loop: Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive loop is 47 km long, roughly 1/4 the length of the Ring of Kerry which is about 179 km.  We took about a half day to drive each loop though we stopped a lot more along the Slea Head Drive than we did along the Ring of Kerry.  Tour buses drive the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise fashion and since we were driving clockwise we began to meet them about halfway through our drive.

Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
A beautiful view of Dingle Peninsula

Smallest Crowds: Dingle Peninsula

There weren’t nearly as many tour buses along the Slea Head Drive as there were on the Ring of Kerry.  This can be both a pro and a con for each of the loops.  If you’re doing a self-drive and want to avoid the crowds then Dingle Peninsula would definitely fit the bill.  However if you don’t plan on renting a car and would need to book a tour then the Ring of Kerry would probably have more options for your itinerary and budget.

Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
Few cars at a scenic stop in Dunquin

All in all we enjoyed the Dingle Peninsula much more than the Ring of Kerry.  If you have time then do both and see for yourself.  If you only have 2 or 3 days to spend in this part of Ireland then try spending 1 night in Killarney to see the attractions at Killarney National Park and then the next day head straight to Dingle Peninsula.  You’ll still be traveling some of the Ring of Kerry along N72 as you head toward Dingle.  We stayed at a B&B in Ventry which is no longer in business but we loved the tiny town and it had plenty of shops and pubs for us to enjoy.  The more popular town of Dingle was right up the road.

There are also a few other scenic drives in Ireland worth checking out such as the Connemara Loop (which we also did) and the Beara Peninsula in the south (which we did not do).  Seeing everything that Ireland has to offer can’t possibly be done in one trip so just be sure to narrow down what is most important to you and decide which area of the country can best fit that description.

10 Comments

  1. What a beautiful place. There are so many treasures in the world and it’s up to us to go and discover them. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dingle Peninsula looks amazing, the colors are just to alive! Beautiful contrast between the sky, the green and the sea! Love it!

  3. I am planning this trip for April 2016 and we are reviewing our plans. Would you tell how much time did you take for Ring of Kerry?
    Thank you

    • We spent about 1.5 on the Ring of Kerry, a full day in Killarney National Park and then a half day driving the rest of the ring. We didn’t stop too much though, just for a few pictures on the side of the road at scenic spots. If there are things you want to see or do along the ring then you could easily spend 2 full days on it. I do recommend spending a full day in Killarney National Park though, it’s so beautiful and there is so much to see!

  4. What a helpful article! I have 7 days in Ireland and was trying to figure our which route to take.. Dingle or Kerry. I’ve decided.. Dingle for the win!

  5. Glad you got to see the Ring of Kerry and The Dingle Penninsula, both beautiful spots in my opinion. I may be a little biased as I grew up just off the Ring of Kerry. If you venture off the Ring you will find the Skellig ring ,with magnificent views of the Skellig islands a georgous sandy beach in Ballinskelligs with a beachside cafe and pub on the beach, as well as a chocolate factory and a surfing beach at St. Finians Bay ,superb views from Geoghan cliffs on Valentia island excellent seafood in Portmagee village,ancient Ring forts outside Cahirciveen, and so much more. If you have limited time Skelligs Ring might be an alternative option. It is a little over an hour from Killarney, going through Killorglin , Glenbeigh and Caherciveen.

    • I really wanted to see Skellig Michael on our trip but it had to be cancelled along with a few other coastal activities we had planned because of the high winds. In fact there was an elderly woman who was knocked to the ground at the Cliffs of Moher when we were there!

  6. Life is short…. Do both!

  7. […] but this post from Travel Fearlessly does a great job of showcasing the differences between the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. If you can only squeeze in one, be sure to check it out! And if you are up for a rocky boat ride, […]

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