Ring of Kerry vs Dingle Peninsula
When I was planning our trip to Ireland I knew that the Ring of Kerry would be on our itinerary. I mean, how could you go to Ireland and not see one of the most 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 easier to make.
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. The next day we drove the rest of the Ring of Kerry, starting clockwise down N71. We didn’t fully complete the loop but headed straight to Dingle once we passed through Killorglin.
Many travelers choose to stay in Killarney or Kenmare before starting the Ring of Kerry. We stayed in Killarney with a short evening trip to Kenmare for dinner and some shopping. The choice is up to you; both towns are picturesque with plenty of shops and restaurants.
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. We got settled in at our B&B and spent the evening at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle, enjoying a few drinks and 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 to the road, the farms are more grassy and hilly and everything looks more green. I’ll 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.
Best for Activities: Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry certainly has more historic sites and activities along the way than Dingle Peninsula. However Dingle has better pubs and music which was a huge part of our trip. 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.
The Slea Head Drive simply has the Gallarus Oratory plus numerous tiny towns for food, shopping and music. We stopped at a farmer’s land and paid a few Euros to visit some beehive huts up on the hill. It was a great choice as we were rewarded with an unspoiled view of the ocean. Unfortunately I don’t recall exactly where this farmer was located. All I remember is that it was along the main road before the town of Dunquin.
Shortest Loop: Dingle Peninsula
The Slea Head Drive loop is 47 km long, roughly 1/4 the length of the Ring of Kerry. We took a half day to drive each loop but we stopped more along the Slea Head Drive than along the Ring of Kerry. Keep in mine that tour buses drive the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise fashion. Since we were driving clockwise we began to meet them about halfway through our trip.
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. If you’re not renting a car then the Ring of Kerry would have more options for your itinerary and budget.
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 and we loved the tiny town with plenty of shops and pubs for us to enjoy. The more popular town of Dingle was right up the road.
There’s 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 didn’t do). Seeing everything that Ireland has to offer can’t possibly be done in one trip. Just narrow down what is most important to you and decide which area of the country best fits that.
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