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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.