Driving the Skellig Ring

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Jun 27, 2017 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

The Ring of Kerry is the most beautiful drive in the world – and also, one that can be crowded, especially with tour buses. Yes, EVERYONE wants to see the Ring of Kerry! But did you know that right off the Ring of Kerry is a 20 mile drive along Ireland’s coast that is JUST as beautiful? Called the Skellig Ring, it is wilder, shows untamed landscapes, and, best of all, there are no buses. It’s the best of the Iveragh Peninsula (some might say all of Ireland), and definitely worth a visit.

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland
Driving the Skellig Ring - Skellig Islands off shore - where Rey found Luke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland - Puffin Island in the distance

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland - Puffin Island in the distance

Where to Stay on the Skellig Ring

We loved eating at The Moorings (more below) - why not stay there? You'd have the best view in town, AND delicious seafood chowder right on site. Because it's easy and close, the night before heading to explore Skellig Michael, many people book at The Moorings (click for rates and availability)

For a sense of living in Ireland, with an incomparable view, we recommend Portmagee Seaside Cottages (click for info). 

If you're on a budget, tryThe Skellig Ring House Hostel (click for info)

Where to Stay on the Skellig Ring. From Driving the Skellig Ring

How to find the Skellig Ring

So, you’ll be renting a car and driving the Ring of Kerry (N70) clockwise (to avoid being behind a bus), and just past Waterville, there will be a small turnoff on the left (toward the ocean), marked Skellig Ring. Yes, this thin path is actually a road. Because it is so narrow, only cars (not buses) are allowed on the Skellig Ring. The number of the road is R567 (you'll also hit R566 and R565). After you drive the Skellig Ring, you’ll wind up back on the Ring of Kerry (N70), just south of Caherciveen.

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland - ruins and fuschia

What will you see on the Skellig Ring?

Well, everything the Ring of Kerry offers, but MORE: gorgeous panoramas, the Atlantic ocean, the ever-present green of Ireland, mountains, sheep, surfers, chocolate, Portmagee, Valentia Island, St. Finian’s Bay, and, of course, the Skellig Rocks. Let’s take a look…

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland

Driving the Skellig Ring, Ireland

Starting right at the turnoff, you’ll drive through green hills and beautiful scenery. At the dead end, take a right onto R566. Pass through the town of Ballinskelligs, where you can see the Ballinskelligs Priory (built in 1210), and the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre. Ballinskelligs has a beautiful Blue Flag beach, and the remains of Ballinskelligs Castle. Ballinskelligs (Baile an Sceilg) means homestead of the rocks – the rocks in this case, meaning Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. More on that to come. As you drive, you’ll see Puffin Island.

Ballinskelligs Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Skellig Ring, Ballinskelligs, Ireland

Ballinskelligs Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Skellig Ring, Ballinskelligs, Ireland

Driving the Skellig Ring - Puffin Island, Ireland

Puffin Island

Just past Ballinskelligs, take a jog to keep on the Skellig Ring. You’ll come across one of the most picturesque views of the Skellig Islands, St. Finian’s Bay. Before you get entranced by all that natural beauty, turn right into the Skellig Chocolate Company, to fortify yourself. Here, you can watch chocolate being made, and purchase as much as you want (these make great gifts!), as well as hot chocolate or a mocha. Now you’re ready. St. Finian’s Bay is an excellent place to watch surfers, which seem so tiny against the waves and the backdrop of Skellig Michael. Thus refreshed, onward…

St Finian’s Bay, surfers, and Skellig Islands

St Finian’s Bay, surfers, and Skellig Islands

Skelligs Chocolate Company, Skelligs in the background

Skelligs Chocolate Company, Skelligs in the background

This area is known as The Glen, and features many important heritage sites, including Kilaboona Oratory, Killemlagh Church ruins, the Tobairin Holy Well, an Aifrinn (mass rock used in earlier times) in Aghort, and the Dún Canuig Promontory, located in Cloghanecanuig.

Road, The Glen. Skellig Ring, Ireland

Road, The Glen

The Best View in Ireland

One of the best views can be had at the pulloff at Coomanaspig. Here, you can see Valentia Island (including its highest point, Geokaun Mountain), the Skelligs, the Dingle Peninsula, and St Finian’s Bay – and all the beauty you expect from Ireland.

One of the best views in Ireland - at Coomanaspig, Skellig Ring

One of the best views in Ireland - at Coomanaspig, Skellig Ring - looking left (above) and right (below)

One of the best views in Ireland - at Coomanaspig, Skellig Ring
 

 

Road from Coomanaspig to Portmagee, Skellig Ring, Ireland
Road from Coomanaspig to Portmagee

Keep going down that narrow road, and you’ll end up in Portmagee. While the bridge to Valentia Island is here, and there is plenty to see on Valentia Island, the town has much to look at. The colorful buildings catch your eye, and your taste for Ireland will be satisfied at The Moorings (I recommend their amazing fish chowder). Be sure to hit Kerry Fish for some smoked salmon (or fresh fish, if you have the means to cook). Here you can also catch a boat (make reservations) to Skellig Michael.

Portmagee Harbor, looking at Valentia Island, Ireland

Portmagee Harbor, looking at Valentia Island

The Moorings restaurant, Portmagee, Ireland

The Moorings

Kerry Fish, Portmagee, Ireland

Kerry Fish

Looking toward Valentia Island from Portmagee, Ireland

Looking toward Valentia Island

The Skellig Islands

Ah, the Skellig Islands. First mentioned in 1400BC, these islands are remarkable in more ways than one. Small Skellig is the site of the second largest gannet colony in the world (30,000 pairs!) – and there are plenty of puffins, too. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its well-preserved early Christian (6th century) monastery. Also known as Great Skellig, access to this island is limited. Each year, only 13 licenses are granted to boat operators, who can run one trip each day in the summer, weather permitting. Once there, visitors have to climb 618 very steep steps to the top. When we were there, the weather was too poor to permit a visit. Next time!

Skellig Trips, Portmagee, Ireland

Skellig Trips

Skellig Islands, Ireland

At Valentia Island, you can check out the Skellig Experience Interpretive Centre, enjoy ice cream at the Valentia Farmhouse Dairy, visit the Island Heritage Centre, stroll through Glanleam Gardens, and check out the tetrapod footprints. Of course, there’s also shopping, pubs, and great food to be had.

Past Portmagee, keep on the R565 toward Caherciveen. You’ll hit the Ring of Kerry (N70) and be on your way!

Wasn’t that a remarkable detour?

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts

 

 

 

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