The Motor home
The Motor home
There are many out there about the Ring of Kerry, and a quick search will explain about the websites towns and villages on the route, as well as the points of interest and the “must see” attractions along the way. I am not going to go over old ground in this post and list the towns/villages and all that. Instead I am going to give my personal experience as well as my thoughts and feelings on driving this fantastic circular route.
I recall reading one article about the Ring of Kerry suggesting you need 5 – 7 hours to really get the most out of it, but this is utter rubbish. There are many factors that can affect how long driving the Ring of Kerry to take, and since you have no control over many of these it is impossible to say how long you will take to complete the route. The time of year, the amount of tour buses, the vehicle traffic, the number of cyclists, the amount of walkers, road works and the weather are just some factors out of your control that will affect how long it takes you to complete the Ring of Kerry. The speed you drive, the number of comfort and refreshment stops and the number of photo stops will also affect the time you need on the Ring of Kerry, although these are within your control. I would allocate the entire day (i.e. several hours) to get around the Ring of Kerry to allow for factors you can, and can’t control to allow you to get what you want from the experience.
I booked to stay at Wavecrest Campsite in Caherdaniel for four nights during my trip to Ireland therefore I did the Ring of Kerry in two separate stints. The first stint was driving anti-clockwise from Killarney to Caherdaniel and the second stint from Caherdaniel to Killarney. My total driving time on the Ring of Kerry was a little under five hours, including all stops.
The biggest decision about the Ring of Kerry is to choose whether to drive clockwise or anti-clockwise around the route. The tour buses run anti-clockwise around the route and, after reading about driving the Ring of Kerry this what I decided to do. And my reasoning for following the tour buses? Well…… I read the Ring of Kerry was narrow, and in some places very tight and only wide enough for a single vehicle. My thoughts are if a bus can get through the gap so can I, when a bus crowds it way through (as they always do) I could follow, buses are slow which would slow me down and enable me to take in the views. I also read the Ring of Kerry is exceptionally busy and full of bus tours, and I really couldn’t see the point in doing battle with the buses and having to wait around for them to get through the (what I was led to believe) numerous tight sections.
I drove the Killarney to Caherdaniel section of the Ring of Kerry on Saturday 24 June in bright sunny weather, and drove the Caherdaniel to Killarney section on Wednesday 28 June also in bright sunny weather and my experience, thoughts and opinions are…….
The amount of tour buses is over exaggerated. Sure there were some tour buses out and about, but nowhere near as many I was led to believe from my research. Most of the buses I came across were parked up in cafes, eateries, laybys etc. and those I did come across on the road were driving at a good speed and were not holding up the traffic in any way. I assume buses are more of an issue in peak holiday times (July and August), but from my experience they are not a problem in June.
The amount of traffic (including cyclists) is over exaggerated. I was expecting the Ring of Kerry to be jam-packed full of cars, campervans and motor homes but this was not the case. There were people driving the Ring of Kerry but not many and there were massive breaks in the traffic. Once again, I assume the traffic is worse in the peak season. During our stay on Wavecrest campsite we frequently ventured out and about which meant travelling along the Ring of Kerry (we did this on foot and bike) and even then I was stunned by the lack of traffic.
The cyclists (what few there are) can be a real danger on the road. From what I gather it is perfectly legal to cycle two abreast in Ireland, and many cyclists do this. It wouldn’t be so bad if the cyclists cycled two abreast on straight sections and then tucked in behind each other on the twisty sections but they don’t. The Cyclists seem to be two abreast along the entire route, and when they have panniers and luggage racks they are wide and take up a lot of road. Getting past these cyclists can be a mission, and you not only have to be wary of cyclists you need to overtake but also cars travelling towards you on your side of the road as they are overtaking cyclists.
The road is not as narrow and tight as the articles would have you believe. The only sections wide enough for one vehicle are bridges, and there aren’t many of these. The rest of the route has two lanes (and a bit of run off on either side) and there is loads of room for two lanes of traffic. There are some tight sections and if you meet anything big (like a bus) you will have to stop and let it past but it’s not so tight both vehicles have to get right off the road. Before I drove the Ring of Kerry this was the bit that worried me most as I had fun and games on narrow, single track roads in the Lake District and scratched my motor home and I didn’t want to repeat this. Driving the Ring of Kerry is not half as tight as what I was expecting, and I have to navigate narrower roads around where I live.
The road surface varies enormously. Some sections of the Ring of Kerry are super smooth tarmac and other sections are lumpy, bumpy and full of potholes. There are a few sections where I had to reduce the speed down to little more than walking pace because the motor home (and its contents) were bouncing up and down so much. The only thing you can do about the road surface is drive at an appropriate speed and reduce it as necessary. Driving down the white line, i.e. the middle of the road is not a good idea and it’s also very dangerous too. I came across a few cars coming towards me in the middle of the road around blind bends and I have to say it was a seat of my pants moment.
When I was out cycling from Wavecrest Campsite I found the left hand side of the road in an anti-clockwise direction was rougher and can only assume this is because this is the direction the buses travel the Ring of Kerry? If you want the smoother side you’re going to have to go against the flow of the tour buses and travel clockwise around the Ring.
I found the tightest part of the Ring of Kerry the section through Killarney National Park. Some of this was a little close, but there was still enough room to get my motor home and a car through. If I was driving clockwise, i.e. against the flow of the tour buses (what few there were) I would have had to stop but given I was driving anti-clockwise I didn’t encounter any issues.
The landscape varies greatly around the Ring of Kerry and along it you will encounter low laying valleys, rolling hills and mountains, rugged and rocky coastline, woodland, farmland, lakes and rivers and lush green vegetation. The landscape is a feast for the eyes and there is always something to look at. I found the most scenic sections to be around Derrynane/Caherdaniel and Killarney National Park.
Based on my experience of the Ring of Kerry I would suggest driving the route out of high season (i.e. not July, August or early September), drive in anti-clockwise so you don’t have to do battle with any tour buses, give yourself several hours to complete the ring, and watch out for those awkward cyclists that insist on riding two abreast.
The Ring of Kerry is an unforgettable drive and if you are thinking about driving it I highly recommend it. Below are some short video clips of my drive around the Ring of Kerry.
All of the videos above show a similar thing in that the roads are plenty wide enough for two vehicles, the road surface is absolutely shocking, there isn't much traffic (in June anyway) but the scenery is absolutely stunning.
About the author
A total motor home newbie with a six year camping background in a folding camper. A keen blogger sharing my experience of researching, choosing, buying and owning a motor home. and every thing that goes with it.