25 May 2009

The 'Alternative' Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry with its classic stops and view points is world renown; however here are some alternative hidden gems along the way.
Visit Kerry Bog Village, on the main road between Killorglin and Glenbeigh. Here you can explore a traditional 1800s replica thatched bog village, complete with Irish wolf hounds and rare Kerry bog ponies; a great family trip.

Entering into Caherciveen take a right down past the old army Barracks, across the river to Cahergal Fort, an impressive Bronze Age stone fort with great views over Valencia Harbour. There is a second even more interesting fort nearby and also the ivy-clad crumbling ruins of 15th century Ballycarbery Castle, once the home of the McCarthy Mor's, now home only to jackdaws...
Back on the main road detour to the sleep village of Portmagee. A must see is the Skellig Experience Centre, dedicated to the history and stories of the 6th century monastic settlement of Skellig Michael. A great wet weather option. It's told by some that this was one of the last pagan sites in Ireland and one of the reasons it was inhabited for 600 years by monks was to drive out the last of the pagans.

Portmagee is named after an infamous pirate, Magee, who was shipwrecked on the coastline, met a local girl and settled down in the village to a life of married contentment and dangerous smuggling. The Bridge Bar serves delicious food and is a great lunch spot. On a fine day you can sit outside at the water's edge, watching the coming and goings of the brightly coloured fishing boats.

From Portmagee follow the narrow road over the top of Coonanaspig Pass and down to Saint Finan's Bay. Here you can swim in the fresh crashing surf at the sandy beach and call into Skellig Chocolate Factory where you'll be rewarded with sensational smells and free samples of delicious chocolates.

Continue to Derrynane Beach. Here long golden beaches, Daniel O Connell’s family home, wetsuit and snorkelling hire, sailing and windsurfing from Derrynane Sea Sports and the ruined abbey on Abbey Island are all calling to be explored. If you're into hiking, best of all, is a hidden mass path and secretive smugglers trail beginning at the pier and twisting along the side of Derrynane Harbour, through thick encroaching rhododrendrons.

Finish your day with a homemade icecream from 'The Green House' in Sneem.
If you've any suggestions of hidden gems on the Ring of Kerry put them into the comments section below.

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