Southern Peninsulas

Limerick City to Bantry

4 Days
  • Beaches
  • Food & Drink
  • Activity Breaks
  • Sport
Must-see

As you leave the stunning Clare coastline behind you, prepare to be amazed once more as you land in ‘The Kingdom’ of Kerry.  The popular towns of Ballybunnion, Tralee, Dingle and Killarney lie in wait as you travel through Kerry’s lush vistas.  You’ll then head south from the Dingle Peninsula into ‘Rebel Country’ and County Cork, where you’ll visit Ireland’s only cable car at Dursey Island before ending your drive along the Southern Peninsulas in Bantry Bay.

Highlights of this driving route include the picturesque Dingle Peninsula, Blasket Islands, Skellig Michael, Killarney National Park and Dursey Island.  Here is your 4 day itinerary for the Southern Peninsulas.

Day 1

Limerick City to Tralee

Leaving Limerick and driving south towards ‘The Kingdom’, your first day will take in the wonderful sites of Ballybunion, Listowel and Tralee, while giving you ample time to explore the town of Foynes as you depart from Limerick.

Make a quick stop in Foynes

Home to the Flying Boat Museum, make the town of Foynes your first stop as you travel from Limerick to Kerry.  With some amazing gardens including Boyce’s Gardens and Knockpatrick Gardens, along with the Limerick Garden Trail, Foynes captures the beauty of the Limerick coast.  You can also enjoy tours of the Shannon Estuary here, either on foot or by boat.  And speaking of boats, Foynes is home to Ireland’s second largest port, the Shannon Foynes Port.

Next stop, Ballybunion

Leaving the busy city vibes of Limerick, head for the more tranquil Ballybunion and prepare to get your first taste of the natural beauty of County Kerry. The stunning golden beaches and cliffs of Ballybunion should keep you occupied for a few hours, while the golf lovers among you can tee off at Ballybunion Golf Club. Home to many great cafes, pubs and restaurants, Ballybunion is perfect for a bit of lunch to set you up for the afternoon. Surfing, cycling and fishing are all popular in this part of Kerry, while other local attractions to visit during your time in Ballybunion include Ballybunion Castle and Ballybunion Heritage Museum.

Love Listowel

From Ballybunion, make the short trip inland to the town of Listowel, famous for its many traditional Irish pubs. Listowel attracts thousands of visitors throughout the year for many of its popular festivals including Listowel Writers Week, The Harvest Festival and Listowel Races.

Other highlights in the popular town of Listowel include the weekly Listowel Farmers Market (every Friday morning), Listowel Castle, which was built in 15th Century, the unique steam train experience with Lartigue Monorail and a trip through Ireland’s literary past at Kerry Writer’s Museum.

Last stop, Tralee

Famous for the international Rose of Tralee Festival which takes place in the town every August, Tralee is popular with visitors throughout the year and a great place to call it a day on your first day exploring Kerry. Tralee has many popular bars and restaurants allowing you to relax and unwind after your travels.

Siamsa Tire (National Folk Theatre of Ireland) is one of the most popular attractions in Tralee while Kerry County Museum will educate you on the rich history of the Kingdom of Kerry. A farmers market takes place in the town every Saturday morning, while Crag Cave and Ballyseedy Wood will once again showcase the sheer beauty that Kerry has to offer.

Day 2

Tralee to Dingle

Day two of your travels through Kerry will take you along on of the most popular driving roads in Ireland, and a place once called “the most beautiful place on earth” by National Geographic; The Dingle Peninsula. This part of the trip is all about you, the road and the views. Be at one with your car and take your time driving from Tralee to Dingle as you will have some amazing scenery to take in.

Slea Head Drive

The Slea Head drive starts and ends in Dingle and covers an area of outstanding, and in some cases unrivalled natural beauty, as you travel through mountains and past the Blasket Islands. It is worth setting aside half a day to drive this loop and best explore it clockwise to avoid larger tour buses along the way. This trip will set you up perfectly for your last day in Kerry, where you can drive the famous Ring of Kerry.

Dunquin Harbour

One of the most popular stops along the Slea Head Drive is the parish of Dunquin, home of the Blasket Islands. The looping Connor Pass road (the highest mountain pass in Ireland) takes you through some of the best viewpoints in Kerry, although be sure to take care when travelling these roads as they have many narrow passages. The views as you drive through Dunquin and Mount Brandon are among the finest in Ireland, let alone Kerry. Be sure to explore Dunquin Harbour and the famous ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ Schoolhouse before heading to your next stop.

The Blasket Islands

During this route, be sure to spend some time taking in the sights and sounds of The Blasket Islands, and if you’re visiting in the summer months be sure to take the opportunity to take a boat out to these deserted islands for a closer inspection. Dominated by the Great Blasket, the islands represent the most western point in Ireland, with nothing but water standing between you and America.

Darling Dingle

Last stop for the day is Dingle, a town you will likely pass through on more than one occasion if you drive the Slea Head Drive. Dingle is the perfect base to explore this part of the Wild Atlantic Way and you can avail of many tours of the Dingle Peninsula from here, including the popular Dingle Bike and Walking Tours. For food lovers among you, Dingle stakes a strong claim for the culinary capital of Ireland with some great restaurants, seafood and local food producers. The Dingle Cookery School will also give you a taste for the area and ‘real’ Irish cookery.

No trip to Dingle would be complete without spending time looking for Dingle’s most famous inhabitant, Fungie the dolphin. Take one of the popular boat tours from Dingle Pier and head out to catch a glimpse of Fungie, the famous bottlenose dolphin. The popular sea safari and Dingle harbour cruise can also give you a real taste for this area by water, so leave your car behind and explore this beautiful area by boat.

Day 3

Dingle to Kenmare

The final day of your driving trip to Kerry will see you take in the famous Skellig Michael and Valentia Islands, as well as providing the opportunity to drive the most famous Irish driving route of them all, The Ring of Kerry. Like most of the Kerry coastline, you’ll be blessed with golden beaches and a rugged coastline that makes you appreciate the sheer beauty of our wonderful country.

Explore the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is perhaps the most famous of all of Ireland’s driving routes, taking in the popular towns of Killarney, Rossmaine, Killorgin and Sneem. With so much to see and do along the route you’ll need to be organised as you progress along it. Highlights include the stunning Skellig Islands, Killarney National Park, Ross Castle and the Bog Village of Glenbeigh. Popular for activities including walking, cycling, hiking, fishing, golf, horse-riding and water sports, you’ll certainly have plenty to keep you occupied in this magical part of Ireland.

The Skellig Islands

As you leave Dingle be sure to make a quick stop at Inch Beach, whose white sandy shores will have you questioning whether or not you are still in Ireland. From here you will head east towards the popular town of Killarney before making your way southwest past the towns of Killorgin and Glenbeigh and onwards to Skellig Islands where you can discover the Skellig experience at Valentia Island.

The Skellig Islands are just off the coast of Kerry at Portmagee and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site once described by George Bernard Shaw as “part of our dream world”. These islands are steeped in Irish history, myth and legend with Skellig Michael holding particular significance with monastic settlements dating back as far as the 6th century here. The islands are only accessible by boat and booking is needed in advance. The Skelligs are a haven for keen birdwatchers and are home to some of the largest collections of puffins in the world.

Last stop, Kenmare

The town of Kenmare is perfect to call it a night after what will be a busy day of exploring some of the highlights of Kerry. Whether it was Skellig Michael or Killarney National Park, you will have been busy getting up close and personal with some of Kerry’s famous landmarks and hidden gems, and Kenmare and the surrounding bay is the perfect backdrop to sit back and relax for the evening. Famed for its lace, the town of Kenmare is home to many fashionable knitwear shops as well as many delis, cafes and pubs.

Day 4

Kenmare to Bantry

As you leave Kenmare and continue to head south, your final day along the Southern Peninsulas will see you leave behind the charm and beauty of Kenmare, for the rugged and wild landscape of the Beara Peninsula.   You’ll come face to face with Ireland’s only cable car at Dursey Island, as well as travelling through the towns of Allihies, Garnish, Castletownhere, Glengarriff and Bantry.  Indeed, Bantry is one of the culinary hotspots of Ireland, and along with Kinsale, has firmly put West Cork on the Irish food map.

Explore the Beara Peninsula

This leg of your trip will afford you the time to explore the Beara Peninsula (or the Ring of Beara as it is sometimes referred to).  The Caha Mountains dominate this landscape, providing ample opportunity for travellers to get out of their cars and explore the rough terrain.  Hill walking, and mountaineering are popular activities here, while Kenmare Bay and Bantry Bay provide a great selection of beaches to explore.  The Caha Mountains have some stunning lakes and waterfalls just waiting to be explored, so take some time to travel around the peninsula and really get to know the Beara region.

One town to be sure to explore as you travel along the Beara Peninsula is Allihies, famous for its copper mines.  Visit the Allihies Copper Mine Museum to get a sense of the impact copper has had on this village.  There are also several great walks in the Allihies area allowing you to get a real sense of the beauty of this area.

Take a cable car to Dursey Island

Dursey Island is the most popular attraction on the Beara Peninsula and a signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way.  Dursey Island is the most westerly of Cork’s inhabited islands and is only accessible by cable car – Ireland’s only cable car.  The cable car departs from Ballaghboy and makes the short journey (250m) over the Atlantic Ocean to Dursey Island.  When you arrive on Dursey Island, embark on one the 9km looped walk of the island, allowing you to take in wonderful views of the nearby Beara Peninsula, while also providing an opportunity to stand on the edge of Ireland and look out towards the Atlantic Ocean, with nothing but shimmering water in front of you.

If you’re looking for refreshments on Dursey Island, there’s bad news, as the island has no shops or pubs.  Best bring along a picnic to enjoy as you navigate your way around the island.  At 6.5km long and 1.5km wide, it won’t take you long to explore everything Dursey has to offer.

Next stop, Bere Island

After your trek around Dursey Island, return to land and continue to head East towards Bantry.  On route, take time to stop off and explore another of West Cork’s islands, Bere Island.  Grab the ferry from the town of Castletownbere (departs every 90 – 120 mins) and make your way over to Bere Island where you can explore the island by car, foot, bus, boat or bike.  Enjoy the Bere Island Sea Safari or explore the islands caves with the short Bere Island Caves trip which will take in the caves and lighthouses of the island.

Final stop, Bantry Bay

As you leave Bere Island, continue east towards the town of Bantry, stopping in at Glengarriff on the way, making sure you visit the Eve Sculpture Garden and Glengarriff Nature Reserve.  There are a number of festivals in Bantry across the year so be sure to check and see what’s on before you depart for Bantry, as you may want to spend more than an evening in the town.

Bantry has a famous food scene with seafood in particular a highlight.  Sailing, surfing, walking, fishing and cycling are all popular activities in Bantry Bay, while Carriganass Castle and the stone circles at Kealkill allow you to explore the history of this area in more detail.  This part of Cork is also famous for golf, with two great golf courses at your disposal, including the Christy O’Connor Jr designed, Bantry Golf Club.  If you want to continue getting up close and personal with West Cork’s islands, the wonderfully named Whiddy Island is a short trip from the town of Bantry, and located in the heart of the bay.