5 Hidden Gems in County Kerry, Ireland

You’ve probably heard by now that Ireland, especially the west of the country is fabulously beautiful. The Dingle Pennisula is perhaps one of the most inspiring scenic locations in the entire country. Dingle is in County Kerry, the same county were you’ll find some of Ireland’s most famous attractions, such as the Ring of Kerry and the Lakes of Killarney. But these aren’t the only gems County Kerry has to explore. I have been to Kerry more times than I can count, it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. Everytime I go, I find a new treasure. Here are some of my most beloved hidden gems in County Kerry.

Slea Head
Slea Head is located on what’s called the Slea Head drive. The drive begins in Dingle and takes you around most of the Peninsula and back into the Dingle. While the drive is very popular, especially in the summer months, it is fairly quiet during the off-season. The drive takes you along a pretty hair raising road, narrow and close to the edge of the cliffs, but the views make it worth it. If the weather is good, stop at Coumeenole, take a walk down to the strand, or have a picnic overlooking it. Coumeenole may be familiar when you first set eyes on it. The area was used for filming ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ and the opening scenes in ‘Far and Away’ use shots taken along this coastline.
The drive has a number of spots where you can pull over, take in the view and get your camera out. It also passes some significant ancient ruins, including Dunbeg Fort, beehive huts and Gallarus Oratory.

Great Blasket Island
Great Blasket Island is a rugged, windswept island just off the coast of Dún Chaoin (Dunquin), a stop on the Slea Head drive. The island was inhabited until 1953 and was he home a number of Ireland’s beloved Irish language writers including, Peig Sayers. Today, you can see the remains of the village and walk amongst sheep, puffins and other wildlife. If you’re lucky and take the first boat of the morning to the island, you may see some 100 seals sunning themselves on the beach. You can take a boat from Dingle Marina or Dun Chaoin. However, be warned, you need to be in relatively good physical condition as the island does not have a pier that can accommodate modern boats, so you will need to climb from the boat into a small raft boat which will take you ashore. The island itself is also mountainous.

Skellig Michael
If you want somewhere unlikely to be packed with tourists this is your spot. In fact, its remoteness and difficult access make it anything but touristy. However, it is one of the finest remains of ancient Irish Christianity in Ireland. It does take effort to get too, you will need good legs and be sure footed to climb to the top. Skellig Michael, a small, steep, and rocky island off the coast of Dingle was founded sometime in the sixth or seventh-century by monks. For 600-years monks lived in solitude on Skellig, leaving sometime in the 13th century. When you arrive at the base of the island, you are greeted with a set of over 600-steps that take you up the 700-foot cliff-face. The steps are original and around 1,000-years-old. They can get slippery and have no hand rails, so wear good shoes and make sure you are fit enough to do it. At the top are the remains of the monastic settlement, unaltered. In 1996 the Skellig Michael was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Innisfallen Island
You have probably heard of the Lakes of Killarney, they are one of Ireland’s most popular tourist spots to say the least. However, hidden under trees, in the middle of Lough Leane, one of the lakes, is Innisfallen Island. In the seventh-century a monastery was founded on the island by St. Finian the Leper. Today, the ruins consist of ruins 11th and 12th-century buildings, including a Romanesque church and an Augustinian priory. Legend has it the Brian Boru, one of Ireland’s most famous kings, studied at the monastery. Some of Ireland’s most important historical documents called the Annals of Innisfallen were written here. Boats to the island leave from Ross Castle, another interesting local sight.

Annascaul Lake
Annascaul Lake is one of Dingle’s hidden treasures and is well worth driving down the extremely narrow roads and even getting out of the car to open a gate to gain access to the road to the lake. You’ll be lucky to find it in any guide books and it is probably a good idea to ask the locals how to get there. The lake is near the town of Annascaul. It sits at the bottom of the Slieve Mish Mountains in a valley that will have a magical effect on you, taking you back in time. There is a walking path along the lake, so bring some hiking boots.

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