What Not to Miss in Cork and Kerry

Tour Cork and Kerry for colorful fishing villages, lush valleys, Irish-speaking communities and food trails. There’s an abundance of wildlife and even a friendly dolphin in Dingle, while islands like the Blaskets and the Skelligs have fascinating histories. In Cork and Kerry, long, rocky headlands jut out into the Atlantic, sheltering pockets of lush farmland warmed by the Gulf Stream. You don’t want to miss Cork and Kerry’s delicious local food produce at Cork’s English Market.

Ballynaraha South, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Many people pass up visiting the Dingle Peninsula in favor for the famous “Ring of Kerry” drive in Ireland. However, this beautiful place packs a big punch. The town itself has plenty to do including a beautiful harbor and an aquarium, not to mention shopping and plenty of pubs. We decided to take a rental car (yes, the driving is on the left hand side) and make the scenic loop in a day. The views are not only spectacular, but full of history. On one turn, we discovered a famine era house, on another, beehive huts that were built by monks centuries ago. There is a beach and even a nature center there to enjoy. Even though the twisty road is about a car length wide, the drive is easy. Other drivers are conscientious, and of course, everyone takes a leisurely pace to enjoy all the sights. I suggest that you take a picnic lunch with you. Not only will you avoid the high restaurant prices, but you will find a spot with a beautiful view and make a wonderful memory too.
Great Skellig, Skellig Rock Great, Ireland
Christian monks chose the Skelligs, two rocky islets lying seven miles off the coast of County Kerry, as a place to live in peaceful isolation in the 6th century, where they built cylindrical stone beehive huts. Lucasfilm chose Skellig Michael, or Greater Skellig, as Luke Skywalker’s hideaway, featured heavily in 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The rocks are also host to an important seabird colony, with thousands of puffins and other species breeding here (no porgs, though). From May to October, visitors take the ferry that runs from the village of Portmagee to Skellig Michael. The crossing takes an hour and can be rough, and the monastery, which includes six beehive huts and two oratories, is at the summit of around 600 exposed and uneven steep stone steps. However, be prepared—visitor numbers are limited, and the crossing is weather dependent. If you don’t make it out to the rocks, visit the Skellig Experience on nearby (and easily accessible) Valentia Island to learn more about the islands’ history and nature.
Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
The town of Dingle is by far the most colorful, lively corner in Dingle. The streets are lined with every type of restaurant, bar and shop. Irish music flows through the streets nightly and the people are very welcoming. It is easy to navigate the town by foot and wander down alleyways to discover tourist free hang outs and delicious food. Dingle Peninsula wraps around the town and is accessible to view by boat, horseback or car. The lovely shores stretch far enough from the town to enjoy a quiet stroll while admiring the fresh Irish atmosphere and cool breeze.
English Market, Grand Parade, Centre, Cork, Ireland
This covered food market dates back to 1786 (there has been a market on the site since 1610) and today it’s a bustling indoor food market with everything from fresh fish to spices, cheeses, oils and homemade cakes on sale. It’s also a hub of social activity for the city, where people meet for a shop and a chat. Wander around the market to sample some of the region’s best produce – from the fresh fish landed on the pier at east Cork fishing village Ballycotton (Ballycotton Seafood Ltd) to the Toonsbridge Buffalo Mozzarella from The Olive Stall. Farmgate Café on the market’s upper balcony level looks over the market hall and is a great place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere while tucking into fresh oysters or seafood chowder, or coffee and cake.
You’ll have never seen a place more green. Hundreds of shades of it, with waterfalls and babbling brooks. Gleninchaquin is something out of a dream—yet it’s the beautiful reality in Southwest Ireland. This family-owned park, overseen by Donal and Peggy Corkery, is a long, narrow coombe valley on the northwest side of the Beara Peninsula, just outside of Kenmare. Entrance fees are five euros for adults, three for students, and free for young children. There’s hiking, sheep shearing, fishing, and outdoor educational opportunities. I’d encourage you to think about spending a full day out at the park, tackling the trail called “The Boundaries Hike.” It’s a six- to seven-hour round-trip hike and is for experienced hikers (since there’s scrambling involved and not many trail markers). The route will follow the boundaries of Gleninchaquin Park, which are defined by the high ridges of the Caher Mountain Range. Upon your return to Kenmare, be sure to grab a few pints at Crowley’s before your dinner. Stay at the Brook Lane or the Kenmare Park Hotel.
Find out all about how Ballycotton Island lighthouse was first lit in 1851 and about the lives of the lightkeepers and their families who lived on this small island in County Cork. There’s a short boat journey out to the island, followed by a walk up the island path to the lighthouse, as the guide tells stories of the area and the history. Lightkeepers lived on the island until 1992 but now the only residents are the island’s seven goats. You can climb to the top of the tower for views down over the island and magnificent sea views.
Trim, Co. Meath, Ireland
Even though Ireland is full of castles, it’s hard to beat the wonder of seeing the impressive Trim Castle, the largest Norman castle in the country. With its ditch, curtain wall, and moat, the castle covers 300,000 square feet on the south bank of the River Boyne. It was built by Hugh de Lacy around 1176, and it took 30 years to complete. Wander around the castle grounds or take a 45-minute tour inside the castle keep, learning everything from its turbulent history in medieval times to the spots where the movie Braveheart was filmed.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks