The Ring of Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way

We hit the famous "Ring of Kerry" on the next leg of our trip along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. I must say, we chose two of the worst days to photograph scenery of any class! Visibility was down to a few metres once we rose into the cloud.

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The Ring of Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way

The thing that hit us most as we wandered into the colourful village of Sneem was the smell of turf fires! A real smell of Kerry for us. The village offered a welcome rest after the snaking road out of Killorglin and getting stuck behind a tractor or two.

The other thing about Sneem are the really interesting sculptures and installations spread through the village. It’s very striking to see the photographs of locals in the park – people who have returned to the area after previously emigrating – and underneath their stories and their hopes for their communities. Well done Sneem!

The more numerous surnames in the Sneem area (according to the 1901 census) include:

Aldworth, Breen, Brennan, Buckley, Burns, Cahalane, Clifford, Coffey, Connell, Connor, Curran, Downing, Doyle, Dwyer, Fitzgerald, Foley, Hussey, Mansfield, McCarthy, McGillicuddy, Moriarty, Murphy, Neill, O’Shea, Sheehan, Sugrue and  Sullivan.

Are any of your family surnames included here?

The next leg of the journey opens out very nicely to views of hills, bog and sea – but most of that was lost on us for the day that was in it! We motored briskly towards Derrynane and Caherdaniel (blink and you’ll miss it) – ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell – or as he in known in Ireland “The Great Liberator”. O’Connell was in fact born in Cahirciveen – but was fostered out an an early age to a local poorer family. Fostering was a very ancient practice in Ireland – normally carried out to “foster” closer ties between leading families. O’Connell returned from fostering to his natural parents – did not get on with them – and was taken under the tutelage of his uncle Maurice who lived in Derrynane house pictured.

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Derrynane House – Home of Daniel O’Connell

Onto Waterville – a seaside town with a few different faces – from an annual Charlie Chaplin film festival to one of the foremost Golf links in the world.

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O’Dwyers of Waterville

One of the things I love about this part of the world is the “interior” of the peninsula. Leave the “Ring” and head inland on a small road, or just strike into the walking trail known as the “Kerry Way” and you will find yourself among to most glorious wild countryside with abandoned cottages and amazing natural features.

Ballinskelligs and Around.

If you do make it this far into the Ring of Kerry – be sure and leave the main ring as you travel beyond Waterville to do the smaller “Skellig Ring”. We headed to the village of Ballinskelligs – an Irish-speaking area known as a “Gaelteacht” – and settled down for the night in a local hostel. This whole area received the monks from the nearby Skellig Michael rock island after the beehive huts there were abandoned in the 12th century. There are so many layers of history in this area – from ancient stone circles, ringforts, old abbeys, medieval castles and whole abandoned (and restored) villages.

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The McCarthy Castle ruin – Ballinskelligs, County Kerry

About this time, the weather began to lift and we managed to take a snap or two – such as these Italian tourists having a swim on Ballinskelligs beach (shows how warm it was getting!)

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Ballinskelligs Priory – Home of the Skelligs monks after the 1100s

Time for a trip towards Portmagee and Valentia island – but we got distracted by the Skelligs chocolate factory – some of the nicest chocolate we ever tasted. Well worth the detour!

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Just what we needed – a Chocolate Factory!

On this trip, we never made it as far as Valentia Island – the weather was just too much on top of us – we would never gather the photographic proof that we were there!

The more numerous surnames in the Ballinskelligs area (according to the 1901 census) include:

Casey, Connell, Connor, Cremin, Curran, Dennehy, Donoghue, English, Fitzgerald, Fitzpatrick, Goggin, Grady, Keating, Kelly, King, Leary, Lyne, McCarthy, Moran, Murphy, Neil,l Segerson, Shea, Sugrue, Sullivan, and Walsh.

Are any of your family surnames included here?

Caherciveen to Killorglin.

The stretch from Ballinskelligs to Cahirsiveen and onto Killorglin is well worth slowing down for – there is so much to take in along the way. We arrived early on a Saturday morning in Cahirciveen – and went straight to take a photo or two of the O’Connell castle remains outside the town. Daniel O’Connell, whom I mentioned earlier, was born outside the town – and his forefathers were inhabitants of the castle at one stage. However, the O’Connell family were stripped of their wealth and land – and ability to partake in commerce – in the 17th century and later during the Penal laws. It was these Penal laws that O’Connell worked to overturn – and worked towards what was known as “catholic emancipation”. If you receive an education in any school in Ireland, the role of Daniel O’Connell features heavily in Irish history education.

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Sailing with the Skellig Monks – outside Cahirciveen

Cahirciveen itself is a compact market town – painted in bright colours – and I am glad to say that it is really establishing itself as a destination in its own right over the past few years. For many years, it was a town just for driving through – unless you came from these parts. Great to see it looking so good!

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The Colourful Kerry town of Cahirciveen

Ballycarbery castle ruin in green Irish fields

Ballycarbery Castle ruins of the O’Connells

We drove on to the village of Glenbeigh – with Dingle bay on one side and the mighty slopes off the McGillicuddy Reeks on the other. We managed to take a little while to stroll along parts of the Kerry Way – one of the best long distance walking paths in the country. The Kerry Way starts in Killarney and then follows a path around the Iveragh peninsula and looping back through Killarney National park once more. Do take some time to vanish into another world as you walk even a small part of this ancient way.

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Walking into The Light on the Kerry Way

One of the more recent additions to these parts is the Kerry Bog village. Now, these places can sometimes feel “setup” – but I must say we were very impressed with the attention to detail and feel of the individual cottages. The most striking thing was how these cottages were furnished with so many pieces that Carina and myself remembered from visits to country-based Grandparents in the 1960s and early 70s. Well worth a visit.

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A cottage in the Kerry Bog Village museum

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Ms. O’Connor and Ms. McGillicuddy spinning out a tune or two

Every now and again the cloud lifted and exposed some of the most glorious views – such as this one near to Carragh lake looking inland. There is green – and there is GREEN!

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Near Caragh Lake

Before long, we found ourselves coming into the town of Killorglin – home of the annual “Puck Fair”. The rain was coming down in buckets by this time – working wonders for the colour of the grass – but not for the camera. So – you’ll have to bear with me – we plan a return trip to Killorglin over the coming weeks and plan to have excellent weather (!) during which we will take many fine photographs for sharing with you.

The more numerous surnames in the Killorglin area (according to the 1901 census) include:

Ahern, Begley, Bourke, Brennan, Cahalane, Carey, Clifford, Coffey, Connell, Connor, Corcoran, Corkery, Costello, Daly, Diggin, Dodd, Donoghue, Doyle, Flynn, Foley, Galvin, Grady, Griffin, Guerin, Hartnett, Healy, Hoar, Houlihan, Hurley, Joy, Kelliher, Kissane, Linehan, Lynch, Mahony, McCarthy, McKenna, Moriarty, Moroney, Murphy, Naughton, O’Neill, O’Sullivan, O’Shea, Rahilly, Reilly, Riordan, Scannell, Sheehan, Stack, Sweeney, Teaha and White.

Are any of your family surnames here?

That’s the end of our trip around this leg of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – taking in the Iveragh Peninsula and all around the famous “Ring of Kerry”. Join us for the next leg when we travel from Killorglin around the Dingle Peninsula and into the Kerry capital of Tralee.

 Click here to see all the legs on our Wild Atlantic Way journey.

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