I'm currently on my second visit to Kerry, Ireland, so what better time to post? It's all fresh and I've completely fallen head-over-heels in love with this part of Ireland again.
Let me just list why County Kerry is at the top of my travel list:
It's a photographer's paradise. Regardless of whether you're a tog or not, you'll fall in love with the scenery around every turn in the narrow, bendy roads. Just like Iceland, Ireland recognizes that, if you're like me, you'll want to pull over to take photos every three minutes. (You think I'm exaggerating but I'm not. On my last visit here it took me 7.5 hours to drive from Killarney to Glengarriff, and according to Mapquest the 37.2 mile trip should only take 56 minutes. Whoops.) The good news is, there are pull-offs almost everywhere you could conceivably want to stop, so it's safe! I love the locations that are quiet enough for me to pull over on the side of the road and maybe or maybe not grab a shot from the middle of the road (foreground, dude!). LET ME JUST CAUTION that you obviously shouldn't stand in the middle of a road to take a photo, but if you're going to be an idiot like me, please use caution and common sense and watch/listen for traffic please!
The other bonus to this is that you can pull over quickly, take your shot, and continue driving. Or if you don't want to take photos or those cute little selfies, it's perfect to stop and admire the absolutely stunning views. As important as I think it is to take lots of photos on your trips, don't forget to just put the camera/phone away, sit down, and admire everything around you. I love looking back at photos, but thinking back and being able to really FEEL the way I felt when I was there is what makes my traveling heart happy.
It's extremely easy to navigate. There are signs that point you in the direction of everywhere you want to go and places you didn't even know you wanted to go. Also, if you decide to follow the Ring of Kerry, it's literally a loop, so wanderers like me can't even get lost. **ADVICE: Follow the Ring of Kerry CLOCKWISE! Before my first trip, I read that it's best to drive counterclockwise ("anti-clockwise" for my British friends that will see this and inevitably try to correct me) because it's scary to come face-to-face with the hoards of tour buses that all drive counterclockwise on these narrow roads, but my AirBnB host suggested that I drive the opposite direction because it's even more difficult to pass the tour buses when you're stuck behind them. Facing them head-on isn't even scary, and you get to go at your own speed. Plus, when they pull over at that awesome landmark that you also want to pull off at, you won't be stuck behind 75 hat-wearing, selfie-stick toting, "NAME YOUR FAVORITE CITY" t-shirts obstructing your view.
Which leads me to my next point...
RENT A CAR! For the love of God, don't do the bus tours. I'm sure they're great, and maybe I'm the only person that doesn't want to be caught dead on a tour bus, but it's so incredibly cheap to rent a car from the airport and do the trip yourselves. Plus, you get to stop whenever and wherever you want and you're not herded like cattle through only the biggest sights. Trust me on this.
AirBnB is the way to go! Tourism (and possibly farming?) are the big businesses here, and it seems like every other house you pass is a bed and breakfast or holiday home. I'd like to think that I'm potentially the biggest advocate for AirBnB ever, and for good reason! It's always the first (and usually only) site I check to book rooms and apartments. There's just no better way to really experience the culture and your surroundings (BE A TRAVELLER, NOT A TOURIST), plus the hosts are always incredibly friendly. Especially in Kerry! Below are the links to the places that I've stayed at. They always offer the best insider advice and tips, and Judi (first listing) even helped me plan my entire first trip here when I showed up with no knowledge and no plan for the area. One of these days I'm going to write a post listing all of my favorite AirBnBs that I've used (Iceland, Ireland, Copenhagen, Majorca, England, Milan, Paris, etc). For now, check these places out and stay!
Since I'm here now, I'll go ahead and mention that the Portmagee apartment is phenomenal. It's just across the street from the Kerry Cliffs, and you get a free pass to visit.
You don't have to plan your trip here, and it's better if you don't. If you know or follow me, you know that I'm the queen of unplanned trips. Thanks to my thriving portrait business, I don't leave myself any time to really research and plan out my trips. In fact, most of the time the extent of my trip planning goes (in this order): Check for cheap flights, do a Pinterest search of the area, book flights, book a car if I need it, check AirBnB (and if I'm really on my game I'll book my rooms BEFORE I get to the country, but a lot of the times I like to get to the country and see the areas before I make a decision on where I want to hibernate), and go!
Like I said, last time I showed up with two rooms booked in two random towns that looked pretty, and left the third night up to chance. This time, I'm staying in the same apartment the entire stay and it's my home-base. I try to scout and plan my sunrises and sunsets, but every hour in between in spent randomly stopping along the side of the road and places that catch my attention. Today, I found a beach and A CHOCOLATE FACTORY! Like seriously, I hadn't seen any advertising for Skelligs Chocolate Factory, but I'll brake for views, wine, craft beer, and chocolate. SUCH a good stop! It's surrounded by gorgeous scenery, they have a playground and picnic area, and offer free chocolate tastings! (I'm also currently and unapologetically munching on the Extra Dark Chocolate bar that they make). It's family owned, they do free tastings, and you can WATCH them make the chocolates.. Plus it's delicious! The dark chocolate Irish whiskey créme truffles are to die for!
My other favorite experience here was most definitely on my last visit here. I picked a random town on the map and it ended up being Glengarriff. It's an beautiful little village where I spent my second night. What I wasn't expecting was being served up with what I can only describe as the most authentic experience you can have in Ireland, and I was so impressed with it that it will forever be a highlight of my travels! I arrived at Audrey's, dropped my stuff, and headed to a local pub that she recommended. My plan was to have a pint and get some work done while listening to some live music. I walked into Bernard's pub (The Maple Leaf ) and it was quiet. The bar is split into two sides, and I chose the abandoned side so I could get some work done, but later moved to the side of the bar where the live music was (acoustic guitars and folk songs). Not only is it impossible to describe Bernard's hospitality to this American girl that rarely carries cash (but should because small towns don't always take cards), but it's impossible to describe the experience. A lot of people, females especially, have reservations about traveling solo. For anyone looking to get out and explore on their own-------KERRY! Seriously though, I enjoyed a pint or five at Bernard's while enjoying the music and the stories behind the music, and never once--here or any other time in Kerry--had to worry about my safety. Hospitality and kindness are the greatest features of this area. There's just something about sitting in a dark pub, drinking a Guinness, listening to older generations recount old times that just feels so surreal. Never in my life did I expect to be doing anything outside of Kansas when I was growing up, let alone having the most authentic Irish experience of all time.
They (we?) may have been a few pints in after this video, but it was so fun sitting in on this! SOOOOO, get to Kerry. I can't stress it enough. It's cheap, it's fun, and there's plenty of memories to be made with the entire family.
I could have written for about three more days on how much I love Kerry, and I may do more posts later, but if you want to need photographic evidence on why you should take a trip around the Ring of Kerry, go here!