K erry is possibly one of the best known areas in the West of Ireland, though perhaps not many know that the area was one of Queen Victoria's favourite holiday places.
Kerry faces the Atlantic Ocean and, typically for an Eastern-Atlantic coastal region, features many peninsulas and inlets, principally the Dingle Peninsula, the Iveragh Peninsula, and the Beara Peninsula. The county is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the north by the River Shannon. Kerry is one of the most mountainous regions of Ireland and its three highest mountains, Carrauntoohil, Beenkeragh and Caher, are all part of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks range.
Just off the coast are a number of islands, including the Blasket Islands, Valentia Island and the Skelligs. Skellig Michael is a World Heritage Site, famous for the medieval monastery clinging to the island's steep cliffs. The county has the extreme west point of mainland Ireland, Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula, The most westerly inhabited area of Ireland is Dún Chaoin, on the Dingle Peninsula.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the sections of this site so far that we only had the time to concentrate on a relatively small area within the Kingdom of Kerry. Apart from a one day foray into the Dingle Peninsula we were content to focus on the coastal section of the Iveragh Peninsula within easy reach of our base in Cahersiveen - “The town that climbs the mountain and looks upon the sea…“. Mostly, therefore, this page deals with the places we explored which were at the extreme westerly point on the Iveragh Peninsula bounded by the area from Cahersiveen to Caherdaniel.
We liked Cahersiveen a lot and found the local people very friendly and welcoming. A feature of Cahersiveen is its long main street with many traditional and colourful shopfronts. The Daniel O’Connell Memorial church (RC) must surely be one of very few churches in the world named after a layperson. Despite refusal from the Bishop of Kerry, Canon Brosnan, the parish priest, received a Papal sanction for the church.
There are four ways of spelling the name of the town: Cahirciveen, Cahirsiveen, Caherciveen and the locally preferred way Cahersiveen. If that is not sufficiently confusing try the original Cathair Saidhbhín.
“One wonders in this place why anyone is left in Dublin or London or Paris, when it would be better, one would think, to live in a tent or hut, with this magnificent sea and sky, and to breath this wonderful air which is like wine in one's teeth.” (George Bernard Shaw)
"Over the Water" Ringforts & a Castle
These Forts are over the bridge from Cahersiveen and are near Ballycarbery Castle. They are set in beautiful surroundings with great views all around.
The Cahergall ringfort has undergone extensive reconstruction but part of the original is still there. It is as perfect an example of a ring fort as can be found in the area. The design is a credit to the people who built it. There is an inner sanctum where a fire could be lit and people could stay warm and also an outer sanctum with thick walls and steps. The outer wall is higher in the direction of the prevailing winds to provide maximum shelter.
Leacanabuale ringfort is located close to the Cahergall ringfort. The smoothness of its exterior curves is impressive and not easily scaled by an attacker. The inside surface incorporates several sets of steps which would have given the defenders access to the top of the wall. The gateway is narrow to make it easier to defend and may also have been barred by some kind of door.
The round houses inside the wall are small and were probably quite snug. In one of these houses is the entrance to a souterrain, a narrow, shallow, curving tunnel which led to a chamber in the ring wall. The purpose of features such as this is the subject of scholarly debate. Suggested uses include refuge, storage and the ubiquitous standby ritual. As most seem to be unique in size and shape they probably had various functions which would almost certainly have changed over the centuries.
A Walk in the Countryside "over the water"
On the hunt for the Ringforts with a castle thrown in!
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The Skellig Ring
What and Where is the Skellig Ring?
The Skelligs region (Skelligs Ring) encompasses an area to the west of the Ring of Kerry between Cahersiveen and Waterville. It comprises Valentia Island, the Skellig Isles, Puffin Island and the mainland south of Valentia Island and north of Ballinskelligs Bay, including the towns of Portmagee and Ballinskelligs.
The Skellig islands are two steep sided lumps of rock rising majestically from the sea and mainly inhabited by colonies of seabirds as well as Peregrine Falcons and Choughs. The larger island, Great Skellig or Skellig Michael is a World Heritage Site, the location of a well preserved 6th century monastery in which Christian monks dwelt for approximately 600 years. Little Skellig, closed to the public, is home to 27,000 pairs of Gannets, the second largest colony in the world. The Skelligs lie some 8 miles from the mainland.
From our starting point in Cahersiveen we did several explorations of the scenic coast and countryside of the Skellig Ring. Particularly enjoyable was that, for the most part, the narrow twisting roads meant that there was far less traffic than on the more widely-known tourist trail of the Ring of Kerry. There is so much to see on Valentia Island that it was a tour in itself. The island is linked to the mainland from the lively little town of Portmagee, which is also the nearest point from which to catch a ferry to the the Skelligs. (We had hoped to do that boat trip but the sea was too rough). A mile or so beyond the town is the wonderful viewpoint of the Kerry Cliffs which are over 300 metres high. As if we hadn't had our fill of dramatic coastal views, we were treated to yet another one at Coomanaspic mountain pass, which is on the way to the attractive little beach at Ballinskelligs. The road continues to the seaside town of Waterville where the Skellig Ring meets the Ring of Kerry itself.. Before heading back to the campsite we did venture on to the Ring of Kerry via the spectacular viewing area of Com an Chiste and down again to sea level at Derrynane.
The Lonely Planet describes the Skellig Ring as “perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline”.
Highlights of Valentia Island
Geokaun Mountain is the highest point on Valentia Island .From the top you get a beautiful 360° view of Valentia Island, the wild Atlantic ocean and the mainland just off the island and even as far as the Skelligs, Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay. We had a lovely time there and were accompanied on our walk by a friendly local dog!
Cromwell Point Lighthouse
Valentia Lighthouse at Cromwell Point is maintained by the Commissioners of Irish Lights and is a harbour light to guide vessels from the sea and lead them through the northern entrance of Valentia Harbour past Harbour Rock.
The Tetrapod Trackway
About 385 million years ago, a primitive vertebrate walked through the muddy coastline of Ireland’s Valentia Island, dragging its lizard-like tail behind it as it climbed ashore. Incredibly, the tracks it left behind were preserved and can still be seen today, a snapshot of one of the very first transitions of life from the sea to the land. The petrified Tetrapod Trackway is among the oldest evidence in the world of four-legged vertebrates walkng on land.
Valentia Slate Quarry
The Valentia Island Slate Quarry was first opened in 1816 by the Knight of Kerry. This quarry is world famous fot the quality of its slate, which was used on notable buildings in many countries. These included the Houses of Parliament , Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral in London and Paris Opera House. In 1910, a rock fall closed the quarry until 1954 when statues of Our Lady & St Bernadette were placed over 100 feet above the quarry entrance. This Grotto is now open to the public. Quarrying recommenced in 1995 and today it provides slate for a number of uses including roof slates, gifts, counter tops, tables, headstones and many more. Recently the owners secured a contract to supply slate for the renovation work in Parliament.
Knightstown is the largest settlement on the island and is one of the few 'town-planned' villages of Ireland. It was laid out by Alexander Nimmo in 1830-31, It's a very pleasant place to visit. We especially enjoyed our time at the Coffee House where there was good food but also a fascinating second-hand bookshop!
Some Impressions of the Skellig Ring
Kerry Cliffs 1
Kerry Cliffs 2
The Ring of Kerry - Derrynane
We had a very enjoyable visit to the area around Caherdaniel, especially around Derrynane House (the home of politician Daniel O’Connell, also known as the Liberator due to his work against slavery.) and the lovely natural harbour and beach of Derrynane. At the western end of the beach, and now connected to the mainland by a spit of sand, is Abbey Island. On the side of the island overlooking the bay are the ruins of St Finian’s Abbey which date back to the 8th century.
Kate running to escape the danger of being cut off by the waves! Click the icon to the far right to see it bigger and get the full effect.!
Derrynane - Gardens, Beach and Abbey
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Looking for Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
Our main purpose in driving to the to the Dingle Peninsula was in the hope of seeing the famous Fungie:
Fungie is a male bottlenose dolphin first seen in Dingle Harbour in 1983.He is known to interact playfully with swimmers, surfers, kayakers and divers in the water. There haven't been any recorded cases of Fungie being aggressive towards humans. Although it is normal for social animals like dolphins to live in close contact with each other, it is still a rare occurrence for them to seek out human contact, and Fungie is the first recorded occurrence of a dolphin interacting positively with humans in the wild in Ireland.
We went on one of the many small boats which take people out into Dingle Bay in the hope of spotting Fungie (you get your money back if you don't see him!) and fortunately we were not disappointed, though he did prove quite a challenge to photograph.
Fungie on Film
Serendipitous Stopping Points
Our route along the coast road led us to some great sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. On the way out we stopped briefly to admire the beautiful sandy stretch of Inch Beach and on our journey back we were delighted to discover the picturesque area between Cé Dhún Chaoin (Dunquin Pier) and Ceann Sléibhe (Slea Head) together with the attractive Blasket Centre.
The Centre is a fascinating heritage and cultural centre/ museum, honouring the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands. The last inhabitants of the Blaskets were evacuated in 1953, leaving only buildings and sheep behind. Evacuees were given cottages and land in Dunquin, and so the ferrying of sheep began. Occasional boat loads of sheep arrive at the pier and are run up to the green pastures surrounding Dunquin, giving the road up from the pier the nickname “The Sheep Highway.” See <blasket.ie/>
Also we saw a monument on the cliffs above the Blasket Sound. commemorating the shipwreck off there of the Santa Maria de la Rosa and San Juan of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Where we camped in County Kerry
Mortimer's Mannix Point in Cahersiveen
This is a first-rate small campsite which has been expertly designed and is kept exceptionally clean and tidy. We cannot recommend it too highly!
A few of our impressions of Mannix Point
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