County Kerry Contae Chiarrai
is tucked away on Ireland's south-west coast. It is home to the Ring of Kerry, Ireland's popular driving and walking destination. The Ring covers a 170km circular road from Killarney and back, going around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin.
The Ring can be completed in a day. Towns are between one and two hours apart and each has something different to offer, but all share interesting history and their residents often follow the traditional Irish way of life. Scenery is dramatically beautiful as the Ring takes in the Atlantic coast, rugged mountains, green pastures, beaches and quaint cottages.
Take time from your drive to experience a Killarney jaunting car. These horse and cart rides have been travelling the roads of Kerry for generations. Getaway travelled with the Tangney family, with their five generations of knowledge and experience.
The jaunts give spectacular viewing of Killarney National Park, Muckross Lake and the 15th-century Muckross Abbey. Along the way you are entertained with folklore and history, ending the day at Muckross House and Gardens.
Muckross House was built in 1843 as a 65-room Tudor-style mansion for the Herbert family. Extensive improvements undertaken in preparation for a visit of Queen Victoria in 1861 (which did not eventuate) led to enormous financial difficulties, causing the Herberts to sell the estate without receiving the lordship they were hoping the Queen would bestow.
Visitors today can see the elegantly furnished family rooms on the upper floors and the Spartan servants' quarters in the basement. The gardens are internationally recognised, particularly their fine collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, large water garden and a rock garden hewn from natural limestone.
It's worth stopping at nearby Muckross Traditional Farms, an excellent showplace of rural life in the 1930s, a time before electricity. The farmers love to chat with visitors.
Glenbeigh is an area of extraordinary beauty with 11km of beach facing the bay and across to the Dingle Mountains. Surrounded by the Coomasaharn horse-shoe mountains to the south, Seefin and Curra to the east and west and Slieve Mish to the north, Glenbeigh is the ideal location for horse riding, fishing in one of seven lakes, golf, tennis and more. It has traditional pubs with traditional music and dance, restaurants serving both local specialties and gourmet food.
Kells Bay, at the foot of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range, is a fishing village well worth a look.
Further on is Waterville, which, apart from being beautiful, has one of Ireland's top five golf courses. It's been played by Tiger Woods, Payne Stewart and Mark O'Meara, not to mention Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones!
Waterville is home to the Butler Arms Hotel, one of Ireland's best loved family-run accommodations. The Huggard family has welcomed guests for four generations. Charlie Chaplin loved to bring his family here for summer holidays and always stopped to chat with villagers. Guests can enjoy a cup of tea in the Charlie Chaplin Lounge.
The hotel, which opened in 1884, is midway around the Ring of Kerry and overlooks the Atlantic. The traditional Irish stone building has 37 guestrooms spread over three floors. They are light pastel with antique furnishings and have views of the ocean and countryside.
The Fisherman's Restaurant, with traditional decor and dark wooden beams, serves local seafood and meat from nearby farms. It has an extensive wine list.
Kenmare describes itself as "the jewel on the Ring of Kerry". Really, all towns describe themselves as the best and competition is tough. They all offer something special and part of the attraction of travelling the Ring is to decide for yourself which is your favourite.
Kenmare is at the foot of the Cork and Kerry Mountains. It has stunning scenery, excellent accommodation and gourmet food at every turn. It was founded in 1670 and has kept its charm over the centuries. It was rewarded by being named Kerry's first Heritage Town.
Wherever you stop, you're bound to fall in love with this very special part of the Emerald Isles.