The Cliffs of Moher and County Clare are amazing in our book, but when we recently asked an Irish colleague how she ranked it, compared to County Kerry, she said there was no comparison. She firmly stated that County Kerry was the most beautiful county in Ireland, along with the remote northwest county of Donegal. We still haven’t been to Donegal, but we recently made it to County Kerry with Paddywagon Tours, as part of a 3 day tour that began in County Clare.
Our tour did not include the famous “Ring of Kerry,” but instead took the shorter Slea Head coastal route on the peninsula across. Fog and harsh weather conditions made viewing the gorgeous scenery difficult and we were very happy we were not driving the wet, narrow and windy roads ourselves.
Thankfully that job was left to our driver, guide, entertainer and singer extraordinaire Mike Coggins, who was nothing short of fantastic. At times he reminded me of one of my favorite history professors from college, who also had a seriously great sense of humour. Other times he was charming us with song, like when he sang the classic Wild Rover as we drove through County Kerry.
After driving the Slea Head coastal route, we made a 2 hour stop in one of Ireland’s most quintessential and popular towns, Dingle.
Quite a few celebrities, including Julia Roberts, have been known to take up part time residency in the Dingle Peninsula
for a break from the spot light (take note paparazzi!). And if you like Irish pubs, it doesn’t get much better than Dingle. Despite having a population of only around 2,000 people, the town has a whopping 50 pubs. That’s 1 pub per 40 residents!
The day we were there, the Dingle Food Festival was on. So we spent much of the two hours browsing and eating at the many food and drink stalls scattered around town. We stuffed ourselves with a buffet of good local food and tasty microbrew Irish cider (no mediocre, mass produced Bulmers cider on that day!).
After Dingle we took a short 65 km drive to lovely Killarney
where we viewed the lakes and mountains that surround the town at what must surely be “make out point” late at night. The scenery was absolutely stunning, and I’d wondered why it took us nearly two years of living in Ireland to finally gaze upon that lovely terrain.
In the evening we spent the night at Paddy’s Palace in Killarney, a hostel owned by Paddywagon that also provides private accommodation. Some members of our tour, including Bell, needed to be back in Dublin that night. So Bell and 2 others were placed on a different Paddywagon tour bus that was heading straight back to the capital that evening. One of a few great things about Paddywagon is the flexibility they offer in their tour options
, and they can do this because they have a big fleet and offer a wide variety of tours.
A few of us from the press tour had a great night at Courtney’s Pub, which has a big selection of international beers and whiskeys. If you’re in Killarney and want to drink something other than Guinness or another mass produced beer, Courtney’s is the place, and it’s also rated first on Yelp for pubs in Killarney.
The next day we visited the Torc Waterfalls,
just outside Killarney. It’s a majestic place, and a quintessential spot where leprechauns come out to play when nobody is watching. Bring your lucky charms here, and perhaps you’ll find a pot of gold across a rainbow. But more likely, you might see a flock of red deer like we did.
It was then on to Cork where we had 1 and 1/2 hours to tour town. I felt this was a bit short as you can easily spend an hour at the English Market alone, sampling good food…which I did! We had previously spent a few days in Cork last year so I bypassed trying to cram a big walk around town in a short period of time. If you have more time in Cork and like craft beer, the Franciscan Well is an absolute must. They brew their own beer, offer other great microbrews, and have one of the best beer gardens in Ireland. Bell’s great grandmother’s old house is also in Cork, so it holds a special place in her heart.
In a nutshell, if you make it to Ireland and have a week, we’d highly recommend visiting County Kerry. Dublin is fun and cultural, but if you’re in Ireland for the pubs, there’s plenty of great ones in Kerry too. Paddywagon is a convenient, affordable and fun way of seeing the emerald island, especially if you’re not keen on driving the narrow precarious roads yourself, like Bell and I. But if you’re down for driving, then you’ll enjoy the freedom of touring this wonderful region via rental car.
For further reading on Paddywagon, here are some posts from fellow travel bloggers on our press trip:
Susan of Vibrant Ireland writes on the pros and cons of the Paddywagon tour
Tanya of PA Girl Goes Abroad shares this fun review
Jennifer of Solo Girl Travel writes on the incredible medieval beehive huts we toured
For German speakers, Anja from Travel on Toast writes this
Also in German, Carolin from esel-unterwegs writes this
Disclosure: Following Europe’s largest travel conference, TBEX, Paddywagon tours organised a press trip for a group of travel bloggers that included us. While we received the tour and accommodation complimentary, this has not impacted our review.
Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, between Cork and Dublin.