When staying in Waterville, CO Kerry Ireland, the Skellig Ring and Valentia Island make a great day excursion. The Skellig Ring is a side loop off of the more popular Ring of Kerry, and as the roads are narrower, the tour buses do not go there so the experience is much less crowded and more peaceful. It is possible to get in a boat trip, weather permitting, to Skellig Michael island, although we were not able to do so out last trip because the island was closed to the public for the controversial filming of the Star Wars movie.
From Waterville, take the N70 clockwise in the direction of Cahersiveen and a few kilometers outside of town, turn left on R567. You are now off of the main loop and will notice the road is much narrower although very much passable via passenger cars. There is an old Abbey and wedge tomb which will come up shortly and are each worth a stop. Follow the brown signs directing you to these sites.
Next stop is the Chocolate factory where they offer free tastings of all of their chocolates. Even if not a chocolate lover, this is worth a stop as the views in all directions here offer some nice photographic opportunities. Then, continue on to Portmagee. If planning to take the boat to Skellig Michael, the trip can be arranged here in Portmagee although we do recommend checking with your B&B the night before to have them make reservations. The weather is determined each morning around 9:00 AM to determine if the boats will run based upon sea conditions.
Take the bridge at Portmagee over to Valentia Island. We headed left at the intersection after crossing the bridge in the direction of Bray Head. The first worthwhile stop comes up quickly on the left and is the site where the very first transatlantic cable was landed in 1866. There is a small monument here and it is an easy stop, worth taking in and pondering how far our global communication capabilities have come in this age of mobile phones and the Internet of Things.
Continue on and take the left where the signs direct you to Bray Head. This is a one lane road so the courtesy system is in play for cars going in our out. You will come to a car park which will cost a few euros to park, and need to hike up the trail to Bray Head. The hike is worthwhile as there are some excellent views to be enjoyed.
Continue on and you will next come to a brown sign directing you on the left to St. Brenden’s Well. Be warned that the well is quite a ways down a very narrow road which is unpaved in most places. There is not much to see here, although this is a site where St. Brendan is said to have baptized people on his way from Dingle to Finian’s Bay.
Continue on, and you will come to signs to a candle factory on the left. This too requires a drive down narrow and unpaved roads. The Candle factory is small and unimpressive, although they do offer children’s programs in candle making, so may be worth a stop if travelling with kids to give them something to do with their hands. Unfortunately, the proprietor does not allow photography and has an interesting rant about photos posted. (They do make a few good points.) The candles are scented with essential oils so if looking for candles without artificial chemical scents, pick up a few while you are here.
Continue on the Geokaun Mountain on your left. This is a must see as it will lead you to the Fogher Cliffs which are the best cliff views on the entire Ring of Kerry. There is a fee of 4€ per person to park and enter here and well worth the price. They have a B&B, gift shop and small café so the place is a bit touristy. There are four places to park. You can park at the bottom and walk all the way up, or drive up and each of the sites has separate parking. We recommend driving up the unpaved road.
The first stop will be parking to the viewing deck to see the Fogher Cliffs. The Fogher Cliffs are the most scenic and best views in all of Kerry in our opinion. The viewing deck is a short walk from the parking area. Next, head up to the next parking area at the Carraig Na Circe. You can park here, and walk up to the Miners View which is the highest point, or take the loop walk. There is parking up at the Miners View although if taking the loop walk, you can easily step up to the Miners View during the loop walk to avoid moving the car twice. It is very windy up here and the views are outstanding. Up at the Miner’s View, you can look down at the old Shale mines and Miner’s village as well as see the radio station and lighthouse.
Beyond Geokaun Mountain, there are a few stops we did not make such as The Grotto, which is an old shale mine turned into a shrine, the lighthouse, Cullum’s Cup which is the ruins of an old anemometer, and Glanleam House & Gardens. We did stop at Tetrapod Trackway which are fossilized footprints in the stone down by the water from some of the very first creatures to have crawled out of the sea onto dry land.
Continue on into Knightstown to have lunch, a Guinness, or simply take in the small town. From Knightstown, you can either take the ferry over to Cahersiveen, or head back around the other side of the island to the bridge over to Portmagee. We headed back to Portmagee stopping for a delicious Guinness ice cream at Valentia Ice Cream.
Once back over the bridge in Portmagee, we took R565 which leads back up to N70 which is the main Ring of Kerry. From here, you can continue on to Cahersiveen, or head back to Waterville if staying there.
This trip around Skellig and Valentia Island is a very relaxing day trip and even though we made several stops, we were still back in Waterville for dinner. Total time spent was between 8-10 hours and as it was July, we enjoyed the benefit of daylight until nearly 10:00 PM.