The south coast of Ireland is home to some of the most captivating sights that our country has to offer. From Kerry to Cork to Kilkenny and beyond you will find that there is something to capture anyone’s attention along the south coast.
The Iveragh Peninsula, better known as the Ring of Kerry, is unequivocally one of Ireland’s most popular scenic drives and one that is guaranteed not to disappoint. With its astounding views, fascinating ruins, and wild countryside, it is a part of Ireland that is rich in heritage as well as beauty.
Along your tour of the infamous coastal drive visit the various landmarks and ruins that still remain from centuries past. Along the way look out for the Skelligs islands, a designated UNESCO world heritage site visible far out at sea for a lot of the coastal drive.
The Dingle peninsula, in the gealtacht (Gaelic speaking) region of Ireland, is another must see along the south coast of Ireland. Once described by National Geographic as having ‘cinematic views’ that draw in tourists from around the world, it is an ideal location for the adventurous traveller with mountain ranges dominating the skyline standing tall and rugged against the serene and picturesque beaches which are ideal for swimming ... if you are brave enough to take a dip!
The true beauty of the south coast doesn’t only reside along the Ring of Kerry. Once you have breathed-in the splendour of the Iveragh and Dingle Peninsula visit the bustling town of Killarney situated in the heart of Co. Kerry. Travel to Cork for some gourmet delights or stop off in Kilkenny where castles and medieval structures are in plentiful supply.
A simple stroll around the Killarney National park will be sure to give you an appetite to explore the rest of what this captivating town has to offer. Early birds wake up early and set out to see the majestic 3 Lakes, a tour that is over 100 years young. Departing from Ross Castle start with a boat ride to the middle lake where you will come to the meeting of the waters (the area where the 3 lakes meet) and either walk or taking a jaunting car back through the glacial valley known as the Gap of Dunloe.
Garden and flower enthusiasts must add to the list a visit to the beautiful Torc waterfall. View the majesty of the waterfall at its mouth or climb up alongside it to take in the waterfall and the view from the top. Once there be sure to keep an eye out for the unique Killarney fern, a protected species of flora only found in the Killarney region (so protected in fact, that the Park Rangers won’t tell anyone where to find it!).
If mountains aren’t your preference then there is another way to see the enchanting views of Killarney and its surrounding regions. Wrap yourself up in a hand woven blanket as you take a jaunting car trip up the Mountains and breathe in the enchanting views that welcome you around every corner. It is a trip that you won’t soon forget partially because of all the views and partially because of the colourful nature of the local Jarvey who doubles as your personal tour guide!
The evening is the best time to visit the centuries old Muckross abbey and to wander around the ancient ruins that surround there for free.
In the neighbouring county of Cork lies a ‘foodie’ city of the same name. Cork city is definitely a little slice of paradise for those who crave fresh ingredients when packing that picnic for their travels. The Old English Market, open Monday to Saturday from early morning until 5:30pm, is located in the city centre and is always a hive of activity where some of Corks best butchers, fish mongers and farmers come to sell their produce and offer those all important hints and tips on how to prepare that perfect meal. Open since 1788 it has been in existence longer than most other markets in Europe and is a place that you must visit for the experience alone if not for anything else. It is also a city steeped in history and heritage with an impressive portfolio of museums, churches, jails and heritage centres to explore.
Take a step back in time to see what 19th / early 20th Century life was like in Cork - inside and outside the prison walls at the Cork City Gaol. Or for a more light-hearted visit, learn all about the history of butter in the Butter Museum and the development of the Cork Butter Exchange, in the 1700’s, which became the largest butter market in the world. Afterwards, stop off at the Church of St. Anne Shandon next door, and have a ring of its bells, making them sound all across the city.
Cobh just 15 minutes from the Cork city and pronounced Cove, formally known as Queenstown, is where many Irish convicts and emigrants left Ireland in the 1800’s to embark on a new life in Australia as well as America and Canada. Cobh Heritage Centre, which is full of artefacts and fascinating displays about those who left Ireland as well as memorabilia belonging to the ill-fated Titanic ship which departed Cobh harbour in 1912. If you are looking to savour some Irish whiskey then the Midleton Distillery is a short drive out of Cork city to the town of Midleton. The unique smell of the whiskey will guide you to the distillery and will entice you inside for a tour and a free sample! The distillery is open daily throughout the year. Blarney castle located just 20 minutes outside of the city. Wander through the gardens and up to the top of the castle where you will find the infamous Blarney stone, a stone that many believe if you kiss you will be blessed with the gift of eloquence!
The Rock of Cashel, in Tipperary is not just a solitary rock as the name might lead you to believe. The sight is a collection of ruins including a castle, a cathedral, a round tower and the remains of 2 churches all dating back to 1014AD. Ramble through these impressive structures or view them from the Glen of Aherlow, nestled in between the Galtee Mountains and Slievenamuck.
Kilkenny city is Irelands top craft city and a city full of medieval flare. With cobbled stone streets and medieval landmarks everywhere you turn you will soon realise that this is a stop you cannot afford to miss on your journey around the Ireland’s South coast.
A walking tour of the city is a popular and enjoyable way to explore this city. Starting at the 16th century Shee Alms House, the leisurely stroll tells the compelling story of this city’s remarkable history. See landmarks such as the 12th century Kilkenny Castle and gardens, The Holy Trinity Church (also known as Black Abbey) or the second largest cathedral in Ireland, St. Canice’s Cathedral.
Fairs and festivals are in abundance here all year round making Kilkenny not just a seasonal location. Craft fairs sell everything from ceramics to hand woven blankets and even making it the perfect place to pick up a memento or two from your trip to Ireland. The Kilkenny Arts festival, the longest running arts festival in Ireland, is packed full of music, film, literature, art, craft, theatre dance and much more.
The Cat Laughs comedy festival takes place at the start of June of every year in Kilkenny. Often referred to as the ‘best little festival in the world’ the event boasts an impressive repertoire of well known comedians in the past including Ardal O Hanlon, Dara O’Briain, Des Bishop, Jimeoin and Tommy Tiernan.
Story and photos courtesy Tourism Ireland