There are several ways to enjoy Killarney, Ireland and all the surrounding beauty of the countryside. You can rent a car, ride on a tour bus, take a taxi, or utilize a private driver. I choose to hire a private driver. I found this to work best for my needs and it created that Always5Star enhancement to my trip.
I was traveling with my daughter Brittany, and since we are both use to driving on the other side of the road (America), renting a car seemed stressful. On this trip, I was looking to avoid tourist crowds, and wanted a more private experience. This ended up being a very successful and wonderful decision. I would like to offer tips that I've learned for hiring a private driver and some of the advantages:
🌟 Check with your concierge at your hotel and/or research private drivers online
with TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Read the comments and reviews to insure you are picking a reputable company.
🌟 Request that the driver offer a more custom experience, and leave time for make stops
along the way that avoid the tour bus schedules.
🌟 Ask that they offer advice on hidden gems that only a local knows about
🌟 Ask for the ability to stop when you see something interesting - a huge plus
a private driving experience.
🌟 Make sure to leave room in the budget to tip* with cash at the end of the drive
*Check out my Always5Star Tipping guide for more information on how to tip your driver.
Here is a photo journal of my top 20 pictures from our private driving experience in Killarney. We drove the “Ring of Kerry” and spent the entire day with our driver enjoying the areas surrounding Killarney.
(1) Killarney Golf Course
Our first stop after being picked up at our hotel was the beautiful Killarney Golf Course.
(2) A drive through the center of Killarney town
A drive through the center of town helped us scout out some places to go back to later!
(3) Kerry Bog Village
A wonderful little village that offers a great history lesson! Best to get here early before the tour buses arrive. This is a meca for tourists. We enjoyed arriving early and leaving just before the crowds arrived.
Please note: There is a small entrance fee to the village.
(4) Kerry Bog Village Cottages
Take the time to walk into these cottages and learn about the way the people lived and worked in Ireland in the 18th Century.
(5) The Red Fox Inn
The Red Fox Inn is located right outside the Kerry Bog Village and is a place to stop and enjoy a drink or quick bite. A good way to start off your day of touring! Their Baileys and Irish coffees are world famous and a discount is available to visitors who purchase a ticket for the Village.
(6) Irish Coffee
It is a must is to try the Irish or Baileys coffee. You get a nice discount if you have purchased a ticket for the Bog Village. I noticed customers that enjoyed the whiskey without the coffee! They were certainly ready for a fun day...lol!
(7) The Landscapes of the Ring of Kerry Drive
Driving by the "Ring of Kerry", you are mezmerized by the beauty that can be seen from the road.
(8) A Small Ferry Ride to Valentia Island to continue our journey
One of the advantages with having a private driver was to experience the ferry. Because it was raining when we went, it made the experience a touch adventuresome. This ferry is small and can only accomodate a few cars at a time. A bus would not be able to utilize this ferry.
(9) The beaches along the "Ring of Kerry" drive
As we made our way to the "Ring of Kerry", we were mezmerized by the beauty of the beaches!
(10) Finding The Road Less Traveled - small scenic roads that only a local would know
One of the biggest advantages to hiring a private driver is their knowledge of the local roads and the hidden gems along the way. Our driver took us down roads that were scenic and unique, which made this drive even more special and enjoyable.
(11) Valentia Slate
The Valentia Slate Quarry was opened in 1816 by the Knights of Kerry and was run as a commercial slate quarry for almost 100 years. The views from this area are stunning and there is beautiful slate everywhere. You only wish you could load it up and take it home with you.
(12) Skelligs Chocolate - Skelligs Ring
Skelligs Chocolate factory has an open kitchen where you can watch them make chocolates while enjoying some samples. Very wise of them as you can't help but purchase some after your tastings! Located on The Skelligs Ring, it was recently recognized in The Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2017.
A quick video of the tasting experience! Of course my favorite was the chocolate filled with a champagne center!
(13) Ballinskelligs Castle
According to legend, the Ballinskelligs Castle was constructed to defend the bay from pirates. Ballinskelligs Castle is more commonly known as the McCarthy Castle. The castle is a 'tower house' and was built in the 16th century by McCarthy Mór - thus the name - McCarthy Castle.
(14) Always5Star Lunch at Butler Arms Hotel = Waterville
I was looking for a unique place for lunch along our drive. The Butler Arms Hotel located in Waterville, offered such an experience! At the front of the hotel is the Charlie Chaplin Conservatory for dining. With floor to ceiling windows, the dining area is great for relaxing and enjoying a meal with your favorite beverage (mine of course was bubbly). Perfect for an Always5Star lunch! You can enjoy views over Ballinskelligs Bay while surrounded by very special photographs of Charlie Chaplin and his family's visits to the hotel in the 1950's and 60's. The Chaplin Conservatory is open daily for lunch from 12-3pm.
(15) The Sneem river and village
A delightful little village to visit along your drive is Sneem. The charming colorful houses that align the small quaint village square are fun to explore or to stop and get a quick tea or coffee. I enjoyed the river that sits in the center of this village. Stop and walk along the bridge for some wonderful views.
(16) Moll’s Gap & views of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range
As you keep driving along the road, you will come upon some of the most beautiful mountain passes. One such pass while driving the “Ring of Kerry” is Moll’s Gap. The gap is named after Moll Kissane who was a slightly disreputable owner (according to local lore) of a small pub in the 19th century. With views of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, take a moment to stop as it is an excellent place to take some pics.
(17) The Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle peninsula is to be experienced for its beauty alone. Within the area there are sandy beaches and hiking spots for every level. Or it can just be enjoyed in the car. Take some stops along the way to grab those perfect pics! Here is a slide show to inspire you!
*Please note: The Dingle peninsula was experienced on a separate day and not part of the Ring of Kerry drive. This singular tour was arranged through our concierge at The Brehon hotel with a tour company. The tour took about 6 hours.
(18) Ladies View
The “Ladies View” is an overlook along the Ring of Kerry drive. It was named this because Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting admired this view when she visited in 1861. There is a restaurant called Altitude that is located at this spot as well. It has amazing views from the roof top.
(19) Torc Falls
If you love waterfalls as much as I do, you will want to stop and take the short five-minute leisurely hike to Torc waterfall. The hike is well laid out and you can hear the sounds of water in the creek. A very special experience!
Torc Falls is very popular with tourists. It is important to schedule your trip to arrive there either very early, or later in the afternoon, when most of the tour buses have left. We arrived late in the afternoon and it was perfect!
(20) Ross Castle
At the end of our road trip, our last stop was Ross Castle. It is estimated to have been built around the 15th century. It was originally the home of an Irish chieftain, O’ Donoghue Ross. We reached the castle at a perfect time of day. Walk around and enjoy the surrounding areas of the Lough Leane lake. The castle sits on the banks of Lough Leane and looks magical against the landscape. A wonderful way to end our road trip!
To enter the castle there is a fee which includes a guided tour. Arriving late in the afternoon, there were no crowds, and we were able to easily roam around the castle.
Always5Star Final Impression:
After an amazing day of touring the Ring of Kerry, we knew we had made an excellent choice in hiring a private driver. The driver offered wonderful insights and we could freely ask questions and make stops wherever we wanted. I would highly recommend hiring a private driver for a fantastic experience exploring and learning all about Killarney, the National Park, and the Ring of Kerry.
🌟 Please note: I was not compensated for this post. My opinions are completely my own based on my experiences, which I paid for entirely myself.