Ireland is a gorgeous country, and it lends itself particularly well to those who want to go on a road trip. There are so many beautiful places to explore here that I actually put together my top ten favorite scenic drives in Ireland. However, there are two drives that people continually try to decide between. They want to know which is better, the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula?
In reality, it’s not the Ring of Kerry versus the Dingle Peninsula, because both are fantastic. However, if you’re short on time and you can only go on one, then you do have to make a choice. Here are twelve points to consider to help you choose whether the Dingle Peninsula or Ring of Kerry is right for your vacation.
Choose the Ring of Kerry if…
Here are four reasons why you should choose the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula.
…You Want Lake Views
If you want to stare at pretty lakes (or play on them) then you need to pick the Ring of Kerry. There are three lakes in Killarney National Park (known coincidentally, as The Lakes of Killarney). You can see them from the famous Ladies View, a view made famous for being admired by Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting.
…You’re a Seal Lover
Going on a Seafari to see the seals on the Bay of Kenmare was one of my favorite activities I did on the entire Ring of Kerry. I especially loved seeing the baby seals and their mothers basking in the sunlight on the bay. You can read more about how to go on a Seafari in my post on things to do in Kenmare.
…You Love Historic Places
While there are historic sites on both routes, I far preferred the ones on the Ring of Kerry. Here you can see Muckross House, a Victorian-era mansion, and Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Irish Farm, including famine ruins and a historic moonshine still.
…You Want to Visit Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located off the coast of southwestern Ireland. While you can see the island from both drives, the tours to actually go to the island leave from Portmagee on the Ring of Kerry.
Pro Tip: Want to do the Ring of Kerry, but you don’t want to drive yourself? You can go on a guided tour of the Ring of Kerry from Killarney. This way you can enjoy the sites without worrying about driving. Check reviews and availability here.
Choose the Dingle Peninsula if…
Here are four reasons that you should pick the Dingle Peninsula over the Ring of Kerry
…You Want to Escape the Crowds
While both are popular drives, the Ring of Kerry gets much more tourists driving it (and larger tour buses). This means the sites, stops, and the roadways of the Dingle Peninsula are far more likely to be wide open if you choose to go a bit off season. When we drove Slea Head Drive around the Dingle Peninsula in May we had open roads for much of the drive.
…You’re a Dolphin Lover
If you want to go on a boat tour to see the famous Dingle Dolphin, Fungi, well then you need to go to the Dingle Peninsula. Boat tours leave from the harbor frequently. While seeing the dolphin isn’t guaranteed (though we did!), you usually get your money back if you don’t see him.
…You Want to Explore the Town of Dingle
While both drives have tons of cute towns (more on that below), Dingle was my favorite of all of them. I spent four days here, and I absolutely fell in love with the vibrant atmosphere and the general chill town vibe. If I could only pick one town on either drive to go back to for a couple of days, it would be Dingle.
…This is Your First Time Driving on the Left Side of the Road
If you aren’t used to driving on the left side of the road, you might find driving Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula to be less stressful. There are fewer crowds and the buses that come here are the smaller kind, so the roads you don’t have to worry as much about traffic. This way you can slow down and enjoy what might be one of the most beautiful countries you’ll ever see.
Pro Tip: Want to see the Dingle Peninsula but you don’t want to drive yourself? You can go on a guided tour of Dingle and Slea Head Drive from Killarney. This way you can enjoy the sites without worrying about driving. Check reviews and availability here.
Choose Both for…
Both drives are wonderful. While I’ve mentioned what separates the two, you can choose either the Ring of Kerry or Slea Head Drive and the Dingle Peninsula if you’re looking for the following:
Whether you choose Dingle or the Ring of Kerry, you’re in for some stunning scenery! If you love beautiful coastal views, you can’t go wrong with either choice!
Ireland has many beautiful towns with colorful, traditional architecture. If you want to explore vibrant streets, both drives offer these throughout.
…Traditional Irish Pubs
Did you know that there are nearly 7,000 pubs in Ireland? Wherever you go in the country, you’re never far from a pub, and most of these are traditional Irish pubs. So if you’re looking for a Guinness and some Craic, either route has plenty.
Another thing Ireland has plenty of? Adorable sheep. You can’t drive far in the country before coming across a farm, and that means you’re more than likely going to encounter dozens (hundreds?) of sheep on an Irish road trip. Either the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula will be great for those who want to see (and photograph) these wonderful creatures.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Ireland
I have an entire Ireland packing list, but here are five essentials:
- The Lonely Planet Ireland guidebook or the Rick Steves Ireland guidebook for your trip. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you land, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
- An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use an Irish sim card while here.
- Melatonin if you’ll be traveling transatlantic and your sleep schedule will be disrupted.
- Universal Outlet Adapters if your appliances are from North America or Continental Europe or any part of the world that uses outlets different than Ireland & the UK.
- Backup Charging Bank to keep your phone charged while you’re out sightseeing.
Want more info? Read: What to Pack for Ireland: the Ultimate Northern Ireland & Ireland Packing List
Ireland Travel Resources
If you choose to drive the Ring of Kerry, here are the best things to Do in Kenmare, one of the cutest towns on the Ring of Kerry.
If you prefer the Dingle Peninsula, here are my favorite things to do in Dingle.
Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whichever city you choose, make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.