Kenmare and the Ring of Beara

For the past several weeks I’ve told you about the first grand adventure of my life — my first trip to Ireland in 1997.  This was not my first adventure, and not even my first trip abroad. It was, however, the first time where I was in utter awe of my surroundings for two weeks solid. If this is your first time to the blog, I’ve listed the earlier posts in this series for you there.

For the rest of you– let’s continue, shall we? After Blarney, we headed toward Kenmare, “the jewell of County Kerry” – and that’s not a phrase to be taken lightly, because County Kerry is a glorious county!

Kenmare’s name was originally Ceann Mara, which means “head of the sea” due to the fact that Kenmare is at the head of the Kenmare Bay between the Beara and Iveragh Peninsulas. It is no surprise that this town has beautiful views of the water and amazing cliffs and stunning shorelines.

Our stay in Kenmare was heightened by our accommodations at Sallyport House, and once again you are all in luck because Sallyport House is still in business! Click here to see their website and book your own stay here. I tell you the truth when I write that the owners here were incredibly inviting and provided us with some amazing “insider” information about the backroads of Ireland that shaped my memories of Ireland forever! I’ll tell you more about that later, though.

The postcard from the bed and breakfast – circa 1997

But let’s back up for a moment first…

When we got to Kenmare, we had just traversed a very stressful and gorgeous stretch of Irish roadway through a mountain pass. It was rainy and foggy, and those of you who have driven in Ireland know the narrowness of some of the more remote roads. They are barely one lane.  I’m not sure how drivers decide who has the “right of way” in situations like this, but there were several occasions where we had to back up for quite some distance until there was pull off that gave us enough space to get out of the way of the on coming traffic… some of which were giant tourist busses. To this day I don’t know how my father was able to maneuver on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car, in the fog and rain… mainly because my eyes were closed the entire time as I leaned away from whichever side of the car happened to be closer to the cliff-like drop-off. The drive was beautiful in many ways, but all I can remember was knowing that I was going to die in the smallest Ford I’d ever seen in my life as we dropped off the side of some Irish mountain.

So when we arrived at Sallyport House, we were (understandably) stressed out. Walking into Sallyport House… no, driving up the driveway… was calming in and of itself! The house is simply beautiful and painted a peaceful, calming pale yellow. I remember smiling when we got out of the car at how lovely it looked.

The grounds were gorgeous, too! (picture from Sallyport House website

When we got inside, there was a fire in the fireplace, tea ready for us, sweets to go with it, and other guests in the lobby. The atmosphere was so family like! Once we got settled, I pulled out my copy of Julius Caesar and read for a while, a sure fire way to calm me down (I have always been a Shakespeare nerd).   

After a while, we left the comfort of the bed and breakfast and went for a walk around Kenmare. We walked along the bay and over bridges into the main part of town. The buildings were painted in the colorful way that many buildings are in little villages in Ireland. We did some shopping while we were there, and I bought a novelty license plate that I still have today. For years it was in the back window of whatever car I was driving at the time. The only reason it’s not still there now is because I have a hatchback, and it won’t stay pushed up against the back window. 🙂

Sallyport House


The next morning we had a lovely breakfast, and my mom had her very first French press coffee. She approved! While we ate, the owner came and talked to us, and when we told her we were planning on going to the Ring of Kerry that day, she discouraged us from doing that. She insisted that it was a crowded tourist route and that the Ring of Beara was just as beautiful and much less known by tourists.

Now, having been to both places (last year I went on the Ring of Kerry), I don’t know that I would say they are equally beautiful… the Ring of Kerry definitely has some more breathtaking coastlines, but the Ring of Beara was beautiful, and we had a day full of driving, stopping, taking pictures, and marveling at the beauty of Ireland. Below are pictures of that drive.  Keep in mind that my 20+ years old pictures do not do the luscious greenery of Ireland any justice! Even though it was overcast, the green seemed to glow sometimes as sun would shine through the breaks in the clouds.

Look closely in the middle of the picture and you will see a “floating rainbow”


Though Ireland has many areas that are beautiful, the Ring of Beara offered just enough seclusion, especially our stressful drive the day before. I highly recommend that drive especially during peak tourist season. You will find beauty without having to deal with all of the tourist busses and crazy American drivers who don’t know what they are doing. 🙂

My Ireland journey

The Gift that Launched A Thousand Trips

Dublin: love at first sight

Powerscourt: Surprised by Beauty

Glendalough: My First Love

Waterford: More than Crystal

Blarney: Everything but Kissing the Stone