Cork and Kerry in the Southwest

The counties of Cork and Kerry, located in the southern half of the country, are perhaps the most well-known of Ireland’s tourist destinations.

a coast road how to plan a trip along the wild atlantic way
The Slea Head Drive in County Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: JanMiko.

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The region has been heavily promoted over the years and for North American visitors, the area is almost always on their itinerary.

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The Ring of Kerry. Photo: Getty Images Pro.

Did you know that the Beara Peninsula is located in both of these counties?

The northern part of the peninsula extends from Kenmare to Ardgroom in County Kerry while the rest of it extends into West Cork.

a horse trail on the Beara Peninsula
The Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork. Photo: Arthur Ward for Tourism Ireland.

Below you'll find some information on the more popular spots that attract visitors to Cork and Kerry.

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is actually part of the country’s Wild Atlantic Way, which stretches from the Northern Headlands in County Donegal to the Haven Coast in County Cork.

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Some of the Ring’s most notable sites include the Gap of Dunloe; Kate Kearney’s Cottage; Muckross House Gardens and Traditional Farms; the Skellig Experience Visitor Centre and much more.
Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Tom Archer for Tourism Ireland.

The Dingle Peninsula is a popular destination for tourists visiting Kerry.

The scenery is breathtaking and can be explored by car or on foot.

This area is a treasure trove of monuments dating back 6,000 years ago.

a hut made of stone Cork and Kerry
The Gallarus Oratory is an attraction that you'll find along The Dingle Way long-distance walking trail. Photo: Jupiter Images.

There are over 2,000 sites to see, including beehive huts, stone forts, monastic sites, and the Gallarus Oratory, which is Ireland’s best-preserved early Christian church.

What to See Around Cork

No visit to Cork would be complete without a visit to Blarney Castle and Gardens and the chance to kiss the famous Blarney Stone.

a castle Cork and Kerry
Blarney Castle in Co. Cork. Photo: Tim Thompson for Tourism Ireland.

There is much debate about the origins of the stone but suffice it to say, it generates a lot of interest, and tourists are more than willing to climb the steps of the castle, lean backward, and kiss the infamous stone in the hopes of gaining a bit of the Irish eloquence and charm.

In addition to exploring the castle, visitors can also enjoy its sprawling 60-acre surroundings, including one of the few Poison Gardens in Ireland.

If you’re interested in Ireland’s history of emigration, a visit to the Cobh Heritage Centre is a must.

bronze sculptures of a woman and children Cork and Kerry
Statues at Cobh Harbor in remembrance of the millions of Irish who left from there during the 19th and 20th centuries. Photo: Chris Hill for Tourism Ireland.

The center details the stories of the emigrants who left Ireland during the Great Famine, others who were sent to Australia as convicts or forced into labor in the West Indies, and that of Annie Moore, the first Irish immigrant to be processed at the newly opened Ellis Island in 1892.

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The story of the Titanic’s last stop at Cobh on her maiden voyage to New York is also retold at the heritage center.

The colorful town of Kinsale is not to be missed either. It is West Cork's foodie capital and a delight to visit, with its colorful houses, cute stores, and plenty of history to take in as well.