With the MacGillycuddy Reeks (Ireland’s highest mountain range) and Wild Atlantic Way right on your doorstep, Kerry has it all for the avid road cyclist. Escape into vast and winding valleys, feel the fresh ocean breeze on your face and challenge yourself on some of the most breathtaking road climbs in Ireland.
Whether you’re staying at Caragh Lake House or in the Killorglin area, you can forget about the car. These 5 bike routes are door-to-door!
The majority are on roads with little traffic and you’ll see the hidden gems of Kerry… perfect!
STRAVA Map links included.
1: Caragh Lake, Lough Acoose and Killorglin – 41km
A short but picturesque route to start the holiday. After rounding Caragh Lake you venture towards the hills of Glencar. Make sure to stop at Blackstones Bridge, the perfect spot to see the Upper Caragh. In winter the rapids roar under the bridge but in summer the low water reveals the unusual black boulders, which this area is famous for.
From here a steady rise in the road carries you up to the vista of Lough Acoose, which rests under the gaze of Caher, Beenkeragh and Carrauntoohil (Ireland’s three highest mountains). This deep, cold water lake is home to Artic Charr fish, which have stayed with us since the Ice Age.
This is the highest point on the route and from here the pace increases as you gradually drop down to Killorglin for refreshments. Stop at the award winning and bike friendly Jack’s Bakery or climb up the hill through the town to Library Place, where you can eat in the warmth of Zest Café or Café K.
Route Length = 41km • Elevation = 400m • Ride Time = 2 hrs. • Coffee Stop @ 33km
Difficulty = 5/10. • Quiet roads • A great short route to squeeze into a tight schedule!
Strava Map Link – www.strava.com/routes/5873495
2: Ballaghasheen Pass – Cahersiveen – The Wild Atlantic Way – 76km
It’s time to leave your troubles behind and cycle through the vast open valley of upper Glencar. You’ll tackle Ballaghasheen Pass, one of Kerry’s toughest climbs, before descending down the sweeping road to the coastal town of Cahersiveen.
The narrow and winding road up to Glencar, leads you to a quiet and remote valley at the base of Ballaghasheen. It’s a serene, almost Mongolian landscape that is one of Kerry’s secret treasures. It is said that Oisín (son of Fionn MacCumhall) returned here after spending 300 years in Tír Na nÓg. Oisín may have faltered when he got off his horse, but put these thoughts aside as the road rises up ahead of you. This climb of 2.6km, averages 8%, but ramps to 20% in places. The top is seductively quiet and refreshing, as nature’s silence is a rare treat in this busy world.
Having gathered your thoughts and lungs you’ll descent towards Cahersiveen (20km) and a hard-earned coffee. As you enter the town you’ll find “Le Petit Delice” (French Café) or “Café Siveen”, both on opposite sides of the street and both excellent!
Then let the prevailing westerly winds blow you home along The Wild Atlantic Way (N70). Skirting the ocean with the mountainous Dingle peninsula on the horizon, you’ll shortly arrive in the village of Glenbeigh (check out Rossbeigh, a beautiful blue flag beach). 10km later you’ll be back at the water’s edge in Caragh Lake House.
Route Length = 77km • Elevation = 1015m • Ride Time = 4 hrs. • Coffee Stop @ 40km
Difficulty = 6.5/10. • Cahersiveen – Killorglin is a main road so it can be busy in summer.
Strava Map Link – www.strava.com/routes/5880139
3: Gap of Dunloe – Black Valley – Moll’s Gap – Killarney – 95km
This route is without doubt the most visually stunning in Ireland. You will encounter lakes, mountains, epic climbs, sweeping valleys, red deer, sheep, horse-drawn carriages and you’ll continue re-living the experience on the journey home.
Taking the Beaufort road towards the Gap of Dunloe you will arrive at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. This 150-year-old traditional pub welcomes generations of tourists from all over the world who travel to see the famous Gap of Dunloe. Enjoy the ambience and excitement of tourists embarking on foot and in horse-drawn carriages up the Gap.
Weaving around hay-munching horses and tourists with big cameras, you will soon leave the din behind and escape into the solitude of the Gap of Dunloe. It’s a tough but rewarding climb of 5.6km at 3.5% with a short sharp shock in the middle between two huge boulders known locally as “The Two Hags”. The incredible surroundings more than distract you from the effort needed to reach the top. Enjoy the view back down the Gap before descending quickly into the Black Valley.
Forgetting the world’s problems, you’ll meander through the valley floor as mountain peaks surround you on all sides. There is a short but tricky climb of 2.5km @ 5% back up to Moll’s Gap and coffee. The top floor of Avoca Café boasts panoramic views unequalled throughout Ireland. Be revitalized by great coffee and generous desserts whilst watching streams of fellow cyclists come and go from this iconic mountaintop junction.
You’ll soon join them in the fun, as you descend towards Killarney at speed, flowing around tight turns and over narrow bridges. Stay focused on this descent. It is fast, technical and narrow in places.
As you pass a series of tranquil lakes you’ll reach Killarney. Soak up the unique atmosphere of this vibrant town before returning towards Killorglin to Caragh Lake House, tired, but content.
Route Length = 95km • Elevation = 1055m • Ride Time = 5 hrs. • Coffee Stop @ 42km
Difficulty = 7/10. • Can be shortened by starting & finishing in Killarney ( 60km )
Strava Map Link – www.strava.com/routes/7587375
4: Killarney – Moll’s Gap – Ballaghbeama Gap – Caragh Lake – 95km
This exhilarating route brings you through Killarney, past the lakes and national park. You’ll circle the MacGillicuddy Reeks, crossing the mountains twice over Moll’s Gap and Ballaghbeama Gap, before arriving home to Caragh Lake.
Pass through Killorglin taking the Glencar Road before turning left on what locals call The Board of Works Road. This is the scenic and traffic free way to reach the world-famous town of Killarney. Cycling the N71 past the National Park, Lough Leane and the upper Lakes, you’ll tackle Kerry’s most popular climb, Moll’s Gap.
The tougher first half of the climb finishes at Ladies View (a name given by Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting during her 1861 visit), so take stock of the postcard setting before heading for the top of the Gap and the welcome embrace of Avoca Café. Sip coffee and down their generous desserts whilst enjoying the panoramic views. Give a nod to the hoards of cyclists arriving from multiple directions. This mountain top crossroads is the cycling mecca of Munster.
Leaving Moll’s Gap, you take the Sneem road (R568), descending past the glacial Lake Barfinnihy. Turn right after 8km for the second big climb of the day, Ballaghbeama Gap. This is a difficult and dramatic climb of 4.5km at 5% with a grueling last km at 11%.
At the top, the snaking road ahead descends between towering walls of rocks and soil. The only sound is a babbling stream that accompanies you down the steep first km. Take care on this descent as there are some tight turns and enjoy the speedy trip back towards Glencar and the sanctity of Caragh lake. You’ll savor your hard earned evening meal on the lakeside and sleep the sleep of a satisfied cyclist.
Route Length = 95km • Elevation = 1145m • Ride Time = 5 hrs. • Coffee Stop @ 60km
Difficulty = 8/10. • Take care descending Ballaghbeama. The road has some tight bends.
Strava Map Link – www.strava.com/routes/5456955
5: The Ring of Kerry – 175km
Completing this famous route in one day is a right of passage for cyclists in Kerry. Every year in July, 10,000 hardy souls of all levels of fitness take on this now famous charity cycle. It is a great accomplishment and if you have the time it’s a bucket list spin for any cycling group.
Cycle this route clockwise as the majority of the traffic travels anti-clockwise (all tour buses must travel anti-clockwise) and the bulk of the traffic won’t be overtaking you or getting impatient whilst stuck behind you! Cycle to Killarney (on N72 or quieter Beaufort Road) then up and over Moll’s Gap (the toughest climb of the day) on N71 before descending to Kenmare and coffee.
One of the best Cafés around is Mick & Jimmy’s (on Henry Street) but there are lots to choose from. Then follow the signs out-of-town for Sneem on N70. Here you see Kenmare bay and The Atlantic Ocean for the first time and it stays with you for the rest of the days cycling.
Just before Waterville the second big climb of Coomaciste Pass will test your now weary legs. From here it’s downhill to Waterville. You have now turned the corner of this peninsula and are heading to Cahersiveen where stopping in “Le Petit Delice” ( French Café ) or “Café Siveen” will refuel your furnace.
Most of the time Kerry’s prevailing South Westerly wind puts its helping hand on your back and blows you home (40km) along The Wild Atlantic Way. To your left the ocean and the Dingle peninsula stretch out to the west.
The town of Glenbeigh with its Blue Flag Beach signals the last few kms home. If you meet any locals that evening, make sure you tell them you cycled The Ring of Kerry. They’ll be very impressed, as “The Ring” has a special place in every Kerry person’s heart!
Route Length = 175km • Elevation = 1770m • Ride Time = 9 hrs • Coffee Stop @ 65/140km
Difficulty = 9/10. • 3 food stop strategy @ Moll’s Gap – Sneem & Cahersiveen.
Roads can be busy in Summer. Remember to go CLOCKWISE if possible.
Strava Map Link – www.strava.com/routes/6406291
Written by Paul Dolan of Velocitylens. Paul is an avid cyclist and designer based in Kerry. His company Velocitylens produces cycling media – videos, documentaries and web content.