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Plan Your Southwest Vacation

Ever since Killarney was first "discovered" by William Thackeray and Sir Walter Scott, visitors have been searching for superlatives to describe the deep blue lakes, dark green forests, and purple mountainsides of this romantic region. While modern-day tour-bus traffic and increased visitor numbers have slightly diminished the experience, the appeal of small-scale lake and mountain scenery, the ever-changing light, and the unusual flora and fauna persist—along with the lingering aroma of turf smoke—and the old tales resurrected by the tour guides continue to cast a unique spell.

To be in a hurry in the Southwest is to be ill-mannered. To truly enjoy the amazing array of scenic delights found here, remember that the locals of the Southwest—this region stretches from the Ring of Kerry in the south, the Dingle Peninsula in the west, through Killarney and north to Adare, and Limerick City—are unusually laid-back, even by Irish standards. They still remember what attracted tourists in the first place: uncrowded roads, unpolluted beaches and rivers, easy access to golf, unspoiled scenery, and, above all, time to stop and talk. So take your cue from them and venture onto the back roads. Meander along at your own pace, sampling wayside delights. Before you know it, you'll be far from Killarney town's crowds and in the middle of the region's tranquil and incredibly stunning landscapes.

If Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, there is always the bounty of man-made attractions. Moving northward, scenery becomes less dramatic but much cozier, with Adare's thatched cottages giving the village the reputation as one of Ireland's prettiest. Head up to Limerick and a busy four-lane highway hurls you back into the 21st century. Metropolitan hub of southwestern Ireland (and the republic's third-largest city), Limerick bears the scars of history, most notably from the Siege of Limerick, a face-off with the English that took place in 1691. Its other "scars" of history—described so memorably in Frank McCourt's best seller Angela's Ashes—lure travelers who discover that this is a compact, vibrant city.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. The Ring of Kerry The most brazenly scenic coastal drive in Ireland might have been designed with the visitor in mind—cameras and videos at the ready!
  2. Skellig Michael Take a wet and wonderful ride out to Ireland's most spectacular island, whose twin peaks, crowned with a medieval monastery, beckon to you along the Ring of Kerry.
  3. The Gap of Dunloe A half-day tour lets you walk or ride horseback through the heart of Killarney's purple mountains and cross the glittering blue lake by rowboat.
  4. Adare Discover Ireland's prettiest village by taking a walk past its cute thatched cottages to the banks of the River Maigue, where the remains of priories established by medieval monks still stand.
  5. "Castle Country" Limerick is studded with top attractions like King John's Castle on the banks of the Shannon.

When To Go

When to Go

The best times to visit the Ring of Kerry, Killarney, and Dingle are mid-March to June, and September and October. In July and August it's the...

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