I didn’t plan to drive over Ballaghisheen Pass in County Kerry, Ireland. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed. But, my phone’s map app chose this route as I made my way from Shannon Airport to the Butler Arms Hotel in the small town of Waterville.
I drove Ballaghisheen Pass on a rainy day, and the drive was gorgeous. If the weather is good, I’m sure its beauty only intensifies. If you are exploring County Kerry, I would recommend this alternative Ring of Kerry route on your Ireland road trip. It is also a great addition to the Skellig Ring and Valentia Island driving routes.
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According to GoogleMaps, the Ballaghisheen Pass route is 13 minutes faster from the airport to Waterville, than taking the alternative which directs you along N70. But, if you are like me and get out of the car to take in the landscape or snap photos it will most likely take you around the same time, or a little longer.
If you choose to drive this route, make sure you have enough gas. Once you pass the town of Killorglin, there will be limited services. That also includes bathrooms. I drove straight from the airport and had plenty of gas, so if you happen to be doing the same, you should be okay.
It’s important to note to take your time as the roads are narrow and there are blind corners.
The Beauty of Ireland’s Ballagisheen Pass
Once you leave Killorglin you’ll pass a few small towns and farmsteads with sheep, and as you make your way up to the mountains, the road steadily climbs upward. Once there, the terrain flattens out, and the landscape turns grassy with mountains rising on either side.
I felt like the only person in the world and didn’t expect to pass anyone on the road. Surprisingly, I passed four other cars. Besides them, the only company I had were some stacked peat logs.
Ballaghisheen Pass is noted by a brown sign, and there is parking along the side of the road.
From the pass, you can see the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountains, which are the tallest in Ireland. I read too, that you can also see the Atlantic coastline. Due to the cloud cover on the day I was there, they were shaded from view.
After I’d made it to Waterville, a local told me Ballaghisheen Pass is “not for the faint-hearted, ” especially in the winter. While I felt confident driving it solo with a bit of fall rain and wind, I could see how the experience could change with more dramatic weather conditions. Just for ease of mind, if you plan to drive this route, check the weather or ask a local if there are any conditions on the road you should be aware of.
Driving the Ballaghisheen Pass
Travel Tip: From Killorglin, it took me a little over an hour to make it to Waterville.
Travel Tip: The roads along this route are very narrow with some blind corners so be cautious.
Travel Tip: Heading to Waterville? Read my post What to Do and Where to Stay in Waterville, Ireland.
Getting Around: After spending ten days in Ireland on a solo trip, I have come to the conclusion that a car is a must as there are so many off-the-beaten-path locations you’ll want to visit. I would never have seen Ballaghisheen Pass if I’d used alternative transportation. On this trip, I partnered with Auto Europe and picked up my car at their Shannon Airport Location. Auto Europe guarantees the best Car Rental rates and they work with all major rental companies to get the best deal. Plus, they always find automatics which I needed as I don’t drive a manual. They have lots of great Ireland road trip ideas here.