Why Portmagee is the Best Kept Secret in Kerry, Ireland [2023]

Portmagee may be just a tiny fishing village along the Ring of Kerry route, but it offers breathtaking scenery and a serene ambiance for the perfect escape. In this post I will tell you all about it and why it’s an underrated destination and must-visit in the famous region.

I stayed in Portmagee for three nights, which was enough to explore this small village and the surrounding attractions including a boat trip to Skelling Island, a full day in the nearby Valentia island (so much to see there as well), and a road trip around the Skellig ring with a stop at the amazing Kerry’s cliffs.

I also tried the famous Bridge Bar for great local cuisine and live music (make sure you make a reservation, though!)

So without further ado, let’s dive into it and discover the beauties of Portmagee and why you should absolutely visit this cute little village.

Portmagee village harbor
Portmagee Harbor

Table of Contents

Is Portmagee worth a visit?

Portmagee, in general, has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. And even though it may not be as exciting and lively as Dublin or Galway, this fishing village shows a different perspective on Ireland. It portrays the country’s coastal lifestyle and authentic culture beautifully.

Furthermore, Portmagee is known as a gateway to the renowned Skellig Ring, the ancient monastic settlement of Skellig Michael, as well as the fascinating Valentia Island, making it a great place to visit when road-tripping along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Additionally, Portmagee has breathtaking surroundings of lush greenery and stunning beaches, and the village features a picturesque harbor, colorful traditional houses, and a handful of vibrant pubs, quaint cafes, and restaurants serving delicious, hearty Irish dishes.  

So, yes, all in all, Portmagee is definitely a destination worth having on your bucket list for your trip to the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. 

Portmagee Ireland Map 

What is the history of Portmagee Ireland?

Portmagee’s history can be traced back to ancient times, with evidence of early settlement and traces of prehistoric stone ring forts in the surrounding area. 

Later, in the medieval period, Portmagee became a significant port for the locals due to its excellent geographical location. It was used both for fishing and trade. In fact, the village took its name from Captain Theobald Magee, who built a jetty in the 18th century to enhance the port’s facilities and promote trade. 

However, Portmagee is mostly notable for its connection to the nearby Skellig Michael, an isolated monastic community on the nearby Skellig Island. The monastery flourished in the 13th century and is now a UNESCO-listed attraction. You can visit Skellig Michael Island by tour only.

Amazing view of the Skellig Island.
Skellig Michael Island tour

13 Things to Do in Portmagee

1. Skellig Ring scenic drive

Skellig Ring is undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives along the iconic Ring of Kerry, with plenty of unexpected surprises. 

With Portmagee as the starting point, first, you can visit the impressive Kerry Cliffs, which are also the best spot to marvel at the Skellig Islands. 

After capturing stunning photos of magnificent rugged coastline landscapes, venture towards St. Finian’s Bay for a lovely beach escape with gorgeous Atlantic Ocean views, as well as a chocolate factory to give a sweet touch to your drive.

Skellig Ring’s last stop is Ballinskelligs, a small seaside village home to a blue flag-awarded sandy beach and ruins of a castle and monastery while crossing beautiful rural landscapes with picturesque villages and stunning natural beauty. 

Skellig ring scenic drive
Skellig ring scenic drive

How long does it take to drive the Skellig Ring?

The Skellig Ring Drive takes only about thirty minutes. However, when adding several stops, such as the Kerry Cliffs, St. Finian’s Bay, Skelligs Chocolate Factory, and Ballinskelligs, you can spend from a half day to a full day exploring this stunning pass.

2. Boat cruise to Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael, an ancient monastic settlement on Skellig Island, is one of the top attractions in County Kerry. Surrounded only by water, the settlement was the perfect home for ascetic monks seeking isolation, enlightenment, and peace. 

Today, Skellig Michael is famous for the ruins of the monastery, well-preserved beehive-style huts, stone stairs, and steep lush green slopes. Furthermore, the island was used as a filming set for the new Star Wars trilogy, making it a fascinating location for film enthusiasts.

Apart from the monastery, Little Skellig, the smaller island is home to abundant wildlife, such as northern gannets, gray seals, basking sharks, minke whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. 

Therefore, Skellig Islands are an excellent destination for those seeking a day spent among stunning natural beauty and exciting wildlife and those intrigued by Ireland’s early history.

Portmagee boat tour
Boat tour in Portmagee

How long is the boat trip from Portmagee to Skellig Michael?

As a UNESCO-listed destination, Skellig Islands is often part of many Ireland itineraries, but not everyone is fortunate enough to secure a spot on one of the Skellig Michael landing tours.

Landing tours to the island are usually run only in the peak season, specifically between mid-May and the end of September. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that these trips are weather-dependent, so often cancellations may occur.

Therefore, it is best to book a boat trip in advance. Usually, the boat trip from Portmagee to Skellig Michael lasts about one hour, while the tour allows visitors approximately 2 to 3 hours on the island.

Skelling Michael landing tour

A particular note is due for this tour because you should read the tour conditions and inclusion before booking. Here is the official page for Skellig Michael land tour e where you can read the information and book your tour.

If you just want to do a boat tour around the island and see it from the boat then you have quite a bit of options and there is more flexibility.

3. Visit the Kerry Cliffs

Whether you’re planning to venture along the Skellig Ring, a major highlight that shouldn’t be missed is the Kerry Cliffs. 

Rising 300 meters over the Atlantic Ocean, these rugged cliffs offer dramatic ocean views and a breathtakingly raw perspective of natural beauty. 

Furthermore, on clear sky days, Kerry Cliffs is the best spot to witness the beauty of Skellig Michael. So, this is undoubtedly an excellent location to capture magnificent photos of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Kerry Cliffs
Kerry Cliffs

The Kerry cliffs are located on a private property and the entrance fee is 5 Euros. Also drones are not allowed.

Kerry Cliffs opening hours: Monday – Sunday 9.30 am – 5pm

In the premises there is a food truck where you can purchase delicious food and beverages. Also, you have the opportunity to camp if you like.

4. Skelligs Chocolate Factory

Skelligs Chocolate Factory is an excellent destination for an alternative experience on the Ring of Kerry. It offers an adventure through taste!

Located in Ballinskelligs, the factory offers the opportunity to witness the process of making delicious chocolate, which you can then taste. So, this is undoubtedly a fantastic activity for all chocolate fans and families with children. 

The factory also features a charming cafe with a delicious tasting menu of various flavors, such as Vanilla, Ganache, Strawberry, Champagne, Cognac, and Cappuccino. 

Additionally, during summer, they serve the delightful Lemon Truffle in white chocolate and tropical Tequila Sunrise in milk chocolate, while in the winter months, you can choose from warm flavors such as Irish Coffee and Hot Toddy with Chilli.

5. Portmagee whiskey

For whiskey lovers, this is a great opportunity to visit a local producer. Funny thing is that I don’t love whiskey and I was staying in a house rented by the owner of the company, so the place was right behind my house, and never visited 🙈.

But I wanted to mention it here because it is a very important aspect of the local business and culture and you may want to take a tour. Here is the link to the Portmagee whiskey paga.

5. Fishing and Angling at Portmagee

As mentioned earlier, Portmagee has been a hub for fishing since medieval times. So, if you’re a fishing and angling fanatic, you’re in for a treat. 

The most caught fish here are the blue runners, the tarpon, the cobia fish, and the red snapper, which you can try your hand at catching with the help of experts on fishing boat tours and workshops. 

Furthermore, you can try some of the most famous fishing techniques like heavy trolling for pollock, tips on material for support fishing for sea bream, the bichi-bachi, or fishing for sea bass while surfcasting.

However, be aware that fishing depends on season and weather conditions, so always check the forecast before your trip.

Portmagee overview
View of Portmagee from the Kerry Cliffs

6. Beach Day at Reencaheragh Beach

Less than a 10-minute drive from Portmagee, you’ll find Reencaheragh Beach, a gorgeous secluded beach that showcases the Emerald Isle’s raw beauty perfectly.

Furthermore, the soft white sand, azure waves crashing on the rocky terrain, the backdrop of lush green hills, and the serene ambiance make the beach the best destination for a tranquil stroll to escape the hustle and bustle of Ireland’s lively towns.

So, overall, Reencaheragh Beach is a beautiful destination to seek some quiet and peace with your partner or an adventurous trip with your kids and furry friends. 

Ballinskelligs Beach along the skellig ring
Ballinskelligs Beach along the skellig ring

7. Hike at Coomanaspig Mountain

Coomanaspig Mountain, or Pass along the Skellig Ring, is about 10 minutes from Portmagee by car and is often described as one of the highest places in Ireland to be reached by car. 

The mountain is quite steep, so it presents an excellent opportunity for those seeking high-adrenaline activities and brave enough to reach the top. And once you arrive at the top, you will be treated to astonishing views unparalleled in the country.

In fact, you can see sweeping views of lush landscapes across beautiful Valentia Island and ranging as far as Dingle and the Beara Peninsula on a clear day.

So, with the ascent to the pass as an adventurous activity, the mountain’s gorgeous panoramic views, and its close proximity to Portmagee, Coomanaspig is a must-visit spot.

Skelling Ring Road
on the way to Coomanaspig Mountain

8. Explore the village’s local shops and crafts

Portmagee may be a small fishing village, but it has plenty of shops with local products, crafts, and art to explore. From cozy cafes with charming ambiance to the bustling farmer’s market with the fresh catch of the day and homemade treats, you’ll surely discover something unique. 

But a must-visit shop all travelers greatly love is Cois Cuain Gift Shop, a lively shop that promises to bring to this tiny village a flair of choice. But also, with its charming rustic facade and inviting atmosphere, the shop creates a unique but authentic Irish experience. 

The shop features a treasure trove of carefully curated gifts and souvenirs that beautifully reflect the essence of the surrounding environment. From intricate handmade crafts showcasing local artisans’ talents to stunning pieces of traditional Irish jewelry, there is something to find and cherish.

Portmagee shops
Portmagee shops

9. Enjoy the live music at the Bridge Bar

When in a small town in Ireland, a must-do activity is immersing in the country’s culture. An excellent way to do that is by enjoying a night outing at a local pub with lively folk music. 

The Bridge Bar is a popular spot both for locals and tourists due to its fun-filled atmosphere with traditional music and dancers, making this tiny village come alive every Friday and Sunday night.

Additionally, in summertime, the bar features many other traditional Irish dances, as well as artists from across the region showcasing County Kerry’s talent.

So, if you want to experience Ireland’s culture through art, the Bridge Bar is the place to be!

Valentia Island panoramic views
Valencia Island Panoramic views from Bray the Head Loop Walk

11. Go on a day trip to Valentia Island

Just a short drive or ferry ride from Portmagee, Valentia Island is a fantastic destination with stunning landscapes, rugged cliffs, and untamed beauty. 

If you’re visiting by ferry, you’ll arrive at Knighstown’s port, a charming coastal village with quaint streets lined up with delightful cafes, restaurants, and a picturesque waterfront.

Then, make your way to the iconic 19th-century Slate Quarry that was once supplying high-quality roofing slate to destinations worldwide. Explore the remnants of the quarry, including towering cliffs and deep debris, and marvel at the stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

If you’re feeling adventurous, venture along Geokaun Mountain to wander through its unique landscape and climb

Bray Head Loop Walk (Valentia Island)

Amongst the things to do on Valentia Island the Bray Head Loop Walk is an easy walk that you can do in a couple of hours.

Drive along the bridge from Portmagee towards Valentia Island and venture towards the Bray Head walk.

The walk is linear, there-and-back, with breathtaking views over the Iveragh peninsula and Puffin Island. Furthermore, along the climb, you’ll notice several attractions, such as ruined stone buildings and crosses dating to the early Christian times and the Bray Head Watchtower.

Once you arrive at the top, you can marvel at magnificent ocean views and the stunning Skellig Islands, and if you’re lucky, you can even catch sight of dolphins and whales. I didn’t 🙁

11. Witness Portmagee festival and events

Portmagee set dancing and music festival

For over 20 years, Portmagee has been home to the Annual Traditional Irish Set Dancing and Music Weekend on the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Throughout the festival, you can witness various performances of folk dances such as step dancing, jig dancing, sean nós dancing, céilí dance, and Irish tap dancing. Also, several live music sessions occur within the Bridge Bar and other venues.

Other activities you can indulge in are a Set Dance Workshop and a “Mighty” Céilí with a class céilí band.

Old Year’s Night

Since 1727, Portmagee has celebrated the new year a little differently after witnessing a unique way of welcoming the new year by a French crew of a Kinsale brig that landed in the village’s port.

On New Year’s Eve, when the locals were retiring for the night, the French crew started marching through the village’s streets holding torches led by a piper. 

In the center of the marching men was a man with a shaggy appearance. As they returned to the pier, a shot rang out loudly, with the man falling down as if he were dead. 

Suddenly, a young man with proper attire and a top hat appeared, leading the march once again within the village. The young man explained then to the villagers that the march symbolized the year gone by and the year that had just begun.

And so since then, Portmagee has celebrated in a very unique way the Old Year’s Night.

Coastal road to Portmagee
Coastal Road to Portmagee

Where to eat in Portmagee

The Moorings Guesthouse and Seafood Restaurant

Located in the heart of Portmagee and with the ocean at its doorstep, the Moorings Restaurant offers delectable seafood cuisine in a cozy and lively ambiance with unusual memorabilia and unique antiques.

The menu is rich in Irish specialties based on the availability of the best quality of local produce. So, expect to sample from delicious artisan to homemade brown bread to the freshest fish and shellfish.

The restaurant is open only from April to October.

Fisherman’s Bar & Skellig Restaurant Portmagee

Fishermen’s Bar and Restaurant is a family-operated eatery established in 2003 with the promise to serve the most delicious and freshest fresh fish to locals and tourists. Today, with a lively atmosphere and warm hospitality, the restaurant has become one of the finest spots in the village to taste hearty Irish cuisine.

A must-try dish at the restaurant is the seafood platter, a combination of local delicacies such as muscles, crab, prawns, fried fish filet, and smoked salmon, as well as salad and chips.

Skellig Rock Café

Offering a variety of dishes, Skellig Rock Cafe is a lively spot in Portmagee for delicious meals, from traditional Irish breakfasts and sandwiches and snacks to fresh seafood and desserts. 

Furthermore, the restaurant’s lively ambiance, central location, and locally friendly staff make it an excellent spot to enjoy a hearty meal while relishing the beautiful scenery. 

to the top of its majestic cliffs for breathtaking views that will leave you in awe.

Kerry Cliffs Bay

How do you get to Portmagee?

Flights to Portmagee

The nearest airport to Portmagee is the Kerry Airport, which is about 80 km away from the village. The airport offers regular flights from Dublin, London, Manchester, and several other European cities. 

Another alternative is to fly to Shannon Airport or Cork Airport, which offers a wider range of international flights but requires additional travel time.

You can pick up a rental car from any airport but I recommend you prebook your car on a trustworthy site (see more what I think about renting a car in Ireland in the next section).

Driving or renting a car

As I mentioned before, the best and most convenient way to reach Portmagee is by driving or renting a car. You can fly into Dublin, and rent a car from there, like I did, or you can fly into the nearest airport if you are in a hurry.

But you should know that distances in Ireland are not that big and driving in Ireland is amazing, both for the beautiful roads and the spectacular landscapes you will see.

If you’re traveling from within Ireland, the easiest route is taking the N70 and R565, which lead you directly to Portmagee. Specifically, the village sits on R565 and is the beginning of Skellig Ring, a short detour from the famous Ring of Kerry.

If you’re planning to rent a car in Ireland, it is best to book one in advance and pick it up at the airport. I have been using NewWay car rental because they have reasonable rates that include the full insurance.

However, if you are coming from the US chances are you already have a car insurance included in your credit card so you may want to check out other car rentals that offer the option of excluding the full insurance.

You can find them in Discover Cars, a company that I have always recommended for the amazing variety of options and their incredibly high reviews score.

Best Car Rental Deals w/ Free Cancellation, Compare & Save! | Discover Cars

Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!

Public Transport

Public transportation is a hassle-free and budget-friendly way to reach Portmagee. The most convenient option is to take a bus. For instance, Bus Eireann operates regular routes that pass through Portmagee. 

From major cities like Dublin, Cork, or Limerick, you can take a bus to Cahersiveen, and from there, take another bus or a taxi to reach Portmagee. 

However, if you plan to use public transportation, it’s important to check the bus schedules in advance as they vary depending on the season. Furthermore, bus services may have limited availability during weekends or public holidays.

Where to stay in Portmagee 

I stayed in a private home because I prefer the privacy it gives me, the extra space and the washing machine because I travel for long periods of time, otherwise if it’s only for a few days there are a few hotel options in Portmagee, as listed below.

Hotel: The Moorings Hotel & Seafood Restaurant

The moorings hotel room
The Moorings Hotel Room – Photo © The Moorings Guest house

Located by Portmagee’s picturesque harbor, the Moorings Guesthouse features elegant rooms with luxurious hot tubs and king-sized beds for a relaxing and unforgettable stay.

Also, the Moorings Guesthouse is famous for its exceptional restaurant serving delicious, fresh seafood, while the Bridge Bar hosts fun nights with traditional Irish music and dancing. Make sure you reserve your spot in advance, even in high season. 😜

Our room was spectacular. Three windows looked out on the harbor and the island just beyond it. The decor was the nicest of the hotels we’ve stayed in on this trip. It was spacious and comfortable.”


Bed and Breakfast: Seagull Cottage B&B

Seagull Cottage
Seagull Cottage breakfast room

Situated just outside Portmagee, Seagull Cottage is a lovely bed and breakfast with cozy rooms featuring a kitchenette, a private bathroom with a walk-in shower, and free toiletries.

Furthermore, the inn features free private parking, a lovely garden with a picnic area, a daily breakfast buffet with continental and vegetarian options, and an excellent location for those wishing to explore the wider region of Portmagee, as well as Skellig Islands.

Clean, comfortable, convenient location for Skellig with a great continental breakfast


Budget: Skellig Port Accommodation (2 bedroom apartment)

Skellig Port Accommodation is a cozy 2 bedroom apartment located at a walking distance from Portmagee port. It’s very nicely decorated and it includes all the facilities you need, plus a hot tub and a terrace with spectacular seaviews.

Great location for doing the Skelig tour. Well stocked kitchen, friendly, helpful host, cute apartment with 2bd, 2ba, and common kitchen/living area


Best time to visit Portmagee

The best time to visit Portmagee is between May and September when the weather is pleasant and the days are long and often sunny. It is the best time to enjoy activities like hiking, cycling, and discovering hidden gems within the area without worrying about weather conditions. 

Furthermore, during this period, it is possible to visit Skellig Michael since landing boat tours don’t operate all year round.

I was there in July and I was lucky that the sea conditions were good enough for the tour to take place, but the sea was kind of rough and I got seasick. I was told that it can get canceled sometimes if the sea is too rough. The guides themselves, who live on the island will inform the port of Portmagee every morning if the tour can be done, according to the weather conditions.

Portmagee at sunset
Watching the sunset from the port is another must-thing to do in Portmagee

My personal Tips for visiting Portmagee Ireland

Some practical tips to remember before going to Portmagee include booking accommodation, rental cars, and tours in advance, especially tours to Skellig Michael, checking public transportation and events or festivals’ schedules, and being prepared for changeable weather by bringing layers and waterproof clothing.

Another essential thing to remember is to respect the area’s unspoiled natural beauty.

Also if you have time, I would consider an extra day where you don’t have to rush around to see everything but take a lazy day to hang out in the port and walk along the bridge to Valencia island taking in all the spectacular views.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did Portmagee get its name?

Portmagee got its name from Captain Theobald Magee, a notorious pirate and smuggler who found refuge in the village during the 18th century.

Kerry's cliffs close up
Kerry’s cliffs close up

What is the closest airport to Portmagee?

The closest airport is Kerry Airport and is about 80 km away from Portmagee.

Where is the best place to see the Skellig Islands?

The best place to see the Skellig Islands from the mainland is the Kerry Cliffs.

Where is the best place to see the Kerry Cliffs?

The best place to see the Kerry Cliffs is the Skellig Ring, a scenic route with Portmagee as the starting point. 

Panoramic view of the Kerry cliffs
Kerry cliffs panoramic views

Final Thoughts: Portmagee Kerry

Portmagee was one of my favorite spot during my first trip in Ireland and I can’t wait to go back, so beautiful it was!! It’s less touristy but it offers a unique and unforgettable experience for all visitors.

From its breathtaking natural landscapes to its rich cultural heritage, it’s a tiny village that gives a glimpse of the Ring of Kerry’s extraordinary beauty. 

So, if you are in Kerry, don’t forget to include Portmagee in your itinerary.