Kerry Nature Trails

Kerry & Killarney Nature Walks & Trails

Daily activity details

This is a walking / activity based programme (hiking for those emanating from USA).  It is expected that participants will be able to walk for up to 5 or more hours.  The ground underfoot varies from paved road to uneven paths and open mountain, sometimes with steep inclines.  Due to the changeable Irish weather, some activities may have to be modified on the day.

The list below has been drawn up bearing in mind the broad range of weather that is frequently encountered within Ireland.  Even in Summer, it can be cool in the valleys and cold at higher altitudes.  Believe it or not, warm sunshine is also a common feature, which can lead to sunburn surprisingly quickly!

Essential:

  • Rucksack/back pack/day bag (- a plastic liner/bag will help keep contents dry).
  • Good walking boots (waterproof and with ankle support; leather preferable) + thick socks
  • Waterproof/windproof coat/jacket. (Gloves useful in cold conditions.)
  • Waterproof over-trousers/pullovers.
  • Suitable clothes – generally warm but breathable clothes (i.e. trousers, sweater), unless in the rare event of guaranteed good weather!  Note that denim should not be worn (does not retain heat).
  • Hat – either for warmth and/or for sun block.
  • Drink container & possibly packed lunch.
  • First aid containing any medication you may need and some plasters (including blister ones).
  • Sense of fun!

Notes:

Terrain: Mixed trails/paths, occasional open hillside; generally hilly/rocky and likely to be wet underfoot.Estimate average 3 - 4km per hour walking (excluding stops)

Special factors: Average daytime temperatures 12 – 18°C (55– 65°F), but can reach 25°C.  Sunshine and showers are likely.
1 km = 0.6 mile

Each day will commence at approximately 9 am. You should be back at your hotel between 4 - 5 pm. Pickup & drop-off will generally be from:

The Brehon Hotel

 

KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK (MUCKROSS PENINSULA)

This walk is within the heart of the Killarney National Park.  The emphasis here is on exploring one of the few remaining large stands of ancient native woodlands left in Ireland.  We will commence at the spectacular Torc Waterfall, in the vicinity of which grows the rare Killarney Fern.  From here we walk via Muckross House and link up with a looped trail taking us through ancient Oak and magical Yew woodlands.   This lush environment, carpeted with mosses and lichens, lies along a geological fault-line.  Owing to this, the largest Yew woodland in Europe, growing on limestone bedrock, is intermingled with ancient Oak trees on hardier, older sandstone.  These environmental conditions, along with the relatively mild climate of Kerry, have resulted in a diverse array of plant-life, many of which are quite rare and restricted to the region.   The trail meanders through this woodland and along the shores of the lower and middle lakes of Killarney.

This walk offers the option of visiting Dinis Cottage café and the fast flowing “Meeting of the Waters” where the waters from the lower (L. Lein) and middle (Muckross L.) lakes of Killarney meet.  (Alternatively / additionally Muckross House can be toured along with the gardens and a working farm centre.  This majestic estate house was built in the mid. 19th century and entertained many important visitors, most notably Queen Victoria of England.  Its renowned semi-formal gardens, with a myriad of Rhododendron varieties and an arboretum, overlook Muckross Lake.  However, this is worth giving some time to, and probably best left for another day.)  

The final leg of this trail continues back to the hotel along the shores of Lough Lein, amid Oakwood and parkland, via the monastic ruins of the historic Muckross Abbey.

Distance 12 - 14km (additional 1km return to Brickeen Bridge;
2km return to Dinis)
Elevation 50m
Difficulty Easy / Medium
Duration 4-5 hours walking

Cost

€50 / €60 p.p. (with return transport)

 

KILLARNEY LAKES TRIP AND GAP OF DUNLOE

This excursion involves a boat trip travelling up through the three lakes of Killarney.  This spectacular journey has occurred for generations.  The traditional open boats are still used, but you will be glad to know nowadays you don’t need to row!  However, you may well be required to disembark the boat for a brief period while the boatman skilfully steers the vessel through the “Meeting of the Waters” where the water flow can be quite vigorous.   The journey takes you past Inis Faithleann (renowned for monastic scholars in medieval times), through woodland, open bogland, narrow river channels and past where Golden Eagles used to nest.  Today, you may be lucky to spot one of the resident White-tailed Eagles, while Red Deer roam within the forests and mountain moorland.

The boat journey finishes at Lord Brandon’s Cottage (an old hunting lodge), where some refreshments can be had.  After that, you will have to do some work in the form of walking up and through the spectacular, glaciated Gap of Dunloe valley.  This narrow road is mostly used by horse and traps and has little motor traffic.  At the far end of The Gap, there will be a stop at the popular Kate Kearney’s Cottage (pub, restaurant and shop). For those who want little exercise, a pony and trap can be taken from Lord Brandon’s Cottage to Kate Kearney’s Cottage.  However, you will still be required to walk the steep parts of the climb.

For smaller groups (c. 5 people) there is an option of cycling through the Gap of Dunloe and back to Killarney, skirting by the lower Killarney lake (Lough Lein). 

Distance 10km Lord Brandon’s Cottage to Kate Kearney’s Cottage; 15 km additional if cycling (Kate Kearney’s – Killarney)
Elevation 200m
Difficulty Medium
Duration 5 hours (including 2 hours boat journey)

Cost

 

€73 p.p. (excluding pony & trap option)

 

OLD KENMARE ROAD

The Old Kenmare Road leaves the present road (by which it was replaced c. 1830), about 1.5 km south of Killarney town.  It passes between Torc and Mangerton mountains, linking again with the current road near Galway’s Bridge and Derrycunnihy woodland. 

This trail involves a walk across the heathlands and bogs blanketing the mountains of Kerry.  A number of options can be taken.  The preferred route is commencing at the old, Oak woodlands of Derrycunnihy and following the route of the “Old Kenmare Road” either to Kenmare or back to Killarney.  This trail snakes through the mountains amid undisturbed natural mountain habitats, save for the occasional sheep and herd of native Red Deer.  There are dramatic views of the lakes of Killarney and the MacGillycuddy Reeks. 

We will pass Friar’s Glen, where legend has it that treasures from Muckross Abbey (abandoned in mid-17th century) are hidden.   We will also stall at Ladies View, which was named in 1861 by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting as the finest view in the land.  This panorama takes in the three Lakes of Killarney, the McGillycuddy Reeks (including Ireland’s highest mountain – Carrauntuohil) and the upper end of the Gap of Dunloe.

This is an exposed mountain walk and good waterproof clothing and shoes are essential.  It is not a paved route and involves traversing uneven mountain ground.  The exact route may depend on weather conditions.   

There is an option heading south to Kenmare, rather than north-east to Killarney from the starting point.  Although, this leg has a slightly higher ascent, there second half of this route is along paved, country roads.  If this is the preferred option, then there will be time to enjoy this pretty, lively market town nestled on the shores of Kenmare Bay.

Distance 10-11 km
Elevation 290 – 320m (Kenmare option)
Difficulty Medium-hard
Duration 5 hours

Cost

€ 58 / € 64 p.p. (Kenmare option)

 

TORC MOUNTAIN OPTION

This is a shorter option than above.  This trail commences at the beginning of the Old Kenmare Road for a couple of kilometres.  However, instead of continuing along this route, we digress and climb Torc Mountain.  Although the elevation is reasonably high, the track up the mountain continues in switch-backs, with wetter parts traversed along railway sleepers (ties).  From the mountain summit, there is a stunning, relatively close-up panorama of the Killarney Valley and lakes, the Black Valley, Eagle’s Nest (where Golden Eagles used to live) and the surrounding mountains. 

Distance 7 km to summit and return to carpark. 
(However, there are other variations i.e. (i) 3km additional to Muckross House from Old Kenmare Road carpark; (ii) 3km to Dinis from summit; (iv) plus 4 km further from Dinis to Muckross around Muckross Lake)
Elevation 535m
Difficulty Medium-hard
Duration 3.5 - 5 hours

Cost

€ 58 p.p.

 

 

BLACK VALLEY

This trail travels to the upper end of the glaciated Killarney valleys, which secretly nestle at the base of the McGillycuddy Reeks.  This is a land where time drops slowly by, sparsely populated by subsistence farmers and unspoilt by commercial tourism.  You are more likely to be deafened by the bleating of Black-face mountain sheep than the roar of an engine!  The route passes through native Oak woodland, fast flowing rivers and waterfalls, lakes, bogland and traditional farmland.

The day commences along a woodland track through old, Oak woodland.  We will pass Queen’s Cottage (now a ruin), before crossing the picturesque Galway’s River.  After emerging from the woodland, the trail continues amid open bogland to the shores of the Upper Killarney Lake.  Here, we can stall at Lord Brandon’s Cottage.   This was a former hunting lodge and now serves as a rest stop and café.

We then follow the Gearhameen River along paved, country roads into the Black Valley.  This was the last location in Ireland to get electricity in the 1970s.  In living memory, it also did not have any Christian church.  As such, the locals used to carry the bodies of the bereaved, over a mountain pass to Beaufort Village, on the far side of the Reeks for burial.  The route continues into the secluded Cummeenduff Glen and associated lakes.  This is really a land apart, rarely visited except for the sporadic hill walker, where ancient “rock art” has been inscribed in times past.  Our journey takes us in a loop of this valley back to the Black Valley church and Youth Hostel. 

Distance 17 km (to Hostel)
Elevation 100m
Difficulty Medium, but longish
Duration 4-5 hours

Cost

€62 p.p.

 

TOMMIES WOOD

This trail comprises a walk through ancient Oak woodlands overlooking Killarney’s lower and largest lake (Loch Lein).  The many lake islands can be viewed including Innisfallen, which was the location of a monastic settlement, renowned throughout Europe as a place learning and enlightenment.  It is from this island that Loch Lein takes its name (translated as “The Lake of Learning”).  We will also visit the secluded, but most impressive O’ Sullivan’s Cascade.   There is the option on this trip to take a boat across the lake from this cascade to Ross Castle, at the periphery of Killarney town.

There are several types of woodland in the Killarney area.  Those closest to the big houses at Muckross and Knockreer mostly comprise ornamental trees imported from other countries to enhance the gardens and grounds.  Along some of the mountain slopes (e.g. Torc), there are conifer plantations of pine, spruce and fir trees which were mostly planted by the State for commercial and social purposes.  On Muckross peninsula there is Oak wood and also a famous Yew wood which are both native species.  Being close to Muckross House, there are still a number of ornamental species intermixed in these woods.  However, away from the big houses, on mountain sides are oakwoods that closely resemble the natural, native woods of Ireland.  Tomies Wood is a fine example of one such wood.   This natural oakwood is dominated by Sessile Oak, with frequent Holly trees beneath.  Other trees which can be found include Birch, Hazel and Rowan, and occasional Yew and Arbutus.  On the ground, Bilberry, Woodrush, grass and ferns typically occur.  Beneath this again, there is a luxuriant layer of mosses forming a lovely carpet of the woodland floor, covering the rocks and tree trunks, bestowing a magical, other-worldly aura.

Distance 5-8 km
Elevation 200m
Difficulty Medium
Duration 2-3 hours

Cost

€60 p.p.

 

MANGERTON (DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL)

Mangerton is the highest mountain in the Killarney National Park.  This is a climb along an unpaved, uneven, rough (& often wet) mountain, sheep track to the corrie lake named the Devil’s Punchbowl.  There are superb views of the Killarney Lakes and fells celebrated in song.  There is an option to go to all the way to the top of Mangerton Mountain for those who want a bigger challenge.  However, this is weather dependent, as the mountain top can be clouded in mist.

Distance 10-12 km
Elevation 670 – 839 m
Difficulty Medium-hard
Duration 3 - 4.5 hours

Cost

€58 p.p.

 

ROSSBEIGH HILL & BEACH

This walk encompasses the a circuit and ascent of Rossbeigh Hill from which you can view the 19 tops of the Glenbeigh Horseshoe, scalloped at its southern head by great cooms carved out during the last Ice Age.  There is a stunning panorama of the almost 3 mile spit, beach & sand dunes of Rossbeigh.  If you look hard enough, you may even spot the “magic wave” within Dingle Bay on which the legendary Oisin travelled to the “land of eternal youth” (Tír na nÓig).  The trail takes in forestry, pleasant country roads and the sandy expanse of Rossbeigh beach, with its ever present roller waves.  At the time of writing, the wreck of the Sunbeam can be viewed along the beach.  This merchant boat ran aground in a storm in January 1903, and has since remained mostly buried in the beach sands.

Distance 9-12 km
Elevation 261 m
Difficulty Medium
Duration 3 - 4 hours

Cost

€68 p.p.

 

DINGLE COAST & TOWN

This option comprises a trip to the bustling fishing and tourist town of Dingle.   The spectacular Dingle Peninsula with its ancient fields, round forts and beehive huts, affords views of the Blasket and Skellig islands within the Atlantic Ocean.  This part of the country is one of the few remaining areas where the Irish language is regularly spoken.  The trip will also include a coastal walk around Smerwick Harbour at the furthest end of the peninsula.  There will be time given to strolling amid the vibrant town of Dingle, with its quaint harbour and ample share of top class restaurants.  With luck the resident “Dingle Dolphin” (Fungie) may be sighted.  This is a full day trip and comprises a 1.5 hour each way bus journey to the Dingle Peninsula.

Cost

€100 p.p.

 

COME DINE WITH US!

We would like to invite you to join us in a meal and relaxation in our home near Beaufort, under 10km from Killarney  If the weather permits, you can take in the view of the Gap of Dunloe and Macgillycuddy Reeks Mountains encompassing Ireland’s highest mountain (Carrauntoohil) from the comfort of our dining room.  After a home cooked meal and refreshments, you can unwind any way you please; hopefully with some music and song.

Duration 7-10 pm

Cost

€28 p.p.
(+ €10 transport if required)

 

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+353 (0)64 6624577
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