Hike the Kerry Way, Kenmare to Killarney, Ireland
Scott and I just finished our week-long hike of the Beara Way, and enjoyed a nice day of rest in Kenmare. The town is a perfect place to recharge, with a laundromat and plenty of restaurants and accommodations.
Kenmare is a small town full of charm and history. Only a short walk from town center is the Kenmare Stone Circle, a fairy tree, and Cromwell’s Bridge.
Our plan was to hike from Kenmare over the mountains, through the Killarney National Park, and into the city of Killarney.
This hike is stage nine on the Kerry Way. It is the most popular long-distance waymarked trail in Ireland, as well as the longest at 134 miles.
Stage nine is rated moderate to strenuous in difficulty and is 16 miles long.
No Reason to Wake Up Early
We learned quickly as we hiked through Ireland not to bother starting out too early. It was unlikely we could get coffee before 8:00 a.m. in most small towns.
This day was no different, as we waited for the local French coffee shop Maison Gourmet, to open at 8:00. We were the first customers of the day and enjoyed coffee and delicious, fresh croissants. After our small breakfast, we stopped at a market to buy apples and bananas for our hike.
Our Hike on the Kerry Way
Slowly, we made our way out of town. The sky was grey and the temperature cool.
Soon, sweat dripped down our faces as we climbed out of town through the neighborhoods on Old Kenmare Road.
Eventually, the road became dirt and we could see only mountains and no more homes. We walked along quietly as it began to drizzle rain. The views behind us of the Kenmare area displayed the beautiful, green farmland, as far as the eye could see.
Suddenly, a woman on horseback sped by, followed by her black dog, who sprinted like the wind. Our hoods were up over our heads against the rain and we never even heard her approach.
It began to rain harder and I wondered what in the heck we were doing? Who chooses to hike over mountains in the rain? At the top we didn’t even stop to rest, the wind blew the rain in a slant at our faces. I was focused one foot in front of the other, with my goal to get off the mountain.
We made our way between Peakeen and Knockanaguish Mountains and into the Windy Gap.
The descent was a special challenge as water went downhill, and turned the trail into a creek.
I have to mention the apple I snacked on as I walked. Almost every day we ate apples as we hiked. The apples in Ireland are by far the most delicious I have tasted anywhere in the world. They are sweet and tart at the same time and taste like candy!
Killarney National Park
After we descended the mountain, we unknowingly entered Killarney National Park. The uplands of the park were wide open plains surrounded by towering mountains.
We followed our way waymarked trail. It was so peaceful and quiet, with not a soul to be seen. Only a few native red deer were scattered across the hillsides.
The Enchanted Forest
Later, we turned onto another trail which took us up into a forest. Green moss covered every tree and rock. It was gorgeous. The rain had stopped and it was unbelievably peaceful. This is why we hike, I thought as my rain gear slowly dried out.
In the forest I imagined fairies and trolls, it was the perfect place for my imagination to run wild.
A few minutes later we passed a couple hiking in the opposite direction. Then, another group of six teenagers and an adult. Civilization must be near we thought.
The Muddy Bog
How wonderful to hike in a national park where they try to protect the land! We were beyond happy to see railroad ties and narrow boardwalks over the muddy bog areas of the trail. We may be wet, but not covered in mud!
Scott randomly found a credit card next to the trail and worried it must have been lost by a hiker. (Later in the day in Killarney, Scott turned it into the bank where they would call the owner right away.)
All Down Hill
We stopped to take a break at the Cores Cascade, a small waterfall just off the trail. A perk of hiking in Ireland? Seeing waterfalls every day.
It was a gradual descent for the rest of the afternoon, usually near the Owengarrif River. At one point we could see far below to the lakes of Killarney.
Finally, we entered the section of Killarney National Park which was more populated near the Torc Waterfall. First, we descended many stairs which lead us to the magnificent falls. The Torc Waterfall is about 80 feet high and is truly beautiful. Unfortunately, our cell phones couldn’t capture the size and beauty of the falls to do it justice. It was a pretty spot, popular with tourists and a must-see attraction in Killarney.
Follow the Arrows Where?
Eventually, we arrived at a road and parking lot. There were no waymarker arrows anywhere. We saw some jaunting cars and their drivers parked to one side. These are horse-drawn buggies the tourists may hire to explore the area. This was still the Killarney National Park and there were pathways all around the lakes.
One of the drivers gave us directions to the town of Killarney which was still a few miles away. Of course, the rain began to fall again and we were wet and tired. For a while we walked the cement path next to the lake, We passed the historic Muckross House, a 19th Century mansion. It’s a popular tourist attraction and quite a picturesque sight.
We became more and more tired when up ahead we saw more jaunting carts who waited for tourists. After we paid too much money (25 euros) we climbed into the buggy out of the rain and continued on our way. We enjoyed the stories our driver told us about the National Park, Muckross House, and the Abbey. He had grown up in the area and was a wealth of knowledge.
Later, he dropped us off at the main road into Killarney and we only had another mile or so to walk to our hotel. I was sure glad we had booked a room the night before, so we didn’t need to roam around town in search of a room.
Hike the Kerry Way
After seven hours and 16 miles, we arrived in Killarney. It had been a day of highs and lows with the rain and wet trails. The beauty of the national park was stunning. We were so glad we decided to hike the Kerry Way, even for only a day.
To read more about our time in Ireland, please click here.