September 19-26, 2020
8 days & 7 nights in Ireland’s Southwest Coast
US$1,950-Includes Lodging, Transportation, Activities, & some meals
airfare and restaurant meals are Additional
While County Kerry is well known for some of the most demanding and rewarding hikes in the country, this tour is designed for those of us who want to enjoy the unrivaled beauty of Kerry’s hikes without extreme conditions. We will take in some of the extraordinarily rugged and beautiful parts of the county from the McGillycuddy’s Reeks to winding seashore paths, all without having to carry our belongings on our back for a week or cross dangerous mountain passes. Each day will feature a different walking route, taken at a comfortable pace. These excursions will also incorporate stops at heritage sites like castles and stone circles, exploring market towns, and lingering meals at tea rooms and pubs. We will partner with local experts on several of our hikes, who will share their knowledge of the history and ecology of the area.
How can you tell if this tour is a good match for your fitness level? We envision this tour for those of us who enjoy walking and are not daunted by walking for several hours, but who are not necessarily in top form. These walks are designed to bring us to some of the spectacular sights of Kerry, and will leave us ready for a hearty meal and good night’s rest. How do you feel about spending an afternoon walking? Climbing up hills and down? Returning from your walk tired out but with great memories and photographs? Walking through sunshine and showers and maybe getting caught in a downpour? If this sounds fun, you are a good candidate for this tour!
Part of the beauty of our very small tours is that we can differentiate the routes as needed. If you join our tour and find yourself tuckered out after day one, we can have the van pick you up for some parts of the walks and let you skip the uphill climbs, or you may choose to climb part of the mountain with one guide, while others set a faster pace with another guide. Conversely, if you realize that you would rather cover more ground than the rest of the group, we will have some suggestions for additional routes and loop walks so you can enjoy every minute of walking that you wish to. Some days will allow for more differentiation than others, but we will work with you each day to ensure you get in enough, but not too much, walking.
Walk in the footsteps of 18th century villagers who took this route along the shore and over hills to reach the Mass Rock, where church services were held when Catholicism was outlawed. We will explore this route with a local naturalist and gifted story teller who will identify the flora and fauna we see, and give historical context to the sites we pass. The path will take us along the rocky shore, through a rhododendron forest, and out at Bealtra pier. From there we climb through farm fields, and join the Kerry Way as it takes us past famine houses and through the woods of Derrynane demesne. We will learn about the ruined stone cottages that dot the countryside and tell the story of Irish famine in this area. And we will appreciate the thick forest of Derrynane historic park, a rarity in Ireland where there are very few trees.
Distance: approximately 4 miles, with variations possible. Terrain includes a footpath along the shore with some climbing, an uphill climb on a quiet tarmac road, and a walking path through fields and forest.
Past Cahersiveen town and over the estuary of the Fertha River is an area of rugged hills, steep sandstone cliffs plummeting to the ocean, grazing sheep, and water the color of a Caribbean movie set. Rising above the town is Cnoc na dTobar mountain. One of the Pilgrim Paths of Ireland, it has been revered for centuries by Christians, and before that as a site for Lúghnasa celebrations. We will explore this area with a local guide Gerry Enright who will share stories and history as we walk along the pilgrim path to the the Canon’s cross near the summit. This climb will be a reach for some of our group and we may choose to go in two groups, allowing for different pacing and hiking goals. The most adventurous hillwalkers may choose to continue on to traverse the saddle of the mountain with our local guide and get picked up on the far side of the mountain.
Distance: approximately 5 miles with some steep climbing on a waymarked trail.
Ireland’s highest mountains are the backdrop for the Killarney National Park, and while we won’t go mountaineering up these rugged peaks, we will enjoy the views along the drive to Killarney, and their jagged silhouette as we walk through the park. The park offers many options, from walks around the lakes, gardens, and through the woods to the Torq waterfall. The extensive gardens include formal gardens, rose plantings, and a rock garden which incorporates sandstone bedrock into the plantings. The arboretum path is a beautiful spot to explore in every season. If the weather is fine, we may even walk along the Gap of Dunloe between the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain. Poor walking weather on this day or participant preference will offer us the perfect opportunity to tour the magnificent Muckross House Estate.
Distance: Highly variable. 1 mile to 7 miles.
The Canglass Blow Hole can only be reached by walking along the ocean’s edge through sheep pastures and bogs. Though this walk will not provide us with a well groomed path, the scenery is spectacular as we make our way along the northern edge of the Iveragh peninsula. Across the bay is the Dingle peninsula and just off shore the Blasket Islands are visible. The ocean has carved the cliffs into fantastical crevasses, and the sheep wander freely in this remote area.
An hour’s leisurely walk will bring us to the stunning blow hole itself, which is a huge gaping hole carved out by centuries of grinding from the pounding sea, with an arched opening to the ocean. You can read more about our first visit to this hidden gem (in 2018) in my blog posting here.
Distance: approximately 5 miles over uneven ground.
Ballinskelligs provides a walking trail that includes a sandy beach, castle ruins, an ancient monastery, famine village, and maybe even Bolus Head point if we want to walk that far. We will join a local historian for a walk through history along the Skellig Monk’s Trail and then continue on to the Cill Rialaig Famine Village and Monastic Site. Thousands of years ago, Cill Rialaig was the site of an early Christian settlement, and in the more recent past it was settled by villagers who perished or fled during the famine years. Now it is has a new life as an artist’s colony, with the old famine cottages restored to house visiting artists from all over the world.
Distance: approximately 4 miles, along a footpath and quiet lanes, with a possible loop walk extension to the point as well.
Weather will determine how many other walks we fit in to our week. Possibilities include:
A climb up the old Bog Road above Caherdaniel which winds up Cahernageeha Mountain and rewards us with a view into Ballinskelligs Bay at the top.
Walking portions of the old railway along Drung Hill and Mountain Stage, taking in beautiful old stone tunnels and bridge work as well as view from the Dingle peninsula to the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
An excursion to the Dingle Peninsula, Inch Beach, and a walk to the Eask Tower.
Exploring the Old Kenmare Road.