Kerry has always felt like a special place to me. Why? Is it the local accent, ebbing and flowing like the waves on Inch beach and undulating as the unforgiving landscape. Maybe it’s the feeling of being lost among green hills and rugged coastline where the pints are cheap and the people wave as you pass. Or is it the fact that it doesn’t try to be anything, yet happens to be effortlessly charming and absolutely perfect.
This May bank holiday weekend, some of us from the CaminoWays.com and IrelandWays.com team set off for Kerry in support of the good people of the Kerry Camino. People of all ages, backgrounds and motives came to take part in the Kerry Camino Walking Festival which is held annually, with some walkers even coming from as far as Spain! This year welcomed a record number of people with somewhere between 150 and 200 walkers on route each day. Today, I share my experience of this splendid walk on a weekend to remember.
Day 1: Tralee to Camp, 18km
We departed from Tralee, our excitement unwavered by the gloomy weather conditions. After a short briefing and a few words of motivation from the Kerry Camino organisers we were on our way. We left Tralee as the rain began to fall, believing that this was as a sign of things to come but just as we reached the Blennerville Windmill the clouds dispersed and the sun appeared, we couldn’t believe our luck! The day ahead of us saw us walking boreens, traversing rugged glacial valleys on our way to Camp.
A highlight on day one for me was a stop at the ruins of Killeton Oratory, kindly pointed out to me by guide Gillian who promised that I would find a wishing tree where I parted with my frilly purple socks in exchange for a wish. As we reached Camp we were greeted to a welcome reception of tea, coffee and sandwiches where we could bask in our achievement and the afternoon sunshine and take in one some beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Day 2: Camp to Annascaul, 17km
A heavy mist did not deter our spirits on day two. My flushed sunburned cheeks from the previous day were soothed as we trudged on uphill, keeping our spirits as high as the surrounding hills. The itinerary for day two on the Kerry Camino boasts spectacular views of the mountains and the North Atlantic Ocean, which I have on good authority are a rather spectacular sight, however all I saw on this day was mist and fog.
Any wavering spirits were kept strong with a friendly smile, an encouraging word or a few squares of chocolate (a hot commodity on the Kerry Camino). I felt an unmistakeable sense of community and belonging along the trail. Camino veterans and newbies alike came together to share the experience. If ever I had any doubt in the old Irish proverb “Bíonn suilach scéalach” which translates roughly as “walkers have tales to tell“, it was confirmed this weekend. With each passing wayfarer, each had their own story to tell. Whether it was accounts of Caminos past, tales of legendary explorer Tom Crean, or just sharing motives for walking, there was no shortage of anecdotes to distract from the unfortunate weather.
Our destination for day two was charming Annascaul. An absolute gem, full of cosy little pubs serving some much needed comfort food. Among our favourites were the decorative Hannafin’s, adorned in fairy lights and other trinkets, welcoming walkers with a celebratory barbecue and the legendary South Pole owned by the family of Antarctic explorer and local icon Tom Crean.
Day 3: Annascaul to Dingle, 22km
A long day lay ahead of us but the sunshine was enough to give us the energy we needed to make it the long 22km to Dingle, that and the fact that our final destination is one of my favourite places in the world, the delightful Dingle!
The scenery on day three started out strong only to improve as the day went on. Rolling hills, verdant meadows and quaint cottages were the backdrop to our journey. After the steady ascent at the beginning of the day our efforts were soon rewarded by the spectacular views on the descent to the 16th Century Minard castle, perched at lands edge and we couldn’t resist the opportunity for a lengthy photo shoot!
Day three on the Kerry Camino was a day for encountering friendly and photogenic creatures, as we passed through a lot of farmland, stumbling across friendly sheep, cows, pigs and even a farmer out training some young sheepdog. As our energy levels began to dwindle in the final kilometres, views of Dingle in the distance kept us soldiering on. Arriving at Dingle to a heroes welcome at St. James’ church to receive our certificate and congratulations from fellow walkers and well wishers alike.
I returned to Dublin feeling rejuvenated, my soul cleansed, knowing that I am among friends with dirty boots, sore knees and winning smiles, feeling as if the supply of endorphins released this weekend should keep me going until the Kerry Camino next year!
If you missed out on this year’s Kerry Camino Walking Festival, you can book a trip on the Dingle Way, which covers the Kerry Camino at any time. All attendees to festival can avail of a special discount, make sure you mention at the time of booking! For more information on other magnificent walking and cycling routes in Ireland, contact the IrelandWays.com travel specialists.