The Kerry Way is one of the most popular way-marked trails in Ireland and at 214 kilometres it is the longest in the country. The way circles the Iveragh Peninsula which is more commonly known as ‘The Ring of Kerry’. The peninsula itself features the 8 highest peaks in Ireland, including Carrauntoohil which is the tallest mountain in Ireland.
The route starts and finishes in the bustling tourist town of Killarney and along the way it incorporates inland mountain trails, green roads, coastal paths and some walking on quiet country lanes. This way is full of interesting places and sights however we have selected just a few of the highlights to whet your appetite.
Killarney National Park
Leaving Killarney the route quickly moves into the tranquil Killarney National Park which was the first National Park in the country. The park is home to a diverse collection of flora and fauna and includes Ireland’s only herd of native red deer as well as the most extensive area of native woodland in the country. In 1981 the park was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Ross Island which juts out into Lough Leane features the oldest copper mine found in Ireland or Britain. The Lough itself offers some of the most stunning vistas in the country and the view of the mountains over the water is probably one of the most recognisable images of Ireland. You will pass through the grounds of Muckross House which dates from 1843 and past Torc Waterfall which is one of the landmarks of the Kerry Way. From here the way moves to the Old Kenmare Road which will take you through the wonderful Esknamucky Glen.
Upon exiting Killarney National Park the way will take you into the Black Valley. The Valley is one of the most remote in the country and is famous for being the last community in Ireland to be connected to the national electricity grid, a connection which only occurred in 1976. It is notoriously difficult to access due to the nature of the roads. By road the valley is entered via the Gap of Dunloe to the north and Molls Gap to the south. In contrast however access to the valley via the Kerry Way is relatively easier. The way will bring you out of Killarney National Park and past Lord Brandon’s Cottage before entering the valley. The Valley itself is a community rather than an actual village and services are quite limited, however this in itself just adds to the mysterious beauty of the place.
Cahersiveen is a decent sized town at the point where the Kerry Way turns from the northern side of the peninsula to take you south. It was the birthplace of Daniel O’Connell also known as ‘The Emancipator’ and the impressive church in the town was named in his honour. Apart from the church there are some other notable structures. The former barracks of the Royal Irish Constabulary now houses a Heritage Centre but when it was built it was intended to provide an imposing presence to protect the transatlantic telegraph cable which landed on Irish soil at nearby Valentia Island. Just past the barracks is the old steel railway bridge which was opened in 1893 to support the Great Southern and Western Railway which ran from Farranfore (between Killarney and Tralee) to Valentia Harbour. The railway line was closed in 1960 but there are currently plans in place to re-open it as a greenway for walkers and cyclists. If you wish to stay for an extra night in Cahersiveen, the town makes a great base for visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site island of Skellig Michael or Valentia Island.
Further south of Cahersiveen you will arrive at Waterville. Waterville is set in a beautiful seaside location overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay. In the town you may be surprised to be greeted by a statue of Charlie Chaplin, however he was a regular visitor the town with his family. The town holds the annual Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival every year in his honour. In 1884 the Commercial Cable Company laid cables from Nova Scotia to Waterville, which helped strengthen commercial and political ties between Europe and North America. The walk out of Waterville will take you past ancient stone-walled field patterns and ring forts.
The Ring of Kerry is also a fantastic place to enjoy a cycling holiday as you travel along the Wild Atlantic Way.
For more information about walking the Kerry Way, cycling the Ring of Kerry along the Wild Atlantic Way and other holidays in Ireland, contact our travel specialists