The Kerry Way (Ireland)

The Kerry Way is Ireland’s longest contiguous hiking trail linking several small villages in the south-west of the country. Due to its proximity to civilization, it is not necessary to have one’s own tent and provisions. Also, the trail, which is designed for 9 days, can be shortened by using taxis or by hitchhiking. Upon request, agencies will also take care of reservations for bed & breakfasts and the transport of heavy baggage, so that a day bag will be sufficient for walking from stage to stage. The path is indicated by signs picturing a yellow hiker with a backpack.

Kerry Way

Back to Europe

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8
Day 9

 

Jun. 10, 2016 – Jun. 18, 2016

 

Day 1: Killarney – Black Valley, 22km:
After a rainy night, I leave my van at the campground and start the trek at 9.30 am. At the first intersection, I already must ask for directions, since I am not equipped with a map. A vegetable seller shows me the way, which I can only roughly derive from his Irish accent. He handed me his huge paw and sees me off with the words, “You have a long way to go, and I wish you all the best!”
The first interim goal for today is the Torc waterfall, shortly after the magnificent Muckross House. While I whistle the melody of the “Irish Rover”-song, I make my way through the tourists who use the sunny day for a trip to this cascade. When the sightseers as well as the day trails are left behind, I stop for a lunch break.
After a few seconds and various attacks of the Midges, the native species of mosquitoes, this decision is ending quite unfortunate for me. I swirl my jacket around anxiously, but regret this decision as the zipper hits my eye. I hastily eat the last sausage and cheese, shoulder the backpack, and move on quickly.
The following section is also a leg of the last day, which is why I meet some hikers who are on their way back. I get a lot of information about the route from an older American couple, as well as from a group of German boys, and from the funny Californian named Sam. This first area, where some small rocky hills stand amidst lush green meadows, is declared as a national park – camping is forbidden here. Not far from the Black Valley, I pass an overgrown stone wall in front of a bridge leading to a turret. An iron door and violet flowers cause me to plunge into a medieval dream.
After a conversation with the lady at the reception of the Black Valley hostel, which I reach shortly afterwards, I decide against a spot in the multi-bed room for 19 € and instead pitch my tent two kilometers behind the village next to a small lake. I bring the day to a close near the quiet waters with some rice and tuna.

 

 

Day 2: Black Valley – Glencar, 18 km:
Around 8.30, and after a breakfast of porridge and unpalatable instant coffee I return to the path. Accompanied by sunshine, it leads me uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill … I move mainly through private land, which is used for livestock farming. Gates and ladders, cultivated by the respective farmers, help to overcome the fences separating the pastures.
The ladders give me the opportunity to put down the rucksack and catch my breath, while I am watched curiously by colorful sheep. Luckily the mosquitoes from the previous day have disappeared, and I can take a break for a few minutes in the pleasant June sun.
In the afternoon, I reach a fork where on the left the Kerry path continues over the hills and on the right along a paved road. My preference lies in the hillside variant, which at first leads up a short distance before the path descends into a forest. Moss-grown trees are standing in the middle of a cloverleaf carpet – hundreds of different greens. It seems as if a leprechaun from the Irish legends could jump out of the scenario at any moment.
I leave the magical appearing forest and step from a dream back into the reality, as in front of me appears a huge excavator, which noisily clears the soil. I pass this one, as well as the truck behind it and I am feeling happy when the Hostel Climbers appears in my sight. I camp for 5 € on an uneven meadow behind it and spend the evening with some hikers from Cork, who invite me for some beer and Irish Cream. It is after midnight, when I am thankful and happily lurching in the direction of my tent.

 

 

Day 3: Glencar – Glenbeigh, 18 km:
In my experience, the third day of hiking is the most difficult one. It’s the first time my muscles give a noticeable feedback and my feet begin to complain. Today, these pleasures are completed by the hangover, which is a result of the happy evening yesterday…
Three contributed sausages for breakfast later, I manage to break up around 11 am. The path leads me through a forest to a fork in the path, where on its left over there is a mountain way and on the right along a rocky trail along the flank. The second one is my chosen option, as it was recommended to me the night before by the reluctant owner of the Climbers Inn.
Thanks to the fair weather, a beautiful view over a green valley separated by a wide river in the middle is awaiting me. An engine noise behind me forces me to step aside. The car driver tells me that his navigation system is leading him over this gravel track. Just before Glenbeigh I find myself before another branch. This time you can choose between an asphalt road and the mountain. The hilly route allows me a magnificent view over a sandy land spit and the Atlantic.
Before I fall asleep in the evening, I get to watch the first half of a football match of the European Championship in a bar with a Guinness. I reserve myself a room in a hostel called Sleepy Camel, in which unfortunately an emergency light over the bed illuminates it as bright as day. I use a scarf as a blindfold, which allows me a relaxing night.

 

 

Day 4: Glenbeigh – Cahirciveen, 29 km (+ 2km detour):
The first stretch of the road leads me over a path lined with pink flowers. Afterwards, I am being received on the first longer stage in an Irish manner: The wind hurls the rain horizontally in my face, but the puddles on the ground do not move a millimeter. A feeling of power and strength befalls me and I continue despite the weather.
In order to rest and to take a breath in a dry spot for a short while, only a wall is required – a roof is not necessary, since the rain does not seem to come from above. Even the midges do not dare to go outside. A small grove stretches to the mountain ridge. I realize that for the fourth day in a row, colorful sheep are crossing my paths.
However, my good mood lasts only so far as my shoes and jacket have not yet lost their entire dryness… My mood rises a bit again when I pass a tiny house with a thatched roof, which seems to be inhabitable only by goblins. But when I walk in the wrong direction due to hiking without a map and because of a missing sign, I start to become frustrated again.
My shoes, which are giving a slurping sound at every step, carry me back to the right path 30 minutes later. Still, I kind of get the feeling of walking in a loop. All the greater is my relief when, at 4.30 pm, I see the roofs of the village with an unspeakable name. My drenched clothes speak for a place in the 6-bed dorm for 20 € and against my tent.
Today, Ireland has their first football game and I watch it with four locals, two Guinness and a burger at the pub. Afterwards the bartender invites me to drink a third Guinness with the explanation: “Since you kept to Ireland …”. A clearly conciliatory conclusion of the day.

 

 

Day 5: Cahirciveen – Waterville, 29 km (-10 km hitchhiking):
In Cahirciveen there is a medieval ruin and some stone circles. Unfortunately, I mistook the remains of the castle with a collapsed building on a private ground – this is also nice to look at, but the confusion is quite embarrassing. On advice of the hostel worker I went to the Trailstart (Coarse Football Field) by hitchhiking, whereby I shorten the way around 10 kilometers.
In the forecast, again some Irish weather was announced … the mighty cloud in front of me seems to agree to that. The surprising sunshine an hour later is all the more beautiful. I pass a sad female wanderer from California, whose companion with a shrug of the shoulders explains, “Things come up while hiking.” I think about this sentence for some time, before my slightly aching knee brings me back to reality again.
Since today’s leg leads over a mountain ridge, it is extremely windy. The highlight of the day is the moment when I pass the last little hill. To my left is a field of flowers, in which the blossoms resemble white wool, and give the appearance of tiny sheep. The way drops over a green meadow to the first houses of Waterville. Behind it, the huge Atlantic Ocean winks at me. A bird stands as if stuck in the air for five minutes, while chirping his song. A little while later I am already surrounded by houses. In Waterville there is no typical hostel, but I choose a sea view room for 15 € in Peter’s Cafe …

 

 

Day 6: Waterville – Caterdaniel 13km coastal route, 28km Mountain route:
Between these two stations either the shorter coastal path or the considerably longer mountain path leading through the windy gap can be chosen. I decide on the advice of Peter of Peter’s Cafe for the coastal road and start at 9.30 am. Spontaneously, I decide to join Sam, the robust Californian of Day 1, who has surprisingly appeared again.
However, we miss the fork which should have gotten us closer to the coast and should give us two kilometers more to enjoy. On the horizon, we can spot the island of Skellig Island, where the 7th episode of Star Wars is being shot. We arrive at Caterdaniel at 12.30. Sam invites me to lunch – this I accept with gratitude.
After that, I look for a campground. The first one I find charges 9 €; The second 8,50 € for a hiker. I decide for the first, because there are beautiful secluded tent spots. The lady at the front desk is at first somewhat reserved, however, opens up after some small talk. On my last question, whether it will rain tomorrow, she replies: “It doesn’t rain here,” winks at me and then shows me her crossed fingers.
With a homemade dinner, I sit down on a stone near the coast, where the Atlantic opens up before me. Here, I enjoy both the scent and taste of the spaghetti with tomato paste, while some small rain drops which are drizzling on my face are trying to give me some refreshment. The sun continues to warm my back and a huge rainbow forms in a thousand different colors right in front of me.

 

 

Day 7: Caterdaniel – Sneem, 19 km:
Tonight, there will be the second football match of Germany and I’m glad that I do not expect a very long way to Sneem. After a breakfast consisting of two packs of porridge, I packed my damp tent and moved on. The route leads along the old Butter Road, which in the 18th century was an important link to the Irish city of Cork and is nowadays still a nice way to walk. There are many gravel and forest roads again alternating with asphalted sections.
Today, my knee has calmed down again – for this I feel a muscle ache on my shinbone. The feeling is somewhat unfamiliar and causes me, along with the short day, to walk more slowly. This allows me to consciously perceive every step of the way. It creates an easiness, as if I could go faster, but see no reason in it.
I pass an old cemetery with Celtic stone crosses, as well as a forest in which every sight is lost in the darkness after just a few meters. In the afternoon, I reach Sneem – filled with French and German retirees. Shortly thereafter, however, the masses return to their buses, move on and leave behind a now much less hectic place.
There are no camping grounds, just a place for campervans. I ask the butcher, the waitress of the sports bar and the nice Austrian at the tourist information if there is the possibility to pitch my tent. Apparently, it is possible to do so anywhere on public property. Here the motto is: As long there is no sign that it’s forbidden, it is allowed.
I choose a picnic area and ask the neighbors whether this is all right, just to be on the safe side. Then I limp back into the village and watch the game with a few Guinness.

 

 

Day 8: Sneem – Kenmare, 30 km (+ 3km detour):
Today, I wake up early and find happily that my shin muscle has calmed down again. After I have filled my water supply (3 liters), I continue the hike around 9 clock. The path leads past a pharmacy and for a time up a dirt road. After an hour, I discover a sign with the words “Castle.”
I think it is a good idea to look at it closely. An idea that I regret 30 minutes later, after I still have not found it and instead got lost on a golf course. This is located between the Kerry Way and Castle – clear warnings of flying golf balls are visible everywhere. I manage to climb over a wall through stinging nettles and thorny bushes and thus escape this misery. The further route includes beautiful forest sections, which are made more impressive by the greenery and the proximity to the water than pictures could ever present.
When I meet a French group about three o’clock, from which I get the information that I have about four hours before me, I am concerned about the fact that I could have underestimated today’s leg. My original plan was to arrive around 5pm. The path turns into an asphalt road, but it does not get shorter …
“How far still to Kenmare?” – “Five miles!” … “How far still to Kenmare?” – “4 miles.” … At least I get closer…
As I march over the probably last hill chain, I begin to despair slowly – another one follows. With a last effort, I reach the village and ask in the first pub for the most inexpensive accommodation. One of the guests said: “The cheapest is Jane’s bedroom.” Jane, the nice 45-year-old lady next to me, who luckily changed the subject immediately, recommends the hostel to me. There is also a campsite three kilometers outside the village.
But for that walk I don’t have the energy left. At the hostel door is a sign with the telephone number for a reservation. In the shop next door, I meet a woman, who takes care of contacting the hostel owner And 20 minutes later, I occupy the last bed of the 8-person dorm room. As I lay shivering on the mattress for 5 minutes, I wonder if I might have overdone it today
A dinner with some nice conversation in the common kitchen and the everything is fine once again. Afterwards I join Hanna, a young Hungarian girl, at the neighbor pub to enjoy a beer and some live music. Falling asleep is unfortunately more difficult than I hoped because the two Frenchmen in the room seem to put on a competition for the loudest snoring.

 

 

Day 9: Kenmare – Killarny, 25 km:
A section that looks longer on the paper than it feels. On this last day, I joined two young women from Germany, whom I met in the hostel. The trail begins with a steep climb on asphalt to gradually become more beautiful. I feel relaxed and take the time to observe the numerous clouds that I find outstanding in Ireland due to their shapes and speed.
We find ourselves in the National Park and therefore are back to the part of the trail from the first day. On the way I meet Ken, an American from Georgia, who hiked the Appalachian Trail, which runs 3,500 km through the east of the USA, a few years ago. At 14:50, I reach the campground and am happy when I can put Leo, my yellow postal bus, back into my arms.
Summary:The Kerry Way offers a fabulous insight into the Irish soul due to the picturesque landscape and the authentic people that can be found in the villages. From a magical forest to a superb sea view, everything is available. If you have less time, you can save the 8th and 9th day, because the second to the last one has a long stretch along the asphalt road and the last one is mostly the same as the first day.