The best walks in Kerry cannot be boiled down to five or ten or even 20: Every corner of this natural masterpiece contains a trail or a path that leads to an incredible view or a stunning natural experience. Picking your top 5 walks in Kerry will always lead to disagreements, but here are 5 Kerry walks that deserve special attention. And all are within easy reach of Killarney’s Holiday Village:
Distance from Killarney’s Holiday Village: 30km
We’ll start with the daddy of them all. Ireland’s highest mountain is a demanding giant, suitable only for experienced hill walkers, but if you consider yourself fit and are suitably equipped for a 7-hour walk, you could consider hiring a guide to lead you. There are a variety of ascent routes, the best known of which is the dramatically titled Devil’s Ladder. The least difficult and most stunning route is up the Hag’s Glen, starting from Cronin’s Yard, off the N72. You are surrounded my majestic mountain scenery right to the summit, where, on a clear day, the views are unforgettable. The panorama sweeps across the Dingle Peninsula, Kenmare Bay, and the Caha mountains of west Cork, with a spectacular ridge reaching out to Beenkeragh, the second-highest mountain in Ireland.
Cnoc na dTobar
Distance from Killarney’s Holiday Village: 59km
Pilgrim routes have become almost trendy, due to the craze for the Camino de Santiago, but Cnoc na dTobar (Hill of the Well) remains largely overlooked. Rising alone out of Dingle Bay, to the north of Cahersiveen, Cnoc a dTobar is one of the Iveragh peninsula’s most remarkable mountains. This 690m peak is a moderate climb and is reached by turning off the N70 just before Deelis bridge 3km northeast of Cahersiveen or via Cahersiveen bridge in the town centre.
Cnoc na dTobar has been the site of pilgrimages on the last Sunday in July since early medieval times, and latter-day pilgrims have marked the entire path up the mountain with distinctive white crosses. Another white cross at the summit can be seen from Dingle on a fine day. Expect stunning views over the south Kerry coast, as well as the Blasket Islands and the Slieve Mish Mountains.
Distance from Killarney’s Holiday Village: 5km
The most accessible Kerry mountain of all is Torc. You can start either from the car park at Torc waterfall on the N71, 5km from Killarney’s Holiday Village or from the car park at the Old Kenmare Road, also off the N71. If you choose to start from the waterfall, simply climb the steps beside the majestic cascade and continue, following signs for Torc Mountain as you emerge from the forest. Situated within Killarney National Park, this 535m peak is almost entirely traversable via a pathway, making it suitable for walkers with little or no mountain experience. Your climb will be rewarded with sweeping views of the parklands surrounding Muckross House, as well as the tangle of peaks stretching all the way from the Magillicuddy Reeks on to Mangerton and the Paps.
Cosan na Naomh, Dingle
Distance from Killarney’s Holiday Village: 75km
Our next route is another pilgrimage path, but there’s no climbing this time unless you want to extend your hike all the way to the top of Mount Brandon. Guided walks are available. Starting at Ventry Strand on the Dingle Peninsula and ending at Mount Brandon, the 16km Cosan na Naomh is part of a tradition of pilgrimage to the mountain that dates back to pagan times. Indeed, it became a medieval Christian pilgrim route after the Church appropriated it from a pagan celebration. The route is a beautifully representative of all that is best about the landscape west of Dingle, taking in fuschia hedges, winding roads, and stirring mountain tracks. Heritage Sites along the route include the exquisite 7th-century Gallarus Oratory and the 12th-century Kilmalkedar Church.
Bray Head, Valentia Island
Distance from Killarney’s Holiday Village: 80km
Not to be confused with its Wicklow counterpart, Bray Head is located at the western end of Valentia Island and is the site of a moderate 7km loop walk that more than rewards your efforts. After a steady climb to a 19th-century abandoned signal tower, you follow the coastline for breathtaking views of the Skellig Islands to the west, Dingle to the north, and Portmagee and Puffin Island to the south. You might catch sight of whales churning through the ocean below. Close to the car park at the start of the route (there’s a €2 charge), you’ll find the historic site of the first transatlantic cable linking North America with the rest of the world.
Midway along the path to the tower, on the south side of the path, don’t miss the early Christian heritage site. It contains the remains of five dry stone buildings with a dozen embellished stones.