The other week was my birthday, and as a sort of birthday present to myself I decided to go away. I had been thinking over a few different ideas; Disneyland Paris… Amsterdam dressed as a Disney Princess… Ibiza… Tayto park… in the end I went hiking in County Kerry. Although it may not sound like the big party weekend that a birthday weekend should be, it was still a great weekend away.
Due to indecisiveness the booking of my four day mini holiday only happened on the Monday / Tuesday before my birthday. I rented a car and then jumped on bookings.ie to find cheap accommodation. I was determined to spend my first 2 days (one night) hiking part of the Kerry Way in the Black Valley, but the other two nights I was open to wherever the cheapest accommodation would be.
In the end my accommodation bookings looked like this Thursday night – Black Valley, co. Kerry, Friday Night – Cork City, co. Cork, and Saturday night Ballinskelligs, Ring of Kerry, co. Kerry. That might sound like I was tramping from one side of the country to the other and then back again but it turned out to work really well. The Wild Atlantic Way a costal scenic route which starts in Kinsale co. Cork and makes its way all along the south and West Coast to Derry in Northern Ireland. I had already completed part of the Wild Atlantic Way from Tralee almost all the way to Galway back in October so decided that for the second 2 days of my trip I would complete the Kinsale to Tralee part of the route including the Ring of Kerry.
So with a sort of plan in hand 6am Thursday morning I set off to Killarney co. Kerry to start my mini adventure. After my Canadian Tim Hortons breakfast, in the Obama Plaza in County Offlay I arrived in Killarney about 10.30am and went in search of the Tourist Information Centre for a map of the area I wanted to hike. It turned out the Tourist Information Centre didn’t really have any proper hiking maps of the area, but I had read and been advised that the trail was well marked so wasn’t too worried and after parking my car at the Lake House Hotel headed off on my overnight hike.
The Kerry Way – Killarney to Black Valley
With the exception of the area around Torc Waterfalls (a main tourist attraction for Killarney) the path was very well signposted and I had no troubles finding my way. My only beef would be that the signposts didn’t indicate how far it was to your next destination which would have helped gauge whether I needed to hurry up or could slow my pace and enjoy the scenery.
In total the hike into my B&B in the Black Valley was about 20km ascending about 350m as you walk over the mountain range into the valley. I was especially taken by the views shortly after I passed between Torc Waterfall and headed over the top of the range before I headed back into the valley towards Galway’s Bridge. Up here you could see down into the valley below but were not quite at the peak of the range, you had a mix of jaggered rocky mountain sides and open fields with little running streams and wild deer grazing, which eventually lead to one particular field with a small waterfall with a pebble shoreline where you could sit and enjoy a break. It was all starting to make me think of the Jane Austin tv movies I had seen over the years and it was easy to imagine this landscape hadn’t changed much in the last 200 years, especially when there was not a power pole or any other sign of industrialisation in sight.
After 5 ½ hours of walking I finally reached the Shamrock Bed & Breakfast. The B&B was the last B&B in the Black Valley before you reached Bridia Valley, and my feet were well tired by the time I reached my destination. The B&B is run by Sheila, who I would consider a typical country Irish grandmother; tough as old boots, says her prayers 3 times a day, is always well stocked on scones and soda bread, and told it as it was. When I arrived she quickly settled me in, started a fire in the dining room and set me up with tea, scones and a WiFi password. I had pre-arranged dinner to be included with my stay however as it was a Thursday and the parish priest only gave Mass on a Thursday evening I would have to wait until after the service finished at 8pm for my dinner, but as I had just been filled up on scones I wasn’t fussed. Sheila returned from Mass and quickly began to dish out a 3 course meal of Potato and Leak Soup (my favourite), Beef and Vegetable Stew, and Apple Pie and ice-cream all homemade and all so delicious. With a full stomach I soon headed to bed for an early night.
The next day I was up and out of bed by 7.30am, where I was again greeted by an array of food from my host. I had told Sheila the night before I didn’t want too much for breakfast, a little bacon and maybe some eggs would be fine but in traditional grandmotherly style a plate piled high with bacon, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, toast, fruit, orange juice, tea, jam and butter sat on the table waiting for me. I ate heartily knowing the 20km journey I had to make back to Killarney would be exhausting and knowing I would probably only stop to eat a banana on the trail. After breakfast I profoundly thanked Sheila and headed back the way I came.
This time round I stopped to have a look around the ruins of an old abandoned house probably not more than 100 years old, which stood next to the ruins of another much older structure. The house was already being reclaimed by nature; the roof had long since disappeared, ferns covered the floor and there creepers all over the walls. It was humbling to see how quickly nature had reclaimed these buildings.
I finally arrived back at the Lake House Hotel (as planned) in time for lunch. I had previously visited the Lake House Hotel with some of my extended Irish relations and had really enjoyed the food here as well as the view out across the lake so it was a no brainer to finish my journey here. I was able to get a window seat and celebrated the completion of my 40+km hike (and my birthday) with a glass of red wine and an amazing leg of roast lamb.
After a very long lunch break I jumped back into the car and headed off to Cork to start Part 2 of my weekend journey…
Keep an eye out, I will be adding Part 2 of my Birthday weekend mini adventure over the coming days!