Killarney to Black Valley
The day starts wet – full Irish wet. The forecast promises an improvement after noon, so Herself and I spend the morning on a hunt for a holy well she has on her list and then a visit to a wet Muckross Abbey which has a wonderful ancient yew tree growing in the old cloisters.
Muckross House cafe is crammed with damp tourists and after a tea and scone I don my poncho, which causes some amusement but keeps everything dry, say goodbye to Herself and set off along the side of the lake towards Torc Waterfall. It’s busy but I blend right in with my poncho. The crowds thin a little on the steep steps up beside the crashing waters and soon I am back on the old Kenmare Road again, but this time going in the opposite direction towards the junction of the Kerry Way at Galway’s Bridge.
I climb up the gently rising track under banks of ancient gnarled trees dripping with water and lichen. The river cascades down below me. Huge rocks lie like sleeping trolls, green with moss.
As the track levels out, the landscape changes to open, tussocky grassland with the Reeks rising all around and the river a continual presence. Soon the cinder track becomes a meandering path of uneven stone with stretches of bog crossed by narrow boardwalks. The path feels ancient; many feet must have passed this way before me. Showers drift down from the hills. The sun breaks through before another squall arrives, accompanied by a cold wind. A group of noisy youths appears following a patient adult leader. I give him a knowing smile as he passes – been there, done that.
Cores Cascades and Esknamucky Glen. Signs of past habitation: field walls, ruined buildings, sheep folds. Down through beautiful oak woodland, twisted, mossy and cool. As I stop to take a photo, a cuckoo calls from the branches right above me but I can’t spot it before it flies off.
The little church at Gallways Bridge seems further than I expected. It’s getting late and there is a way to go yet.
After the bridge, the walking is relatively easy on tracks through the woods. As Upper Lake appears through the trees, the terrain levels out and a straight path bordered by bright yellow gorse leads to Lord Bandon’s Cottage. But a ‘cottage’ it isn’t. More like a bungalow on steroids designed to feed the tourists who arrive by boat and carriage on the Killarney tour. Happily the day’s hoards have left with their souvenir leprechauns and I get a refreshingly cold orange juice and some chocolate just before they close for the day.
Black Valley lies ahead, Carrauntoohil and the Reeks towering over it. Somehow I imagined that the route would descend into the valley but it doesn’t. It’s a steep climb up the road for my weary legs.
Shamrock Farmhouse B&B is reached at last. Sheila’s mushroom soup, Irish Stew and apple pie hit the spot as I watch sunlight, rain showers and rainbows animate the beautiful valley.
Not so many sketches today and poor internet connection. I may add another later.
About the route
The Kerry Way starts by the Tourist Office in Killarney. I started at Muckcross House, omitting the long walk along the busy N71 out of the town.
19.5 km (12 miles) in 5.25 hours. Total ascent: 603m. Max elevation 289m