Ireland’s Kerry Way is one of the best multi-day walking Trails.
The Kerry Way is one of the best Multi-Day Walking Trails in Ireland or probably anywhere for that matter. This is because it offers spectacular and diverse scenery that will take your breath away. Furthermore, following quality signposting makes it easy to experience stunning lakes, mountains, valleys and epic coastline.
Another attraction is the sense of remoteness it offers, without ever really being too far from the nearest village. Hence at the end of your day’s walking, you can enjoy a restaurant meal, satisfying pint and comfortable accommodation. For example the village of Sneem links the Catherdaniel and Kenmare sections and offers a great choice of restaurants, lively pubs and highly rated accommodation.
The Kerry Way lies on the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry in the southwest corner of Ireland. You’ll find that we use ‘Ring of Kerry’ and ‘Iveragh’ interchangeably to refer to the one pensinsula. Putting it into geographical context, it lies between the Dingle and Beara Peninsulas and Killarney is its main town.
Are the Kerry Way and Ring of Kerry Driving Route different?
Yes, the Kerry Way is a pedestrian-only route made up of hillside trails, coastal paths and narrow lanes, while the Ring of Kerry Driving Route is the N70 national primary road. Both are distinct and separate entities, although they shadow one another for much of their length.
Kerry Way Walking Trail
The Kerry Way is the name of the walking trail, which is one of Ireland’s longest. Its official opening in 1989 followed a community-wide program to link up a spider’s web network of lanes, tracks and paths. In completing the loop, they also installed hundreds of stiles, way-markers and numerous footbridges.
For much of its 214 km the trail shadows the above N70 driving route around the peninsula. That said, it mostly sits hidden from view either above it or below it. Consequently, you can walk the Kerry Way and be oblivious to the nearby traffic and hustle and bustle.
However, they also diverge when the Kerry Way trail cuts across the mountainous spine of the peninsula, taking you to hidden scenic gems unreachable by road. At these points, you’ll walk through the foothills of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s tallest mountains and the Dunkerron Mountains.
Unforgettable First Experiences
I’ll always remember the day I first set foot on the Kerry way, to walk from Torc Waterfall outside Killarney to Derrycunnihy church. The route including stops would take me about three hours to complete the 10km.
Starting from the top of the stunning waterfall, I set out onto a track known as the ‘Butter Road’ or ‘Old Kenmare Road’. It wasn’t long before I caught my first glimpse of the broad Valley and tall mountains on either side. I simply had to stop to enjoy the silence and take in the magnificence of this majestic trail.
At ease in the Primeval Woodland
Continuing further I reached a primeval woodland, where the path narrowed into a rocky stepped one. This rocky path cut its way tunnel-like through the surrounding gnarled oak trees. With each step, my excitement increased and the walking just got better and better.
I felt so exhilarated by this woodland experience and I understand why for many people ‘bathing in trees’ has become a thing these days. Under their extensive canopy, I immediately felt at ease. At the same time, time appeared to slow and my senses heightened.
The trail’s stillness belied its proximity to a busy driving route. The traffic on the N70 driving route might as well have been kilometres away, for I heard no mechanical sounds for the next eight kilometres.
My overriding emotions of my first Kerry Way experience were excitement coupled with amazement. Amazement because this phenomenal walking trail had opened 20-years previously and this was my first experience of it and on it. However, I have made up for this since and have explored the entire Kerry way ‘half section by half section’.
How Far Do you Walk Each Day?
You will note above that I wrote ‘half section by half section’ and it’s for good reason. The Kerry way is over 200 KM, which guidebooks typically breaks into 9 daily sections. Although you have some choices, the average daily distance remains circa 20KM, which for most represents quite an endurance test. Instead I prefer to walk half sections and to focus my attention on the best walking sections. In fact my Best of the Kerry Way Walking Holiday does just this.
Walking between 10 and 14 km while taking time to soak in the views is perfect in my view. True, it requires additional logistical planning and local knowledge but it truly rewards your planning. With a pleasurable amount of walking each day, you’ll have magical experiences across woodland, upland, moorland and coastal sections.
Over time, I’ve learned that Álaind Walking guests on our Kerry Way holidays prefer focusing on the best sections too. In so doing, they get the maximum Kerry Way experience from a manageable & enjoyable amount of effort. To a person, they are excited about the next day’s walk, while also enjoying very relaxing evenings.
Favourite Half Sections
In reality there’s too many to describe them all and it’s not my intent to do that here. However, here is a taste of some of my favourite half sections of the Kerry Way:
- Torc to Derrycunnihy Church 9km (mentioned above);
- Black Valley to Bridia Valley 10km;
- Lickeen Woods 7km;
- Blackwater to Sneem 13km
- Beal (near Sneem) to Derrynane 12km.
For a longer day’s walk Álaind Walking sometimes combines two of these sections depending on our guests desires.
Torc to Derrycunnihy
As I mentioned above Torc to Derrycunnihy was a wonderful first taste of the Kerry Way. In fact it was the spark of my walking passion which I pursued to ultimately qualify as a Mountain Leader and professional guide.
Starting at the step of Torc Waterfall, it follows the Old Kenmare Road, also known as the Butter Road. Even though it’s a fantastic walk, you may be surprised to hear that you might not meet another walker along the route. Congestion is definitively not a problem here!
This section has it all, including a wide valley between the towering mountains of Mangerton and Torc, wonderful native woodland and the idyllic Cores Cascade.
Black Valley to Bridia Valley
I’ll never forget the first time I did the Black Valley to Bridia Valley section of the Kerry Way. Even before we reached our Dromluska starting point, the walk provided me a hugely memorable experience.
Rounding a bend on the south banks of Cummeenduff Lough, what I saw ahead caused me to stop the car. There sitting on a rock on the side of the road was a huge bird. Never had I seen the likes of this before!
Meet The Kerry Sea Eagles
I thought it must be a Golden Eagle and as I approached I saw there were two of them. How privileged I felt to see two wild eagles up so close. However, they didn’t hand around and quickly took to the air on their massive wings, landing in pine trees on the opposite side of the lake.
While my adrenaline raced, I tried to capture the event on camera. Unfortunately, I won’t win any awards for the footage but I’ll always remember the event. I subsequently discovered the eagles were more likely a pair of young white tailed sea eagles.
You see, at a young age, their identifying white tails are not prominent and why I mistakenly identified them. Although previously extinct in Ireland, The Eagle Trust reintroduced the birds to Kerry. Fingers crossed, they’ll prosper and thrive here.
Café at the bottom of the hill.
You might think that such a day couldn’t get any better but crossing the saddle between Curraghmore and Broaghnabinnia is fantastic. Its 360 degree awe-inspiring mountains and Bridia Valley views will get anyone’s heart racing. Descending down into the Valley, we stopped for a coffee in the Cooky Monster Cafe. You’d be forgiven for being surprised to find a café here in the mountains but it exists and is a welcome destination.
On a subsequent return visit here, I encountered a number of short loop trails, which would likely make for a perfect family outing.
Lickeen Wood Trail
Setting out from Glencar you enter a tranquil tree-lined riverside walk, which immediately captivates you with its peacefulness. What a superb contrast this lush grassy path is to the ruggedness of the previous mountain section. Between here and Lickeen Wood itself, you pass through a heavily logged forestry and then a beautiful hazel wood.
A magical place with an enchanted feel.
Upon entering Lickeen Wood you’ll be treated to native oakwood and narrow rocky paths through moss covered gorges. You’ll find it difficult to find a more enchanted magical location than this. The path descends into a moss covered gorge as you’re transported to what feels like a lost jungle land. The paths climbs again until you reach a fantastic viewing point atop a fantastic outcrop. It’s also a good time for a snack while you take it all in.
When you finally exit the woods, make sure to check out the stunning Blackstones Bridge with the Caragh River flowing below.
What to consider when planning for A Kerry Way Walking Holiday
Notwithstanding its beauty and magnificence, the Kerry way, believe it or not, is a quiet and uncongested trail. Most likely, this is due to its 214km length, which limits the number of walkers it receives. However, I’m always keen to explain to friends, guests and other walkers that you don’t have to walk the entire Kerry Way in one go.
I have now completed nearly all of it but I have done this over many visits in all seasons. Moreover, when I’m guiding people here I choose my favourite 10-14km sections for the best experience. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be jumping out of bed each day for consecutive 20-25km walks!
You can choose guided or self-guided holidays for walking the Kerry Way. Álaind Walking offers fully guided tour packages of different duration with accommodation provided at our Álaind Lodges. You can also book a self-guided holiday break with us and walk some or all of the Kenmare to Sneem section and the Sneem to Caherdaniel section. This removes the hassle of moving to new accommodation each day.
There are also a number of businesses that will book bed and breakfast accommodation and luggage transfer for you as part of a self-guided package.
Visit Once, Visit Often.
In my view walking the Kerry Way can be a pastime, one that you can revisit again and again. Of course foreign visitors may only be able to visit once but others can visit more often for short breaks at any time of year. Solo or with others, it’s equally good.
On an Álaind Walking holiday, we make it easy and hassle-free. Simply book onto one of our Kerry Way Walking Holidays and we’ll organise everything for you. All you need to bring is yourself, your boots and your comfortable walking gear. We’ll provide you a luxury room at Álaind Lodges and manage the logistics of each day’s walking. Trust me, it’s just the tonic for unwinding and reconnecting with yourself, your fellow walkers and nature.
What time of year is best for walking the Kerry Way?
The Kerry Way can be walked throughout the entire year, regardless of the season. The Atlantic Gulf Stream ensures considerably milder winters than other parts of Ireland. Even Kerry’s highest mountains, are frequently walkable without difficulty in winter months. For the rest of the year, weather extremes are uncommon making Kerry a top year round walking destination.
What gear should you bring when walking the Kerry Way?
Because the Kerry Way terrain varies from tarred roads to boggy tracks and everything in between, waterproof boots with ankle support are necessary. With weather changing quickly I recommend hats, gloves, walking poles, comfortable walking trousers and a waterproof jacket. Depending on the time of year, you may also want to carry additional layers in a rucksack.
You should also pack 1 – 2 litres of water and food. Sure it’s always nice to have a rewarding snack when at the top of a Kerry mountain pass or cascading waterfall. The most important thing is to be comfortable so that you thoroughly enjoy your Kerry Way walking experience. When you book an Álaind Walking Tour, we’ll send you a full list of everything you should bring.
Who would enjoy a Kerry Way walking Experience?
One of the great things about the Kerry way is its accessibility and suitability for all walkers. You don’t need to be super fit and it’s relatively easy to get off the trail when needed. Provided you walk a suitable and comfortable distance each day, most people will enjoy the Kerry Way experience.
An increasing number of people are getting active and looking for holiday escapes from their busy lives. Switching off, unwinding and clearing your mind is the real reward. This is evidenced by the popularity of movies such as The Way with Martin Sheen, Wild with Reese Witherspoon and the myriad of Outdoor publications. In fact many of my guests are new to trail walking and they absolutely love it. Furthermore they get a real sense of achievement when finishing a day on the Kerry Way.
We invite you to discover the Kerry Way the easy way.
I am surprised, in particular, by the number of Irish people wanting to complete trails such as the Camino de Santiago, without ever considering the Kerry way – much closer to home. Without a doubt the Kerry Way is one of the best long distance walking trails and perfect for building your experience. Of course, for those living in Ireland or those with direct flights access to Kerry airport, it’s very convenient too!
We want more people to experience the wondrous Kerry way and Álaind Walking makes it easy for you. We provide luxury ensuite rooms and both guided and self-guided walking holidays to take all the hassle out of planning your walking trip. If you want to experience the Kerry Way for fun, challenge, walking experience or it’s on your bucket list, we’d love to make it happen.
If you want help planning your perfect walking holiday, please contact me directly by email or phone at +353-85-1422677.
You may also find inspiration in our guides to nearby walks: