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Walking in Kerry – What to Know

Walking in Kerry is an incredible year-round activity, meaning that the best time to go is as soon as you can. Mild weather means our trail loops, beach and coastal walks, Kerry Way long-distance route and the Kerry mountains are waiting for you to enjoy. Here we details some of the best walking options and why you should consider the beautiful village of Sneem and specifically Álaind Lodges B&B as your base for exploring them.

Go Walking in Kerry Year-Round

When planning a walking holiday in Kerry, the first thing to know is that you can do it anytime of year. This holds whether you are walking Atlantic coastal walks, lowland loop trails, the Kerry Way or the Kerry mountains.

When qualifying for my Mountain Leader Award, I organised my first Kerry walking holiday in the Winter of early 2019. The weather treated us to bright blue skies and pleasurable walking temperatures, perfect for enjoying a combination of coastal and mountain routes. Things have developed since then and my business Álaind Walking Holidays now offers a range of multi-day walking holidays and day hikes throughout the year and every season brings with it a different feel.

These days, the availability of quality gear makes walking in Kerry so much easier – staying dry and comfortable year-round in the outdoors is no longer a challenge. If you want to discuss your holiday plans with me, please contact me (Fergal Harrington) by email or phone +353-85-1422677 and sign up to the Álaind mailing List to be kept in the loop.

Weather in Kerry – what you can expect

The Kerry weather allows for year-round walking. Thankfully, we experience few extremes, as our Summers are warm, winters are mild and the rest of the year is pleasant too.

Rarely is the wind or rain so strong as to prevent you going walking or hiking. At worst the weather may cause you to alter your chosen route for the day but rarely to cancel it altogether.

The average weather temperatures are between 7C degrees (45F degrees ) in January and February, and 15.5C degrees (60F degrees) in July and August. In fact the weather is largely frost free thanks to the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream that allows even semi-tropical vegetation to thrive here.

When’s the Best Time to Go Walking in Kerry?

As the prevailing Kerry weather changes with the seasons, so too do the mountains’ appearance. Most visitors to the area arrive in summertime to find green valleys, green uplands, bright blue sea and dark lakes.

Kerry is of course beautiful at any time of year but I particularly love walking and hiking in the months from autumn to spring. This is when the grasses change colour and the mountains transform, taking on golden and brown hues. Furthermore, clear haze-free visibility accentuates the mountains’ size and rugged beauty and from their tops, you can truly see for miles and miles.

Walking in Kerry in Winter and Summer
Contrasting Appearance of Sneem’s Coomanassig Waterfall in winter and summer.

A Spectacular Kerry Landscape Awaits Walkers.

When the first inhabitants arrived about 9,000 years ago, they found Ireland covered in Woodland. Throughout the subsequent millennia, forest clearance, changing climate and blanket bog growth has led to deforestation.

Kerry’s hillside and mountain landscape today consists mainly of wild grasses, heather & gorse and blanket bog, which is unsuitable for intensive agriculture. Instead much of the region is sparsely populated, with tourism accounting for a large proportion of generated income in the area. Consequently the upland areas are wild peaceful places, with the limited sheep farming often the only sign of life.

Typical walking on Ring of Kerry
Typical Kerry walking grassy landscape.

What Makes the Kerry Mountains good for walking?

The Kerry Mountains on the Iveragh Peninsula (aka Ring of Kerry), include the Dunkerron Mountains in Sneem, the neighbouring Macgillycuddy Reeks (Carrauntoohil) and the Caherciveen Horseshoe. The Dunkerrons and the Reeks form the spine of the peninsula which runs inland from Killarney to the Atlantic at Caherdaniel and Waterville.

Walkers love the access they get to Kerry’s wild areas, where they can really get away from it all. From the best mountain summit viewing spots, for example here in Sneem, you can see across the entire 30km wide x 60km long Ring of Kerry peninsula and the sea beyond.

We get many visitors to Álaind Lodges Sneem from countries where the mountains are higher.  When I ask them what they like best, they frequently say they come for the hills and mountains that stretch right down to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Mountains and sea is the experience in which they’re most interested and the Ring of Kerry offers this in spades!

Consider Sneem as your Base for Exploring

Basing yourself at Álaind Lodges B&B in Sneem for your Walking Holiday gives you a great choice of walks.  Thanks to Sneem’s position between the mountains and the sea, it offers some of the best walking in Kerry.

In the local Sneem area, you can choose from the following types of walks:

  • Easy flat loop trails;
  • Beach and coastal walks;
  • Easy to moderate sections of The Kerry Way;
  • Moderate to difficult (Off-Trail) routes through the Dunkerron Mountains or The Magillicuddy Reeks which includes Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s highest mountain
Walking Holiday include luxury ensuite accommodation, full breakfast, packed lunch, guided walks, trailhead transport and more. Click for full details.

The Best Walking and Hiking Routes near Sneem

Two of Kerry’s Best Loop Walks

The shorter looped walk in Sneem is called The Lomanagh Loop which is 10 km, while the longer Fermoyle loop is 14 km. You can start and finish both of these at Álaind Lodges.

The Loops follow quiet country lanes, forest tracks and farmland in the hills of Sneem. Prominently way-marked, you’ll be confident of guiding yourself to complete these walks.

Waymarker sign in Sneem Hills
Waymarkers showing the way on Sneem loop walks.

Kerry Beach and Coastal Walking

One of the most beautiful beaches for a fresh shorefront walk is Derrynane beach which is just a short distance from Sneem.  You’ll find it wonderful for exploring sand dunes, the seashore nature trail, the ruins of the monastic Abbey or the mass path walk. It’s one of my favourite areas to walk and all those I guide here absolutely love it – make sure to have this on your Ring of Kerry Walking itenerary.

The nearby house and estate belonged to Daniel O’Connell, Ireland’s ‘Liberator’, after whom Dublin’s main street is named.  Without a doubt, the entire areas is a gem that deserves inclusion on everyone’s list.

Derrnane Beach vie from Abbey Island
View of Derrynane Beach from Abbey Island.

Easy to Moderate Sections of The Kerry Way

If you’re looking to follow a way-marked trail, The Kerry Way is the best choice for you. Firstly it is Ireland’s longest and in my opinion best trail, ‘weighing in’ at a fabulous 214 km. Secondly, you can start and finish it in Sneem if you fancy doing the full loop around The Ring of Kerry.

Álaind Walking Coastal Views Walking Holiday
Kenmare Bay View from high on The Kerry Way.

I prefer shorter half-day sections of the Kerry Way because this way I focus on the areas with the best scenery and habitats. The sections from Beale to Catherdaniel and Sneem to Blackwater Bridge or Templenoe are a couple of my favourites On these sections, you feel like you’re in your own private wilderness but are in reality never too far from a main road or village. 

Our Kerry Way walking holidays offer short comfortable walks of 10-12km in length. This means everyone can experience the most splendid sections of the Ring of Kerry without too much effort. We offer both guided Kerry Way Holidays and self-guided short breaks where you can do your own thing. I’ll brief you on your route, provide you with a packed lunch and drop you you to your starting point, from where you will walk back to Álaind Lodges.

Moderate Challenge – Walking in the Kerry Hills

If you are feeling fit and ready, why not venture higher up the slopes of the Sneem Dunkerron Mountains and the Magilicuddy Reeks?  You will be well rewarded for your efforts.

Walking amidst the lovely bog cotton.

These slopes are a refuge for a rich biodiversity of species including several rare plants, birds, invertebrate species, as well as grazing land for sheep. If you’re lucky you might see wild deer, goats, foxes and hares.

The wild mountains’ slopes consist of blanket bog that is low in nutrients, wet, acidic and important for carbon capture and storage.  The bog surrounds a wondrous landscape pushed up by colliding tectonic plates and subsequently carved by the ice ages.

You will come across steep mountain faces, beautiful valleys, cooms and tarns stretching as far as the eye can see. Experts recognise Sneem as one of the most significant geological areas in Europe and have officially named it the Kerry Geopark.

Walking through The Kerry Geopark in Sneem.

Colliding continental plates formed the Kerry Geopark and its mountains over 100 million years. Shallow tropical seas previously covered the land, which explains why the rock found here is old red sandstone.

Coomanassig Lake in The Sneem Dunkerrons
Coomanassig Lake and waterfall in The Sneem Dunkerron Mountains

The weather and ice movements eroded the sandstone over millions of years, resulting in wide uneven plateaus at the summits of the Dunkerrons today. When you do reach their summits, you can explore them in many directions.

I don’t mean to suggest these mountains are in any way featureless, in fact the the opposite is true. They are spectacular.  Venturing towards the mountain edges you find sheer rock faces, rugged ridges and deep walled cooms. Cooms are shaped like pockets on a billiard or snooker table and many of them contain lakes.

Coomanassig is one such spectacular formation in Kerry Geo-Park. This rock-basin lake sits above another called Eagles Lake with a 100m waterfall connecting the two.  What an impressive sight it is after a night of rainfall!

On a clear day you can also see Carrauntoohil to the east. As Ireland’s highest mountain, its pointed shape contrasts considerably to the Dunkerrons mountains.

The likelihood is that Carrauntoohil has always stood above the great ice sheets and consequently it retained its pointed summit. Carrauntoohill is 1039m high and is 266m higher than Mullaghannattin (773m) and and 287m than Beann (752m), namely the highest peaks in the Sneem Dunkerron Mountain Range.

I hope this whets your appetite for a Sneem walking holiday. When you book a holiday or day hike or walk with us, we’re confident you’ll have a great time and want to return again and again.

What to Expect on an Álaind Walking Holiday – Sample Itinerary

Arrival on Day 1 in Sneem, Co. Kerry

Our guest walkers gather at 8pm in our comfy lounge area at Álaind Lodges, Sneem for the group welcome and briefing session.

We outline the holiday itinerary and check everyone has the gear to be safe, warm and comfortable on the next day’s walk. To ensure that we start promptly in the morning, we prepare as much of our kit that night for the following day.

Walking Itinerary for Day 2

On Saturday morning we gather at 8AM for a substantial Álaind Lodges breakfast with continental and hot cooked food choices. Over breakfast we’ll chat about the itinerary for the day’s ridge walk. We check the weather forecast once more, collect our packed lunches and board our transport to our starting point at Coad Church.

The weather for the day is North-westerly 8km wind, bright & sunny with temp 8 degrees and perfect visibility. These are perfect conditions for this time of year.

The Ridge Walk – one of the best in Kerry

Our route takes us initially along the Kerry Way gently inclining at the start. One walker remarks how this stretch is perfect for warming up her leg muscles before we veer off-trail onto the ridge.

The southerly views over Kenmare Bay stretching out into the Atlantic and to the Caha Mountains on the Beara Peninsula are simply stunning. We spend a while to take it all in and take some panoramic photos.

Along the way we pass a number of holy wells dedicated to Saint Crohan who was from this area. The wells form part of an annual pilgrimage that takes place on 30th July.

Just beyond the third well is the Windy gap, where we set out onto the ridge to the east. Onward we go along its summits for 5.4 Km ticking off the many spot heights along the way. The well-preserved and circular Staigue Fort from the Iron Age (300 – 400 AD) comes into view below.

Walking this wide and manageable ridge feels like you are on top of the world. The perfect weather has everyone in high spirits, consequently we take our time discussing the landscape, flora, fauna and good Mountain skills.

A Well Earned Break. See you on the Sunny Side
A Well Earned Break. See you on the Sunny Side

End of Kerry Walking Day 2

Our total distance was 12 KM with a height gain of 570m; Height loss 623m; Max Height 460m; and a Minimum Height 25m. This is definitely one of the best coastal walks with moderate difficulty that I have experienced.

Upon reaching Álaind Lodges, we relax for a while with a drink before freshening up for our evening meal in Sneem village. Afterwards we retire early to bed after a full day’s activities.

Day 3 Walking Itinerary

Today starts with breakfast and a gear and weather forecast check.  We can expect Westerly 10Km winds and overcast skies but it should be dry all day with a temperature of 10 degrees.

Setting out at Coomyanna Bridge on the outskirts of Sneem, we ascend a steep stoney track to the top of River Hill at a height of 383m.  From here we’re afforded spectacular views of the cliffs and Lough Commeen below.

Álaind Walking with Lough Coomeen below
What A Feeling, When You Reach The Top

We arrive at Lough Coomnacronia and Eagles Lake after crossing the lower slopes of Finnararagh and Knocknagantee. Sometimes I extend this route to the plateau on top of Finnararagh, but not today because of the low clouds.

The lower trail is below the clouds and offers stunning views of the Ring of Kerry and Beara Peninsulas, albeit from a maximum height of 380m. Spirits are again high and we find a sheltered spot beside the spectacular Lough Coomnacronia for a spot of lunch.

It’s true that the best sandwich and cup of tea are those you have on the mountainside. On the towering vertical cliff walls above we watch with amazement as two groups of wild goats climb vertically towards the summit.

Our next stop is the magnificent waterfall at the aptly name Eagles Lough, where spectacularly a white tailed eagle makes an appearance for us. Indeed we’re honoured that the eagles are regular visitors to Knocknagantee’s mountainous cliffs.

Sea Eagle above the cliffs
Sea Eagle Spotted High Above Eagle Lake Cliff.

The End of Walking Day 3

From here we decend across the grassy bog to reach a quiet rural backroad to Alaind Lodges Sneem. We’re feeling proud of our achievement, which saw us walk 12Km with a height gain of 380m; height loss of 450m and a maximum height of 380m.

On arrival at Alaind Lodges, we sit for a while and a chat in front of the fire. Everyone is relaxed, as we’ve a couple of hours before our evening restaurant booking in the village.

Day 4 Departure

After breakfast the walking holiday comes to and end, with most of the group departing. Encouragingly one couple is staying on for the next walking holiday, which starts the next day and follows different routes.

You can learn more about our Álaind Lodges accommodation and the different types of walking holidays we offer. The benefit of booking a walking holiday with us is that we make it easy for you. We’ll manage all the logistics and your accommodation, so you can focus on enjoying yourself.

Do you have a question about Álaind Walking Holidays? Contact me, Fergal Harrington, directly by email or phone at +353-85-2581480.

If you want to Experience the Best Walking on the Ring of Kerry, please view our holiday packages.

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