The Kerry Way (Ireland)
Information about the trail
Duration: 7 - 10 days (depending on daypack or backpack)
Length: 186 km (looped trail)
Best time to hike: May/June - September/October (according to midges, horse-flies season)
Maps & guidebook:
Bardwell, S. (2017). The Kerry Way (2nd edition). Edinburgh: Rucksack Readers.
Mobile app: Hiiker (or Hiiker.app)(highly recommended)
Detailed (and offline) maps with lots of information like altitude, stage trails, alternative routes, accommodations, amenities, … I used it as my main guide on the trail. I didn’t actually use the guidebook too much.
Waymarkings: very well waymarked and maintained.
Always prepare yourself for bad weather conditions. Some parts of the trail can be very muddy and wet, especially between Waterville & Cahersiveen.
Accommodation (along the trail): easy to find B&B’s, hostels, camping spots, bars.
Train: to get to the trail from Dublin to Killarney (starting point)
Bus: available (but rare)
Hitchhiking: very easy
Taxi: available (but expensive)
Route: Caherdaniel - Killarney (Clockwise)
Duration: 6 - 7 days
Length: +/- 111 km
Time of the year: September
One disadvantage of flying by plane to your destination is that you can’t already pack camping fuel with you. When flying to Dublin Airport, it’s easy to find all kind of camping fuel in the city center. From Dublin Airport you take the bus to O’Connell Street, which brings you directly in the city center. Within walking distance you can already find several outdoor shops.
(Check Google Maps to find shops selling the specific fuel you need)
From Dublin to Killarney you can easily take the train. At Dublin Hueston Station take the train to Mallow Station and from there to Tralee. In about 3 hours you’re arriving in Killarney, the starting and arrival point of the Kerry Way. If you decide to spend an extra day here, a visit to the Killarney Brewery (Killarney Brewing Company) is highly recommended. Amazing beers & delicious pizza!
DAY 1: Caherdaniel - Waterville (13 km)(Coastal route)
Normally the Kerry Way goes anti-clockwise, but I decided to go clockwise. By doing this, the harder (but in my opinion the most beautiful) stages are at the end of the trail. So you get “the best” at the end. But this can be challenging too after already a few days of hiking of course.
Because of lack of time, I had to skip two or three stages of the trail. Which made Caherdaniel my starting point for hiking the Kerry Way.
Starting from Caherdaniel to Waterville, you have two route options: inland and coastal (alternative route). I recommend taking the coastal route, which takes you into Derrynane National Park and Derrynane Bay. The views there are amazing and in good weather you can also spot the Skelligs.
From Derrynane Bay you climb uphill. Just before the last climb, you pass the Scariff Inn, ideal for getting some refreshments or even a meal with an amazing view over the bay. The only downside: lots of tourists and touring buses stop there too, so it can be quite busy. If you want to avoid that, go a bit further to the top of the mountain and you will find an even better place to have a break.
The end of this stage is normally Waterville, I continued a bit further to find a nice spot for camping out. In rainy weather conditions, this can be difficult. This specific part of the trail was really wet and muddy. Eventually I found a spot to put up my tent looking over Lough Currane.
(Wildcamping is allowed in Ireland, nevertheless most of the land is privately owned so permission of the landowners is obligated. But if you respect the ‘Leave no trace’-policy, it shouldn’t be a problem).
DAY 2: Waterville - Cahersiveen (22 km)
This stage, like I said, was very muddy and wet. Make sure you get some good Gore-Tex boots to keep your feet dry. Avoiding puddles of mud was sometimes impossible.
Further on the trail, you encounter a lot of ridge walks followed by steep descents. Thankfully I had my trekking poles with me, which made the up-and-down ridges more comfortable.
When arriving in Gortmore, you can again hitchhike to visit Cahersiveen.
DAY 3: Cahersiveen - Glenbeigh (23 km)
Another hiking day... Unfortunately I got sick and had to skip a day to recover. Hiking and not feeling 100% well didn’t feel safe enough, especially because this was going to be a long day. So I took the bus from Cahersiveen to Glenbeigh and stayed there for the day.
Luckily, Rossbeigh Beach was only 2 km away. Ideal for getting some fresh air and enjoying my trip, although I wasn’t really feeling well.
(If you want to add an extra day at this stage, it’s a really nice spot)
DAY 4: Glenbeigh - Glencar (13 km)
Back on the trail! A day of rest did very good and I was totally ready again for hiking.
Today’s hike began very cloudy and foggy but soon became very sunny and it would stay like this till the end of my trip.
From Glenbeigh to Glencar is 13 km walking with just one steep climb to the Windy Gap at the beginning of the day. There is a longer route (“scenic route”) too which takes you around the mountain Seefin instead of going to Windy Gap. For the rest of the day, after passing Windy Gap, you’re walking through forest and woodland paths. With, of course, amazing views.
I stopped my day early at the Climbers Inn, where I stayed for the night.
DAY 5: Glencar - Black Valley (20 km)
As they say, the Kerry Way becomes more and more impressive by the day (if you do it clockwise). Previous stage was already breathtaking, so I was very curious what would come next.
The first few kilometres of today’s stage take you into a valley with a big “wall” in front of you. So you already know that a steep climb is coming soon.
After the climb, the trail takes you into two beautiful valleys, separated by two passes. Eventually, you arrive in a little village called Black Valley. There I met other hikers who were at the beginning of their Kerry Way adventure. Always nice to share stories with fellow travellers.
DAY 6: Black Valley - Killarney (24 km)
Last day on the trail.
The last day on the Kerry Way leads you along the Upper Lake to Galway’s Bridge, a nice and easy walk to start the day. Galway’s Bridge (a viewpoint over Killarney National Park) is the intersection where the path to Black Valley and to Kenmare are coming together.
Continuing the trail takes you uphill on the Old Kenmare Road. A steep climb to a secluded valley, you cross through the beautiful Esknamucky Glen. Somewhere along this path, you will discover a hidden gem, a lovely place to have a break. Take the hike to discover this place yourself.
After a long descent, passing the Torc Waterfall and Muckross Estate (nice to visit but sometimes very crowded) you arrive back in Killarney. Time to finish your Kerry Way adventure with a Guinness!