After a 3 ½ hour bus ride from Galway via Bus Eireann and a short walk to our self-catering hotel, Killarney reveals a compact and welcoming town lined with colourful shops, a variety of restaurants and friendly pubs.
We familiarize ourselves with the town and pop into a pub to meet the residents, sample the local stout and decide…is it Beamish or Murphy’s?
Surrounding the town of Killarney is a vast mountainous area which includes the 1000 metre Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s tallest peak on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks range. At the foot of these mountains lies the 26,000 acre UNESCO biosphere reserve, Killarney National Park. The unique combination of mountains, open valleys, lakes and native woodlands gives Killarney and its surroundings exceptional picturesque beauty. Yes, this will be an excellent place to base ourselves for the next 5 nights.
The next day we’re ready to hit the ground running. For the walker, whether novice or advanced, you can spend a surprising amount of time in and around the park. We follow the woodland nature trails to visit some of the park sites such as The Muckross House and Abbey and continue to Torc Falls past Lough Leane. With more time, we could have walked The Gap of Dunloe, a steep-walled valley that has carved its way through the glaciers of the MacGillicuddy’s Reeks. Or, we could have scrambled up the steep Devil’s Ladder to the mountain pass between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne… the hiking opportunities are endless.
By the end of the day, feet throbbing from our 22km walk, we drop into O’Connors Pub. We catch the Rugby Championship on the telly and hang out with the locals for a while. Today it’s Ireland vs. Romania… guess who won? The pub went wild!
Killarney is situated near three popular west coast peninsula’s; The Beara, The Iveragh (best known for The Kerry Way) and The Dingle. We decide to rent a car and explore one peninsula each day. We start with The Beara Peninsula.
Winding through Killarney Park at the crack of dawn, our first view was the early morning light over Ladies View along with Moll’s Gap where we stopped for fresh baked scones and coffee for breakfast.
This was our first time driving the narrow roads in Ireland…definitely not for the faint of heart! We toured the entire perimeter road to Garinish Point and back. The scenery was as spectacular as it was diverse; from coastal rocky and craggy to barren mountains and green pastures in between. Sites to explore: colourful fishing villages, ancient stone circles, wedge grave stands, ring forts and cable cars that take you to one of three islands off the Peninsula. This is an excellent area for superb Beara hiking and cycling. If we’d just had more time….so much to see.
Someone mistakenly published that The Beara is not as impressive as the other two peninsulas. If this is true, I can hardly wait to see what the other two bring! So, I’ll reserve judgement until the end… tomorrow we visit the Ring of Kerry on The Iveragh Peninsula.
I always get valuable information from Rick Steves’ travel books. He wisely suggested getting an early start and driving the Ring of Kerry clockwise from Kenmare; going against the parade of tour buses who drive counterclockwise. We are in the car by 7:30am.
Things to see: Beautiful Parknasilla Victorian Hotel for a breakfast buffet but we decide to move on to the charming town of Sneem for our favourite; fresh scones and tea before we proceed to the extraordinary Staigue Fort dating from 500B.C. We were the only ones there!
Then off to Derrynane House, Coomakista Pass, the Kerry Cliffs, Waterville (home of Charlie Chaplin),St Finians Bay, Skelligs Chocolate Factory, charming Portmagee to view the Island of Skellig Michael and off to Valentia Island before heading back to Killarney that evening. It was a long action packed day with no shortage of amazing sights every step of the way…
Today we tour The Dingle Peninsula. We grab some tea and scones(what else?) in Dingle Town and begin our drive. It’s much shorter today; only 60 kms in circumference. The views stared getting spectacular around Ventry and then opened up with spectacular scenery as far as Cloger Head; our destination before we head back to Dingle for a late lunch.
We enjoyed a nice Irish meal at John Benny’s Pub – starting with local oysters on the half shell from the Glenbeigh area, followed by a delicious fish pie and fish and chips. So good and so fresh!
I reflect on our last few days. All three peninsulas were unique and stunning in their own way. Personally, I enjoyed the quiet rugged beauty of The Beara first, the stunning diversity of The Iveragh (Kerry Way) second (although hectic), and the Dingle Peninsula third. There’s still so much to see and do. I would spend much more time in this area to enjoy the outdoor experiences that we didn’t have time for on this trip. Tomorrow we take the bus to Cork… HOME
Following are some links to check out:
Killarney Hiking and Walking
Beara Way activities
Gap of Dunloe