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Killarney, Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley


Located in the heart of County Kerry and lying beneath a line of east-west running mountains, including the country’s highest-and most rugged mountains, the Killarney Valley extends from the headwaters of it’s lakes in the east below the sacred Paps (the breasts of the goddess Ánú) westwards to the meeting of the River Laune and onto Dingle Bay.

Majestic peaks, pristine upland and lowland lakes, gushing streams and deep rivers, spectacular light, ancient woodlands of oak, holly and yew, this is the region known around the world as, Killarney. Within, lies the Killarney National Park, the Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley along with other lesser known places, all overlain with 8000 years of human history to the contemporary vibrant culture that marks this extraordinary place.


Walking is a common currency in these parts and participated in by locals and visitors alike on a piece of landscape rich in diverse opportunities for the walker, hiker and climber, from gentle forest trails to high sharp peaks.


Easy Walks:

Muckross Nature and Historic Trails
A variety of surfaced trails to suit all levels of walking ability and many of a specific interest, these trails provide the visitor to Killarney with a very special range of opportunities access the majestic nature of the valley easily.
(3 and 5 kms / 2 and 3 miles trail walking with no ascent)

Tomies Wood
Accessible by boat or on foot, Tomies Woods lies along the southern shoreline of the largest lake in the valley, Loch Léin. A walk through this oak woodland to the secluded waterfall of O Sullivan’s Cascade takes one deep into the remotest part of the National Park where one in unlikely to meet another soul! It provides a powerful connection with the timelessness of the natural history of Killarney in a couple of hours and all merely across the other side of the lake from town.
(5 and 8 kms / 3 and 5 miles options of trail walking with minimal ascents)

Ross Island Trails
Accessible easily again from Killarney town and environs, these trials extend over a limestone promontory of beauty and extraordinary natural and human history. The floor of the beech wood here in early summer is unmatched anywhere in Ireland, covered as they are in a carpet first of wild garlic and then bluebells. And all around here, some 4300 years copper mining took place here, marking the oldest mining in North-western Europe discovered to date.
(3 kms / 2 miles trail walking with no ascent)


Moderate Walks:

Torc Mountain
A lofty wedge-shaped peak overlooking Muckross Lake, Torc Mountain provides the easiest access onto high ground in the region, with all the views that such places bring. Located within the Killarney National Park, the route is a well groomed trail and board-walk that switchbacks up to almost two thousand feet before spectacular views over the immediate valley and lake-land extend to the central plains of Kerry, Dingle Bay and Peninsula..
(5 kms / 3 miles trail walking with 550m / 1800 ft of ascent)

Moderate Walks continued:

Struicín Mountain
Located near the northern entrance to the Gap of Dunloe, this spur off the highest mountains of the McGillycuddy Reeks is one of the greatest vantage points of the Killarney Valley. Easily accessed and with an old turf-cutter’s track leading to it’s summit, Struicín provides a walk of unequalled quality for it’s grade! Huge views extend over the plains of Central Kerry and beyond into the Golden Vale of middle Ireland while the views west over the bay and mountains of Dingle end only at the Great Blasket Island. This walk provides the backdrop for the story of this valley like no other, it’s geology and resultant nature through to the millenia of evidenced human history here. Perfect at any time of day and year with spectacular light common throughout, Struicín is the perfect early morning or sunset hike.
(5 kms / 3 miles trail walking with 450m / 1450 ft of ascent on rough trails and open hillsides)


The Kerry Way and Old Kenmare Road from Doire Cunnihe (Derrycunnihy) to Muckross
The old road linking Killarney to Kenmare is now part of the country’s most famous long-distance walking route known as the Kerry Way. This classic section takes the walker through the heart of the Killarney National Park. It is a place of timeless beauty where amidst the rich flora and fauna of the region, the noble red deer roam over once populated hillsides. It provides a great walk in any weather that ends in the vicinity of Torc Waterfall and Muckross. The walk is particularly note worthy during September/October when the Red Deer rut (mating) takes places and the bellowing stags can be heard and usually seen along the route.
(approx. 8kms/5 miles with 400m / 1500 ft of ascent on rough trails and open hillsides)


The Kerry Way to the Black Valley from Doire Cunnihe and the Gap of Dunloe
Taken either from the Ring of Kerry road near Ladies View or incorporated into a journey that begins with a traditional lake boat from Killarney to reach the headwaters of the Killarney Lakes, a hike through the Black Valley and Gap of Dunloe is simply a must for any nature lover to Killarney! This walk is suitable to all levels of ability with support for any ailing legs possible throughout usually in from a passing jaunting car. The sheer beauty of these greatest of Ireland’s mountain valleys, strewn with pristine lakes and bounded by the walls of Ireland’s highest peaks are simply breathtaking, matched only by the story of our ancestors here. The finish point is the historic oasis known as Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
(12 kms / 8 miles trail and country road walking with 200 m / 675 ft of ascent on rough trails and open hillsides)


Difficult/Strenuous Walks:

Purple & Tomies Mountains
This high-level mountain walk along the crest of the mountains that form the eastern rampart of the Gap of Dunloe pass is the preserve of truly magnificent views. The walk for the most part follows the west boundary of the Killarney National Park with unrestricted views throughout much of the south west of Ireland. Highlights are the views west over the jagged ‘ Reeks and down the peninsulas to the Atlantic before descent over the lower lakes of Killarney. This hike can be perfectly linked with the Killarney Lake boats for a transfer to the Black Valley trail head and/or with a jaunting car to the Head of the Gap start point.
(8 kms / 5 miles with 900 m / 3000 ft of ascent on rough trails and open hillsides)

Very Difficult/Strenuous Walks:

Corrán Tuathail and the McGillycuddy Reeks
The finest and toughest mountain walking in Ireland over it’s highest peaks – click here >>

Ann, we can’t thank you enough, it was such a beautiful and soulful adventure.  A pleasure to walk in faith with you.

Nadine,   MD,  USA – Aug 15
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