With restrictions easing and inter-county travelling now allowed once more, the Kingdom of Kerry is the perfect destination for a staycation or even just a day of adventure and discovery in the great outdoors. At Ballyseede Castle, we are so lucky to be nestled in one of the most stunning parts of the country and indeed the world. From mountain ranges, beaches, cliffs, forests and islands, there is no doubt Kerry offers some of Ireland’s most picturesque scenery and enchanting beauty spots. The vast array of breath-taking walks and hikes in the kingdom of Kerry, made it almost impossible to shortlist our favourites. From leisurely family strolls to hiking up Ireland’s highest mountain, we have tried to include a wide variety of hikes, some suitable for experienced hikers and others for beginners. Below are just some of our favourite hikes and walks in our wonderful county:
We may be biased with this one, seeing as it’s right on our doorstep here at Ballyseede Castle, but Ballyseedy Woods had to be on our list of favourite walks in Kerry. Dating back to at least the 16th Century, it is a tranquil retreat spanning nearly 80 acres with at least 22 different varieties of native trees and a number of ruins and follies within. A family friendly walk suitable for all skill levels and very easily accessible paths, Ballyseedy Woods is a hidden treasure and worthy of its place on our list of favourite walks and hikes.
The three-day Kerry Camino also makes our list of favourite hikes in Kerry. A moderate level hike, the Kerry Camino is part of the Camino de Santiago network of ancient pilgrim routes all over Europe. This hike begins at St. John’s Church in Tralee and follows the route believed to have been taken by pilgrims and St. Brendan the Navigator to St. James Church in Dingle. For the most part, the route follows the famous Dingle Way passing through 6,000 years of Irish history along the Wild Atlantic Way, rugged mountain sides, coastal scenery and several towns and villages. Walkers can use a passport and mark their progress on the various stamping stations on the route. The average distance is around 19.5km per day, so between 5-7 hours hiking per day, so is definitely more suited to a moderate to experienced hiker.
Next on our list of favourite hikes in Kerry is Mount Brandon. Another moderate levelled hike, this well-marked walk is the perfect choice for intermediate hikers looking for a manageable and enjoyable challenge. The ninth highest mountain in Ireland, its peak offers sensational views of the Dingle Peninsula. Rich with history and tradition this hike also offers epic views of lakes, waterfalls, sheer cliff faces of the Atlantic coastline, the Macgillycuddy Reeks, Carrauntoohill, the Blasket Islands and even the Aran Islands on a clear day. This 10km hike can take upwards of 5 hours but is without question one of the most scenic hikes in the country and was an easy decision to add to our list of favourites.
- ©Failte Ireland - Courtesy Valerie O'Sullivan
Next to make our list of favourites is the Bray Tower Loop at Bray Head on Valentia Island. With two options to access the island, via ferry from Reenard Point or via road over a bridge from Portmagee, Bray Head is a stunning hike in the far west of the Iveragh Peninsula. From the moment you drive into the car park, the views are remarkable. The sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks as well as the cliff and sea views make this one of the most scenic coastal hikes in Ireland. This hike offers unrivalled views of the Skellig & Blasket Islands, the Dingle sound and of course Valentia Island and the Iveragh Peninsula itself. However, the highlight of the hike is undoubtedly the ruins of the iconic Napoleonic Watchtower. Overall, this loop is a family-friendly, comfortable hike for most fitness levels. Its paths are easily accessible and suitable for all skill levels.
Another manageable but spectacular hike that has made our list is the Lomanagh Loop. Perfect for beginners, it offers beautiful views of the surrounding woodlands, farmlands and picturesque countryside of the Kingdom of Kerry. Beginning in Sneem, this 10km hike will take around three and a half hours and is mostly comprised of paths and trails, so it’s not too challenging and the perfect way to pass away a few hours.
DERRYNANE LOOP WALK
Near Caherdaniel, the Derrynane Loop Walk is next on our list of our favourite hikes in Kerry. This is more of a moderate 9km hike that will take on average three and a half hours in total around the incredible Derrynane National Park. You pass through the woodland on the hills over the stunning Derrynane beach on this walk, see Derrynane House, and parts of the Mass Path route and Kerry Way are also taken in on this route. In general, the loop has well defined paths throughout and is a thoroughly enjoyable hike that will not disappoint.
GAP OF DUNLOE
Another moderate levelled hike, the Gap of Dunloe was a certainty for our list of favourite hikes in Kerry. Starting at the famous Kate Kearney’s Cottage and taking you through the majestic Gap of Dunloe, this hike follows a narrow and winding road through the mountain pass between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the Purple Mountain and enjoys magnificent views of lakes, incredible mountains and the River Loe along the way. Overall, this 11km moderate hike will take around three and a half to four hours to complete and is a little more challenging than others on this list, but definitely worth it. Don’t forget to make a wish at the Wishing Bridge near the beginning of the hike, you never know, it might just come true!
© Chris Hill Photographic
MUCKROSS ABBEY TO TORC WATERFALL
Definitely one of the easier or more intermediate walks / hikes on our list is from Muckross Abbey to Torc Waterfall in Killarney. This is an extremely popular and scenic route taking in spectacular views of the lakes and mountains of Killarney National Park, Muckross House and Gardens and of course Muckross Abbey and Torc Waterfall themselves. The famous Torc Waterfall is positioned at the foot of Torc Mountain, which can also be explored for those looking for an extra challenge. Overall, this is a very easily accessible path and suitable for all skill levels.
LOUGH GOOGH LOOP
One of the more strenuous, difficult, and challenging hikes to make our list is the Lough Googh Loop. This one is definitely for more experienced hikers and not for the faint-hearted. There are narrow ridge sections along the way, so you need to be okay with heights before beginning your hike. The views along the route are nothing short of breath-taking, taking in parts of Killarney National Park from unique angles, making the jarring exposed edges and ridges all worthwhile. The loop is 10km in total, and will take roughly 5 hours to complete, but if you’re up for a challenge and an experienced hiker, this is definitely right up your street and a hike we would recommend.
CARRAUNTOOHIL – DEVILS LADDER ROUTE
No list of hikes in Kerry would be complete without Carrauntoohil. There are several different ways to approach Carrauntoohill but we have decided to add the Devil’s Ladder route to our list of favourite hikes, probably the most popular of the routes up Ireland’s tallest mountain. This is definitely a hike for the more experienced hikers, or intermediate hikers who are ready to step it up and face the challenge head on. It may be challenging, but it’s also unforgettable. The lakeside, seaside, and mountain edge views along the hike and from the top of Carrauntoohill is something that will live long in your memory and a fitting reward for the difficult challenge reaching the summit. The 12km Devil’s Ladder route will take anything between up to 6 hours and definitely the most difficult hike on our list.
BOOK YOUR STAYCATION NOW
If you want to try some of the hikes on this list or you are looking to explore the Kingdom of Kerry, why not book a luxury staycation with us here at Ballyseede Castle. You deserve it! As Kerry’s only castle hotel, we offer an authentic castle experience full of Irish charm and personality and are the perfect base for touring the county.Check out our amazing staycation offers from €179 per room here.