Statistics: 13 miles, ascent 1793′, descent 1609′, 7 1/4 hours
Today was a premier day to start our hike; both the weather and the surroundings were perfect. We would be struck by the spectacular beauty of this area many times over the next ten days. For us, the Kerry Way began at Muckross House, a 19th century, Victorian mansion on the outskirts of Dublin. This handsome home with manicured, expansive lawns and an enticing lake placed squarely in the middle of wild nature was quite a way to begin our next trek. (If you have the time, take the guided tour to learn the history of this fascinating facility.)
As we walked through the property, we were delighted to see a friendly driver and a snappy jaunting cart.
Leaving Muckross house, the trail skirted lovely Muckross Lake at the foot of Mangerton Mountain. Light showers followed us away from this area. This first section of the hike connects to the Kerry Way’s loop, several miles down the trail.
With the populated areas now behind us, we began to climb up the path to Torc Waterfall – a series of smaller falls bounding down the mountain making quite a show.
Ireland is a land of frequent rainbows and today was no exception. Walking in and out of the mist we were presented with a clear rainbow over the gorse in the wild moorland at the top of our first ascent.
We soon passed many little creeks and ponds that, had it been warm, would have been very inviting for a dip. With one more ascent, up Esknamucky Glen, we then descended through a moss-clad forest.
At the bottom of this hill and out of the forest, we came to the junction with the Kerry Way loop. This began a pleasant amble through the countryside before the next descent through a deep, mossy wood.
We then emerged at the picturesque Upper Lake.
At this point we encountered a number of walkers who had taken a boat from Dublin to the distant shore of this lake and were now walking back toward Muckross House and Killarney. We discovered a perfect lunch stop at, surprisingly, a tearoom along the trail, Lord Brandon’s Cottage, so named after a clergyman who had once lived in the area. Our path, now a gravel road, made its way into Black Valley and to our B&B, Shamrock Farmhouse, which is at the foot of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
Our very accommodating host, Sheila, graciously served us tea and delicious cakes upon our arrival. (You may have noticed by now that I always looked forward to each afternoon’s tea and cakes.) While “taking tea” we enjoyed observing the many farm animals out in the farmyard: two pesky sheep bounding in and out of trouble (see the large picture at the top of today’s blog), the large horses used to pull the jaunting carts and several, very friendly dogs, primarily Border Collies. Once in my room, I heard a noisy racket outside my window. “Junior,” the border collie pup, was demanding a little attention. I was only too glad to oblige him!
The first day of the Kerry Way was complete.