Walk for the weekend: an enchanting walk along the Kerry Way
A wonderful woodland walk from Galway’s Bridge to Lord Brandon’s cottage, via Kerry's Upper Lake
The walk starts from the now disused Gothic revival Derrycunihy Catholic church, which was built in 1890
A woodland walk by a lake shore with a mountainous background is one of the most sublime experiences a walker can have, and there is no better route to experience this than on the track from Galway’s Bridge to Lord Brandon’s cottage, a section of the Kerry Way which follows the old road into the Black Valley.
The walk starts from the now disused Gothic revival Derrycunihy Catholic church, which was built in 1890. You descend into a woodland track, but are immediately diverted to the banks of the Galway’s River as it cascades through a jumble of large rounded boulders.
You could sit by this vibrant scene for some time but the woodland calls and it is time to resume the track that descends into an enchanting milieu of oak and holly underlain by moss covered rocks and verdant ferns.
As one goes further along there are glimpses of the widening waters of the river as it nears its confluence with the Upper Lake, while the branches of the trees provide a tracery of leaves which stand out against the blue sky and the upper slopes of the Purple Mountain.
As the trees begin to thin out an enchanting scene is revealed as the path runs along the shore of the Upper Lake. On a windless day the islands in the lake and the mountain slopes that run down to the opposite shore are mirrored in the still waters, creating a vista that would attract any of the great landscape painters. An 18th century writer observed: “In picturesque scenery the Upper Lake far surpasses the other lakes in that it displays much greater variety, but that variety arises from different combinations of the same wild and uncultivated features.”
Another stretch of woodland then opens out into the parkland on which Lord Brandon’s cottage is situated. It is worth continuing past the cottage first as there is some beautiful landscapes and riverscapes to be viewed. You can then return to the cottage, which was originally a 19th century hunting lodge but is now a café which provides welcome sustenance for the weary explorers who descend on it from all directions.
You now have a choice. You can either retrace your steps to Galway’s Bridge or you can opt for a boat journey down through the lakes to the harbour at Ross Castle. This trip is one of the highlights of the numerous options for exploring the National Park.
The beauty of the Upper Lake is enhanced by viewing it from the water and then the boat enters the narrows which run through the heavily wooded slopes of Shehy Mountain on your left and Torc Mountain on your right. If lake levels are high this stretch can be an exciting ride.
You then come to the famous “meeting of the Waters” where you enter Muckross Lake and you will get fine views of Muckross House and its surrounding woodlands, before crossing Lough Leane to enter the lovely little harbour by Ross Castle.