Walk for the Weekend: An overlooked walk around Killarney

Newly established Fossa Way takes in a vast panorama of Killarney’s mountains and lakes

Lough Leane from Aghadoe

Lough Leane from Aghadoe

 

The fame of the Muckross Demesne, near Killarney, overshadows the Fossa woodlands that penetrate right into the heart of the town. Passing through the gates of Killarney House, one instantly leaves the hustle and bustle and is enveloped in the quiet of this urban woodland. The House which was a gift to the people of Killarney had been allowed to deteriorate but has now been refurbished and will soon be open to the public.

I took the path on the left which is the newly established Fossa Way, pausing at the thatched Derreen Cottage for a morning coffee before continuing on with an eye out for a path on my right which brought me out on to the main road which I crossed to get on to a narrow road known as “Bóithrín na Marbh” (“The Little Road of the Dead”), which was the route taken by funerals from Killarney Cathedral to the graveyard at the top of the hill which has a ruin of a church dating back to the sixth century. This is known, apparently, as “The walk from baptism to death.” The road runs along the contours at the start and then turns sharply uphill. I love the atmosphere of old graveyards, but this one was spoiled somewhat by a large modern building which has been built right up against the dry-stone wall. Unbelievable.

Ridge of the Reeks from Aghadoe
Ridge of the Reeks from Aghadoe

However, my dim view of such insensitivity was forgotten when I saw the sight that awaited me further on, where a large open green area overlooked a vast panorama of the mountains and lakes of Killarney. There is seating to allow you to sit and absorb the essence of the scene. A long information panel helps you identify the names of the myriad peaks in view. It is small wonder that William Wordsworth, that great lover of the English Lake District, declared that “. . . Kerry, that county so nobly indented with bays of the Atlantic Ocean and possessing a climate so favourable for vegetation, along its mountains and inland waters might, without injustice, be pronounced in point of scenery, the finest portion of these islands.”

Coming down from Aghadoe on to the main road, the fastest way to get off it is through Killarney Golf Club where you can get right down to the water’s edge and have a view of the lake and the hills uninterrupted by vegetation. Carrying on around the edge of the lake, I arrived at the now restored Ross Castle, the last stronghold of the O’Donoghue chieftains. I carried on out to the end of the peninsula which was the only part of my route that had a fair number of walkers on it, drawn by the views across Lough Leane. Copper was once mined here as is evidenced by the remarkable green pool enveloped in a limestone grotto. Once past the castle on the way back, the crowds melted away and I had a peaceful walk through the Knockreer Gardens which were bedecked in their spring flowering finery of camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and cherries.

And then it was time to leave my woodland surroundings and plunge back into the lively heart of Killarney.

Fossa Woods to Aghadoe Heights, Killarney

Map:
OS Macgillycuddy Reeks & Killarney National Park. Scale: 1:25,000

Start and finish:
At the gates to Killarney House at the start of the Muckross Road

How to get there:
Park in the town car park, by the tourist office and walk back to the start

Time:
Three/four hours

Distance:
Full route: 19km. Woodlands: 10km.

Total Ascent:
100m

Suitability:
Easy

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