Determined to get another Kerry Way walk in, we had agreed that the following Sunday would be our opportunity. When the alarm went off and I saw the heavy fog and mist that was down, I must’ve fallen back asleep because the next thing I knew it was 9:30am – the time we had agreed to leave! Oh crap. Down I went to get some coffee into me and here was our guest all set, ready to go and had the look of absolute enthusiasm about her….uh oh..did she not see the weather outside? Do you not know the dangers of walking in fog?? In an area that we are not familiar with? Being far too nice and calm to tell me I was making a mountain out of a molehill, she very gently coaxed me into my runners and I found myself beginning a 4 hour walk at 11am on a day in which you could hardly see the road in front of the bonnet of the car.
In fairness to me, I felt a responsibility for this lady as she was a visitor to these shores and knowing how quickly the weather could turn, I couldn’t face the embarrassment of becoming a statistic if anything did go wrong. Anyway, she had far more faith in our navigational skills and abilities than I seemed to have had!!
As we had the whole day ahead of us, we covered two stages of the Kerry Way: Sneem to Staigue and Staigue to Caherdaniel. This was in a reverse order to the trail description on the website. Why? I think we reasoned that we might as well start from the furthest point and make our way back to our base in Caherdaniel, and I suppose there was an element of stubborn determination about us too!
So, parking our car about 500metres on the western end of Sneem, we followed the back road into a section of forestry that gave us shelter from the mist that seemed to be hovering in the air, as opposed to actually falling down. We then made our way across the floor of the valley and it pained me to think of the views our guest was missing out on. The trail went through farmland with cows and their grown up calves coming over to us, probably wondering if we were bringing them some breakfast!
The path then veered to the edge of the N70, Ring of Kerry road and it was here we met two serious looking hikers coming along with what looked like a shopful of gear but they didn’t look like happy campers at all. They had the whole works; big sturdy boots, short shorts (we’re talking hot pants here) and rucksacks which were at least 2/3’s the height of themselves. Of course, taking after my mother, I was straight into asking them how far they had come and what it was like and I wasn’t getting much of a reply. So we told them they hadn’t too far to go and there was plenty of places to get something nice to eat and drink in Sneem which even then didn’t seem to perk them up!!!
Now. This is something I have learned from walking and I ask you to remember that this is not a guide book to these walks, but just an account of my experience of walking in the Irish great outdoors so bear in mind – it is subjective – I tend to travel as lightly as I can when out walking for a few reasons. 1. I will prepare in advance, making sure I have an up-to-date OS Map (&compass) with me and leave my planned departure and arrival time and whereabouts with someone at home. 2. Too much gear weighs me down physically and that then wears me down mentally and that is the complete opposite of what I hope to achieve from going for a walk! 3. This is Ireland, we are never a million miles away from someone or some place and I will always make sure my phone battery is fully charged up before leaving. 4. I dress according to the weather; on this day it was foggy and misty but very, very humid and I knew from my previous walk that all I needed was a light t-shirt and rain jacket – no fleece as it was too warm – a cap to keep the mist away from my face, no need for sunglasses as the cap would shade my eyes if and when the sun appears, which it did and light long trousers (lyme diesease????) which I have a pair of dri-fit leggings to repel moisture. Now, foot wear. Under normal circumstances I would wear my walking boots but I forgot to bring them and so I took a chance and wore my runners. They were fine but I would prefer to wear my boots as the ground is uneven and boots make me feel all lovely and snug and secure, while also being light. I should say that after about half an hour I was damp & 2 hours in, I was pretty much wet through but warm as we were moving and very pleased to be out and about actually doing this walk! In my bag, which is a bright water proof little thing I had the map in a plastic bag (to keep dry), water and snacks. This is what I have figured out works for me but do always err on the side of caution if in doubt, and don’t just do what works for me – as I tend to be a little on the optimistic side when it comes to walking trails as I found out a few years ago with a school friend….thats a whole other story!!!!
Anyway! Back to this walk…
We began climbing and had to pick our way through the drier patches. We met more walkers who were geared up for the weather, visiting Ireland for the summer and were thrilled to feel rain on their skin, having come from one of the more arid United States. As we made our way back down to lower ground the fog seemed to lift and looking back we could see the stretch of land we had just walked through (above). From then on, very gradually the weather improved. It was overcast but fine for a while and slowly the sun began to emerge through the clouds.
We did not get to see Staigue Fort as the fog was still down when we passed by and I was so disappointed that our visitor was missing out on the views across the Kenmare river but it just meant we got to notice things that were closer to us such as the blackberries, wild flowers, stone walls and massive, gigantic boulders just randomly dotted about the place. It was interesting for me to hear my companion remark upon how nice it is to see the small farm holdings with cows and calves together in the paddocks and sheep so chilled out as we walk by; not something she is used to seeing in England. As the fog burned off, the heat of the day increased and we came across a gorgeous little sheltered brook where we stopped for our lunch and splashed ourselves with water to refresh from the heat.
We continued along to Coad mountain and with the sun higher in the sky, we were gifted the sights and scenery that I had been hoping to see all day! The grassy path seemed to quickly dry out and with the heat from the sun, we weren’t long drying off ourselves. A bench gave us an opportunity to sit down and eat a few blackberries while taking in the view stretching out around us, below…
Though we were now able to watch out for landmarks all around us, before we knew it we had rounded a corner and there was Scarriff and Deenish islands sitting out in Derrynane Bay right infront of us! We continued along the boulder field, down the stone steps, past the yellow gorse and purple heathers and arrived right at Caherdaniel village where it was straight into Freddies for ice-cream and a fizzy drink, thrilled that we actually beat the weather and made it back!
If you are completing the Kerry Way walk, make your way towards Derrynane now to do the coastal route. It is one of the most beautiful parts of our country, you can read my experience here: