This time it is our Director of Programmes Sean who shares this favourite walk with you. For him it was easy. As is was Sean himself who dreamed up and initiated the Kerry Way, Ireland’s premier long-distance trail it would always be one of these routes that would win him over! And so the Kells to Glenbeigh section of the Kerry Way it is and here he tells us why…
‘Spectacular views, nature as revealed through the seasons and the associated history, mythology and folklore combine to make my favourite walk, the leg of the Kerry Way that traverses the lower slopes of Drung Hill overlooking Dingle Bay.
The old highway, over 200 years old, is on the line that must have been used in pre-history, allowing you to feel that you are following in the footsteps of our early ancestors. Pre-historic (and still mysterious) rock art abounds in the area. According to mythology, it is on the route used by a magician summoned from his home on Valentia Island on the journey to remove a curse put on the cows of North Cork. The area is associated with the lore of the Fianna warrior band, including the legend of Tír na nÓg, the land of everlasting youth. More recently, it was a Butter Road used to carry on horseback the product of the small farmsteads to the international Butter Exchange in Cork City.
A walk over the southern shore of Dingle Bay would in itself be rewarding. The panoramic views gradually revealed in the course of the walk add so much more – to the west the Atlantic Ocean, Valentia Harbour and Island and the Blasket Islands; north the Dingle Peninsula; northeast the sand spits of Inch and Rossbeigh enclosing Castlemaine Harbour (salmon and mussel fishery) and the four rivers (Maine, Laune, Caragh and Behy) feeding it; and to the east Ireland’s highest peaks, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
The yellow-flowered gorse bush and the prolific fuchsia add colour to sections in season. For those with the interest, what may seem to be barren bogland is home not just to the grazing sheep herds and wild fauna but also to a rich flora that includes a number of rare Lusitanian plants.
For me, there is a particular satisfaction in knowing that a local history lecture in the 1970s drew attention to the four routes along the slopes of Drung Hill and in turn led to the development of what now is one of Ireland’s premier walking trails, the Kerry Way (main line: 180km/112.5 miles). I recall taking a tour operator on this walk, to be told that she believed photographs seen in advance must have been touched up but then realised that the pictures did not do justice to the reality! Come along and experience it for yourself ‘