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Here are some of my favourite pictures from 2009. Click on any of these photos to enlarge.

February 2009 – Galtee Mountains, Co. Tipperary

April 2009 – Germany (Wiesbaden and Stuttgart)

May 2009 – Glenmalure,Co. Wicklow

May 2009 – Grand Canal, Co. Kildare

May 2009 – Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

June 2009 – Skellig Islands, Co. Kerry

June 2009 – Midleton, Co. Cork

July 2009 – Old Kenmare Road, Co. Kerry

August 2009 – Sheep’s Head, Co. Cork

September 2009 – St. Davids, Wales

September 2009 – Brecon Beacons, Wales

September 2009 – Elan Valley, Wales

September 2009 – Aberystwyth, Wales

September 2009 – Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry

And they said that squeezing 16 hrs of walking in Kerry down to two and a half minutes could not be done. Pah! I grimace menacingly in their general direction.

Here is the video of the walk. Right here, right now.

I’m back from a three day sojourn in south Kerry, walking 71 km in aid of cancer research. The format of the event this year was different from previous years, in that we were based in the same location for the whole weekend, with all walks terminating in Kenmare. We were brought to our starting point by bus from Kenmare each morning. (Kenmare is a smashing little town in south Kerry, a short distance from some of the most superb scenery in the country. If you are thinking about a trip to Ireland, it is an absolute must-see).

Moll's Gap

Moll's Gap

On Friday we travelled from Moll’s Gap to Kenmare. It was a relatively easy road walk, with the final few kilometers trudging through the hills above Kenmare. The distance was 17km, so it wasn’t too difficult. Conditions on the hills were very wet (no surprise given the rain of the last few weeks).

Lauragh to Kenmare

Lauragh to Kenmare

Saturday was the most challenging walk. We started out from Lauragh in the Beara Peninsula, and we had to overcome two hills and a long road-walk before we arrived, exhausted and footsore, into Kenmare about 8 hours later. The conditions were quite challenging, in that the ground underneath was either rocky, or very loose or sodden wet. Nevertheless the scenery was spectacular, the temperature was just right and the rain stayed away.

IMG_3322 - Old Road 1

Old Kenmare Road

Sunday was the last of the walks, from Torc Waterfall outside Killarney to Kenmare along the Old Road. This is an absolutely fantastic walk, although not for the faint-hearted. It’s a trek of about 21 km, but at times the scenery looks like something out of Disneyland. The most challenging part of the route was the end – a steep incline then decline on hard road, when my feet were shouting at me “no more”! Sunday was our wettest day. In Kerry they don’t get the kind of rain we are used to. They don’t do drizzle, or moist weather, or soft days. No, in Kerry it’s the Real Thing. From dry to drenched in 0.6 milliseconds.

IMG_3328 - Silver Bullets

All in all, a fantastic three days. I feel great from the walk, the company was great and I have to say that the organisation was fantastic throughout. I’ve had enough bananas and flapjacks to last me a lifetime.

If you would like to do something big for charity in 2010, or you just want a weekend to remember, this is the thing to do!

This is a video from an incredible day on the Skellig Islands two weeks ago. These rock stacks off the coast of Kerry are home to huge numbers of sea birds including gannets, puffins and razorbills. Skellig Michael hosts a small monastery built in the 700’s, while Little Skellig is the world’s second largest colony of Northern Gannets. Both islands are astounding in their beauty.

If you are ever in that part of the country I would urge you to check it out. Trips are arranged over the phone by contacting the operators in advance. The boat trips are weather dependent.

On the day after Christmas Day, I climbed Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland.

Carrauntoohill

Carrauntoohil is located in Co. Kerry, not so far from the towns of Killarney and Killorglin. It is part of the Magilicuddy Reeks, the loftiest of the mountain ranges in Southwest Ireland.

To reach Carrauntoohil, you must first negotiate your way through the Hag’s Glen, a massive U-shaped valley strewn with ancient moraine. The most usual route to the top is via the Devil’s Ladder, a steep and now quite dangerous route.

Hag's Glen

We didn’t go that way. Instead we ascended via the far more impressive Shay’s Gully route. On the way up, you can see ahead of you the clear remnant of an ancient glacier now long disappeared.

Ascending Shay's Gully

It was a long slog, but we reached the mountain peak in good time. It was like a train station at the top! St. Stephen’s Day – what we in Ireland call the day after Christmas Day – is an incredibly popular day for mountain climbing. Literally hundreds of people take the journey, and there have been more than one casualty on this day, on this mountain, in the past.

At the top

It was absolutely freezing at the top, so we didn’t stay for too long. We descended via Heaven’s Gate: a steep yet manageable and highly picturesque natural stairway to the bottom of the valley.

Descending via Heaven's Gate

I took this picture of a sheep on the way down. And you think you’ve got troubles..

Sheep on cliff

A big thanks to Barry who lead us up and back down again. He was a great help to us particularly where we needed to negotiate steep rock walls on our way down.

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Rainbows. My one abiding memory of my holiday in Kerry this year.

We stayed in Banna Strand, a few miles outside Tralee. There is a marvelously long  beach there, plus a swimming pool and kids’ activity centre so the kids could be entertained whatever the weather. 

That’s not to say we couldn’t travel: there is so much to see in Kerry, it would be a pity to stay in one place all the time. We headed out to Ballybunnion, Dingle, Slea Head, Castlegregory, Killarney, Glencar, Crag Cave, and Fenit Harbour among many other places. All these places may be just names to you, but they are all spectacularly beautiful, especially when the clouds are changing the lighting so often. 

This is the town of Dingle, or to be correct An Daingean – the government changed its name to its Irish form a few years ago resulting in widespread uproar. All over Kerry the name “Dingle” has been erased from roadsigns with white sticking tape..

A seagull by Slea Head, overlooking the Blasket Islands. 

This guy is Brendan the Navigator, a Kerryman reputed to have travelled to Newfoundland and Iceland back in the middle ages.  

This is the Gap of Dunloe: a deep glacial valley beside the Magillicuddy Reeks (Ireland’s highest peaks). The whole Killarney area is Ireland’s equivalent of the Lake District. 

This is Ballybunnion on a freezing, stormy day.

My charity walk begins this weekend. We will be starting in Caherdaniel at 8.30 tomorrow morning, ending up in Killarney around 3 in the afternoon on Sunday. This means I have to leave home at 5am tomorrow. I thought I was ready until I met up with a friend last night to go through last minute preparations. 

Tonight. I need to organise a map, a flask, bottled water, two sets of walking trousers, socks, two pairs of boots, suntan lotion (factor 40), sandwiches in sandwich boxes, crisps, chocolate, fruit, vaseline, blister cream, plasters, bandages, paracetamol, a cap, lip-balm, insect repellent, sunglasses, rain gear, underwear, tee-shirts, 4 sets of stockings, a jumper, my wallet, gloves, a laundry bag, pyjamas, a toilet bag, towels, a mobile phone and a phone charger, a camera and its charger, a walking stick, a book and my new iPod. 

Whew.

And just now I’ve sent an out of office message to almost everybody I have contacted for every mail they have sent me in the past two months. That’s good. That’s real good.

On July 25th to July 27th of this year I am going on a sponsored walk in aid of the Cork Cancer Research Centre – a local charity. We will be walking part of the Ring of Kerry, from Caherdaniel to Killarney – a distance of 71 km.

I can’t wait! Hiking, fresh air, good company, nice photographs and the scenery of County Kerry all in one weekend. It will more than make up for any bad weather or sore feet along the way. 

Cancer research features very highly on my list of worthwhile causes. Good friends of mine are currently battling it, two family friends have recently been lost to it, and I had a close brush with it myself last year in a very minor way.

I set up a web page to get some sponsorship and already I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of all the contributors after just two days. It’s been amazing! The donations have already exceeded my initial expectations. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! 

You can sponsor me online at this page. Every penny goes to the CCRC, and I promise I will post up some nice photos of the trip when I get back. 

 

I took a trip to Purple Mountain in County Kerry this weekend. Purple Mountain is the highest in a small cluster of peaks directly across the lake from the town of Killarney.

Ash Tree in Gap of Dunloe

We started our trip by the tourist centre at Kate Kearney’s cottage. From there we walked through the Gap of Dunloe, a spectacular narrow valley cutting through Ireland’s highest range of mountains. A low cloud accompanied us for the entire distance. It was magical.

The fog lifts

As if on cue, the fog lifted just as we began our ascent. We spent an hour and a half climbing uphill beneath an unrelenting sun.

The view south of Purple Mountain

Dry blanket bog gave way to loose stone during the last few metres of the climb to the summit. The mountain is well-named: the old red sandstone gives the mountain a purplish hue from afar. While we were there, a helicopter flew through the Gap. You don’t see a helicopter flying beneath you every day.

Purple Mountain

We proceeded on to Tomies mountain where we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in all of Ireland. To the West rose the Magillicuddy Reeks and Carrauntoohil. To the North, the Dingle Peninsula swept into the sea. To our East was Killarney, Lough Leane and the mountains beyond. 

Thunder threatens

The sounds of thunder could be heard in the distance. Rain swept down in torrents near Mangerton. The rumbles began to get louder. It was time to go. 

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