I always like a good hike in an interesting place. This hike began at Muckross House and Gardens 5km south of Killarney (Co Kerry, Ireland). The house and gardens can get a bit crazy with all the people but they tend to stay there and not take the 9.3 mile/15 km trail (not sure if this is exact mileage as it didn’t feel that long to us). The trail and Muckross Lake are in Killarney National Park (established in 1932). Once you are out on the trail (paved through Dinis Cottage, like a wide sidewalk) you will have some peace and quiet. We headed out on a gray, cool morning and pretty much had the trail all to ourselves the entire way. We’d meet up with a group of bikers or walkers, but most left us in peace after a heartfelt “hello.” The trail wandered in ups and downs through a beautiful old forest with remnants of old buildings here and there hidden away. We brought lunch and ate along the way at one of the many spots where you can sit by the lake and just take it all in. We started the hike on the north (there’s a map below) side of the lake and so had a great view of Torc Mountain across the lake, all dark and tree covered. Once you get to the Brickeen Bridge you know you are close to Dinis Cottage and dessert! Linger a bit on this old arched bridge and look out over Lough Leane and Muckross Lake. From the bridge you are only minutes from Dinis Cottage, which was an old hunting lodge turned into a café.
The cottage was built in the 1700s by the Herbert family who owned these lands way back then. It has been a hunting lodge, a woodcutter’s hut, a tea room, and today it again operates as a tea room. Hopefully you brought some money so that you can get a cup a tea and a piece of cake or pie with cream. It is a great spot to sit and rest a bit, enjoy people watching, and look at the windows of the cottage which have the names of the many newlyweds who carved their names with their expensive diamonds into the glass with the earliest dating back to the mid 1800s.
Back on the trail again, we continued heading south to the Old Weir Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters where the Upper Lake (Muckross Lake) and Lower Lake (Lough Leane) waters come together under and near the bridge. This quiet little spot can only be reached by foot or bicycle, thankfully.
The trail on the south side of Muckross Lake was very different from the one on the north side. This was a trail, no longer a paved path, and most people go to Dinis Cottage from Muckross House and turn around and head back same way they came. We didn’t see anyone on this section of trail. Initially we had great views of the lake and Brickeen Bridge far in the distance, but they soon disappeared as we entered into the woods and shadows which was how the rest of our hike was. We were hiking along the foot of Torc Mountain.
Torc Waterfall was our next destination. We had a good uphill climb up and then down to get to the waterfall and sad to say, we did not hang around long. It was a mass of crazy people. People climbing up on the waterfall, people standing in groups on the trail so you couldn’t get by, loud people, rude people. For someone who values their peace while hiking, this was cause to run away from it all. We left quickly, winding our way through masses of people. Very discouraging. Why were so many people here? A car park (what they call parking lots in Ireland) was very near by with even more people vying and waiting for a parking spot.
The remainder of our hike back to Muckross House and Gardens was pretty much crowded with people. We found our way through back trails that were quiet, but we pretty much gave up on solitude. Just hiked back, got in the car, and headed out. It was okay as we had a very memorable first part of our hike to keep in our hearts.
We stayed the night at Killarney View Home, south of Killarney along the Flesk River. It was okay. Clean, comfortable, had a decent Irish breakfast the next morning.
We were there when Muckross House & Gardens opened so that we could get a tour of the house before heading out on our hike. ***Bring money so that you can get tea and dessert at Dinis Cottage.