We awoke at 8:00 am in our cozy B&B, Hillcrest Farmhouse, to the sound of the wind still howling away and the sheep bleating. I had had a rough nights sleep due to the thin walls and noisy neighbors. They had decided to stay up and keep their tv on until 1:00 am.
We went down for breakfast at 8:30 and were greeted by Robert, the host we had met the previous day. “Good morning to you.” He said in his, somewhat, monotone voice without a whole lot of enthusiasm. We greeted him cheerily as we were filled with excitement and anticipation of what the day might bring. Breakfast was delicious with toast, cereal, orange juice, bacon, sausage, eggs, and tomatoes. I am usually not a fan of hot breakfast, or breakfast food of any kind for that matter, but, for some reason, when I am hiking it all tastes delicious! My picky eating really is thrown out the window, which allows me to taste and enjoy many new types of foods! I wonder why I can’t be this open all the time… Our surly and soft-spoken hosts warmed to us after I praised the delicious cooking and thanked them for all their kindness. I was rewarded when Mary, Robert’s wife, began to show concern that we had everything we would need for the days walk. In the end, our hosts, though not as warm and welcoming as we had expected, really were kind and ensured we had everything we needed. What more can you ask for?
Anywho, we had packed our bags before breakfast and only had to add the packed lunches made by our hosts before setting out for the day. Putting my boots back on wasn’t a fun task. The visible bruising and swelling of my right ankle made the first steps agony. As we continued down the road I realized that no matter my pace it hurt all the same so I picked up what had been a ridiculously slow walk and tried my best to ignore the pain. Day 2 had begun!
Hillcrest Farmhouse was located about a mile and a half from I guess what you would call the center of town. Although, there wasn’t much of a town. No restaurant, no store, no gas station. But, there was a school and a church so I guess that was the center. The guidebook claims that from Black Valley to Glenbeigh, our next destination, was only 12 miles. so, with the additional 1.5 miles we had failed to do the day before we assumed that, overall, our day would be about 14 miles. how wrong we were… We were walking along the main road of town around 9:30 in the morning and encountered only two cars. Fields of sheep lined the road and we are thoroughly enjoying that it is still spring here so the lambs are still relatively small and wonderfully adorable!
We would soon discover that a good portion of today’s walk was literally through farmers fields of grazing sheep and horses. The guidebook had emphasized the need for closing gates behind you. Although, the number of sheep that had managed to escape from their pastures and were roaming the streets was pretty remarkable. At one point we came across a ewe and her lamb that had managed to escape and were on the road. I felt as if we were chasing them as they ran just slightly ahead of us for close to a 1/4 of a mile. Eventually they walked up the driveway of the nearest farmhouse and we were able to pass them, thankfully without incident, the guidebook warns to never come between a mama and her lamb!
Our trail continued along rocky farm roads that led us past a number of abandoned farmhouse and working farms alike.
At times, rather then opening and closing farm gates, small ladders over the fences had been erected for hikers to use. These were, at times, rickety and steep but they did the job in the end! They got progressively harder to scale as the day went on and our legs tired.
Today’s hike involved walking up two mountain passes, for a total elevation gain of more than 3000 feet. Our first pass went smoothly, despite that fact that I was nervous because we were walking through a horses pasture. The trail crossed within five feet of these strange equines and I was initially concerned we may spook them. Thankfully, they must be used to seeing hikers and didn’t even turn to look at us! The total elevation gain of the day definitely posed a challenge for us and it ended up being the most combined mileage and elevation gain we’d ever done in a single days hike.
The views we were greeted with after making the ascent were beyond beautiful. The sun shone down upon us as the wind did its best to steal the baseball caps atop our heads. Hungry, and in need of a break, we found a good sittin’ rock for lunch. We supped while enjoying the beautiful scenery around us!
The next mountain that needed scaling was far more difficult with more vertical height gain than the first, and 10 switchbacks. Frequent mini breaks to catch our breath was the theme of this portion of the walk. Halfway up, and struggling slightly, we agreed that our reward for reaching the top would be to split a 6 pack of Oreos! So, up up up we continued to go!
Finally to the top and after a short break the next half of the battle begins, going down! While going down is faster then ascending it is far more painful for the knees and ankles! But when you look back after a few short minutes of descending and see just how far you’ve come, it fills you with a great sense of accomplishment! By the time we had descended the second mountain we were already at close to 12 miles done for the day. Looking at our GPS we were shocked to see the distance still left to go. A little disheartened, we continued along the trail that had now become a farm road that led us past fields of, you guessed it, sheep! (and cattle). When preparing for the trip and reading about the trails we would be using the thought of walking along roads didn’t appeal to us at all. As the hikes have begun, we find ourselves looking forward to the flat easy stretches that the road offers!
The last section of the trip was pretty horrible. We had to walk along a busy road where cars didn’t slow, and barely moved over for us. I would estimate the average speed of the passing vehicles to be 150 mph… Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but goodness we couldn’t believe how fast these people drive on tiny, narrow, curvy roads where hikers are trying to walk! Our legs, necks, and waists were really sore at this point, more than 14 miles in and we thought we would’ve arrived at our destination. Sadly, we still had three miles to go. The once welcome company of the sun, soon turned into a harsh taskmaster that burned our necks, despite the application of sunscreen, and caused the interminable road walk to be almost unbearable. We couldn’t stop and rest, seeing as there was no shoulder and we were trying to walk as fast as we could to try and make this awful section of walking pass as fast as possible. Sadly, our fastest after such a long walk already wasn’t that fast… We opted to take a shortcut to our B&B for the night by leaving the Kerry Way and walking along a side road. If we hadn’t our journey probably would’ve been over 20 miles.
I chose our B&B’s for each night using the Kerry Way website. I looked for places that were priced below 40€ per person per night, that offered packed lunches, that had free wifi, and were within close proximity to the Kerry Way. This one is only .5km off the way, BUT, it’s several miles after the town that was our destination for the day… The website didn’t tell us that. There is an upside to the suffering we endured, today’s hike will be ridiculously easy! It is labeled as the easiest day of The Kerry Way at only 8 miles and 200 meters in elevation gain! Take into account the fact that we’ve already surpassed about four miles of the trail, we are in good shape to only have to do about 4 or 5 miles of walking today!
Overall this day was a challenge, but the B&B we stayed at was, thankfully, worth the extra pain. The hospitality we have enjoyed here is yet unparalleled by anything we have experienced. Breda, our charming hostess, welcomed us with warm arms and cooked us an amazing meal of salad and cold salmon, homemade bread, “local” steak, potatoes, vegetables, french fries, and delicious cheesecake! While the meals offered by the B&B’s are basically the same price as the room for the night, the home cooking we have enjoyed, and the fact that we don’t have to walk anywhere makes it priceless in our minds! Our room overlooks the river Caragh where the birds are chirping and the sound of the water and the soft breeze through the trees lulled us to sleep last night. Today’s walk should be easy and give our sore muscles a chance to recuperate some!
In 2013 we hiked The Kerry Way over a 10 day period (we had 2 rest days). Read all of the posts in this series: