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Headwater Self-Guided Walking on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland - a trip review

In October I returned from a week of self-guided hiking on the Kerry Way, booked with Headwater, a division of Exodus Travels. This was my first trip to Ireland and having explored over 100 countries, Ireland quickly made it in to my top ten of favourites. I would recommend anyone who likes a moderately challenging walk put the Kerry Way on their bucket list.

The Experience: leaving lively Killarney I walked through dew-covered fields, deer calling out as the sun rose above puffs of fog. Past giant Tolkien trees up to the moors, rich with babbling brooks, plunging falls and river fords. Over the Old Kenmare Road, through Windy Gap to live music and a heavenly bed.

Along the coast of the bay I walked, through glorious sun-drenched woods, past cottages and farm yards, abandoned homes and meadows of sheep, climbing up to marvelous views and down to a cozy pub.

Poking in and out of coves, stopping for an icy Atlantic dip, then up and up, up to the bogs and the reeks where the trail dissolved into sideways rain and whipping winds. Shelter in a cave, on and on through mud and heather and down to terra firma, a warming whiskey and a few shared songs. Another sunrise, another Windy Gap, an old stagecoach track and stupendous coastal scenes. Six days of bliss along the Kerry Way.

Grade: according to the trip literature this trip is rated moderate. These kind of trips are either fairly easy medium-duration walks or harder, shorter walks. No experience is necessary, but good health and reasonable fitness are important. Some walking at higher altitude and occasional longer/harder days may be involved, but general underfoot conditions will be fair. A walking day is normally five to seven hours and daily ascents will likely be around 500m to 800m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 900m to 1000m.

I would agree with this rating, except that in inclement weather you may find some of the hiking more challenging. Duration: 8 days Price: from CA$2,295 Best time to go: May to September. During summer holidays and weekends you will encounter more hikers but trails never get crowded. Accommodation: a mix of friendly bed and breakfasts and hotels. You get a warm Irish welcome everywhere. Most overnight stops were wonderful, however, the accommodation in Waterville is well below the standard of the other places. You can my review on it here. Trip link: Self-Guided Walking the Kerry Way and Killarney National Park

Operator description: The Kerry Way is the Emerald Isle's longest trail - at 210km, it offers fantastic views of the unspoilt landscapes - a walk here will swathe you in 10,000 years of dramatic Celtic history. Nestled in the south-west corner of Ireland, you'll spot contrastingly beautiful landscapes at every turn. From rugged cliffs to some of Europe's finest golden beaches, small friendly villages and velvety green fields to picturesque mountain ranges.

Our opinion: a lovely trip with plenty of stupendous scenery and very friendly, chatty people.

Who will it appeal to: hikers liking a high degree of autonomy who also enjoy the occasional challenge. People who love rural life, nature and scenery and a variety of landscapes and weather will enjoy this trip. Who will it not appeal to: people looking for companionship or daily guiding would be better booking one of our small-group tours. If you like bustling cities and museums, this trip is not for you. Our rating: Adventure Coordinators rates Headwater's Self-Guided Walking the Kerry Way and Killarney National Park 7 out of 10. This is due to the great scenery, the people encountered and because I liked the independence this trip provided. The trip would have scored higher had the route notes been more up-to-date and had one of the hotels not been a dud.

The author travelled with Headwater in October of 2019. Headwater did not review this article.

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