Galway's Bridge to Black Valley
Distance: 7km | Ascent: 80m | Time: 2hrs 15mins
Lord Brandon's Cottage
Start: Galway's Bridge (V 9145 8025)
Finish: Black Valley Church (V 8640 8285)
OS Map: No. 78
This section of the Kerry Way starts on the N71, Ring of Kerry Road. The quaint Derrycunihy Church, now bricked up, rests beside Galway's Bridge. Immediately after crossing the road, the trail turns off into a natural, leafy oak forest. Over the following 2km the path gently descends to the level of the Upper Lake on a dirt track at first but then connecting onto a firm gravel path.
As the trail begins to near the valley floor, views start to open up through the thinning trees, exposing Purple Mountain and Tomie's Mountain to the north. Upon emerging from the forestry, the foot of the Macgillycuddy's Reeks come into full view across the valley. Hidden amongst the lofty heights is Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, which stands at 1,039m above sea-level.
In the more immediate foreground is the Upper Lake. Tour boats can be seen making their way to and from Ross Castle in Killarney. The trail passes a group of small tree-covered masses emerging from the lake. The first of these include Juniper Island, then Ronayne's Island with Eagle Island hiding behind and finally McCarthy's Island.
After leaving the forestry behind, the Kerry Way continues to follow a gravel path for a further 2km alongside the Upper Lake, gradually making it's way to Lord Brandon's Cottage. Light refreshments are available here during summer months. During the daytime, this can become quite busy with as tour groups descend. Apart from boat tours arriving, there are also Jarveys taking people by horse and cart through Black Valley and on to Kerry's iconic Gap of Dunloe.
Once having left Lord Brandon's Cottage, the Kerry Way crosses the Gearhameen River over a beautiful six-arch bridge. The trail then joins a quiet tarmac road which gently climbs around 40m over the final 3km to reach the church and hostel, marking the centre of Black Valley.