For anyone of you who has been sleeping under a rock for the past 50 years, Ireland is pretty famous for its natural and unspoilt beauty. From dramatic cliffs to rolling green fields and a landscape that is littered with everything from Norman Keeps and stone age dolmens to spectacular stately homes.
Recently, I got to visit my favourite part of Ireland – County Kerry (in Ireland its nickname is ‘The Kingdom’) in the south west corner of the country. Kerry is not only home to Ireland’s highest mountain – Carrauntoohil, the famous Lakes of Killarney, but also three under-populated dramatic ridged peninsulas that reach out like fingers into the Atlantic. So when it was decided that we were visiting relatives for the weekend, I was like yeeessss!
The starting point of the run is the town of Kenmare, which is the intersection between the Beara Peninsula (pronounced bare-a) and the world famous “Ring of Kerry”. For me, I love getting off the beaten path and heading out along trails and quiet back roads and on the Monday morning in question, I was not disappointed. Over the space of 2 hours plus, I was passed by less than a dozen cars so it was pretty awesome. Though I have run parts of this route before, this particular morning I decided to do the full 15 mile loop through the hills, which I hadn’t done before. My route headed out of Kenmare along the north shore of the Beara (along woodland trail) before swinging inland to the first hill after 3 miles. From here the roads undulate slowly upwards as you seemingly leave the real world behind. Roads are initially interspersed with pretty cottages, famine era ruins and more recent new homes. But as you climb these become even more scarce with just occasional farm houses left to speckle the pastiched hills. Grass grows up the middle of the road reclaiming these human interruptions on the landscape as it attempts to reconnect the long disconnected fields. And as you climb, the air finds its own breath, getting crisper as it blows in from the Atlantic, pulling at my top to say ‘hi there stranger – welcome back’. Peering back down the ancient valley, I appreciate that the only sound out here is me – footsteps crunching on old asphalt, labored breathing on the steep incline and there is the silence. A sound of nothingness that seems to envelope you – a sound so rarely heard in the modern world. No sounds of engines or endless news and chatter – just my breath, whispers from the Atlantic, the gurgling of streams and the occasional cow with its plaintiff lowing from down the valley.
Normally, I run to the mountain pass near Dromoghty before returning along the same route, however on the day in question I pushed through the pass through a land which has its own pace. Old growth woods and patchwork fields bordered by furze and heather adorn the landscape providing a home for the local wildlife. At one stage, I was treated to a distant encounter with an antler crowned Stag looking regal in a woodland clearing. He stopped to check me out, while I returned the favour, before bidding me farewell. This area of Ireland has been inhabited for thousands of years and is littered with both Iron & bronze age monuments and of course famine era farmhouses – sad relics of Ireland’s most tragic period. Returning to the foreshore, a couple of seals flopped lazily in the water while others just looked at me curiously as if to say – dumb human!
Exploring this area by foot is just a never ending treat for your senses, to let your imagination run riot as you plod along rolling roads. The vistas feed you while the freshness of your surrounds fills your lungs before heading back to the real world. May the road rise to meet you brings on an additional meaning to the old Irish saying, for in Kenmare it doesn’t just meet you, it welcomes you back.
The run I did on that morning forms part of the Beara Way which is one of Ireland’s best long distance walking routes and is roughly 200Kms long https://www.walkopedia.net/best-world-walks/Ireland/Beara-Way-
Is it the best road run in Ireland? Who knows? Who cares? I enjoyed it and cant wait to get back again.