FROM the post office, we set off along the pavement towards the head of the Kenmare ‘River’ (actually the headwaters of the bay) and the bridge spanning it. St Patrick’s, a pretty Church of Ireland chapel, is on the left. We cross the bridge and then turn left off the N71, after the Riversdale House Hotel, taking the road signposted Sheen Falls and the Beara Way. The Kenmare River is on our left, unseen through the trees on this heavily wooded road.
We soon cross a pretty humpback bridge over the Sheen River. It has a fine parapet to lean on and there are some dramatic cascades to the left as it plunges down to the sea. The Kenmare River is millpond calm, absorbing this mad, dashing tributary with hardly a ripple.
Immediately across the bridge, we turn right, following the Beara Way. This is pleasant, country road. Heather thrives on the ditches; the left side supports typical Irish flora of the region, holly, gorse and bracken. Through trees on our right, we see an old woollen mill, an elegant, stone building, rising to three floors, with many windows. The nearby hills provide good grazing for sheep. After rounding a few corners, we hear the sound of rushing water and soon see rapids on the Sheen River on our right.
We continue, and pass a substantial old Kerry farmhouse with some fine ash trees and pines, a yew tree and a magnificent Scots pine. Shortly, we have views of the flanks of Currabeg hill and Curramore Mountain, with slabs of bare rock reflecting like mirrors when the sun strikes them after rain.
Reaching a four-crossroads, we take the left turn (the Beara Way goes to the right). The road now is very straight, a typical ‘bog road’. Soon, we start downhill, the mountains looming ahead; our view broadens to include all the range from Derrygariff to Knockbrack.
We come to another four-cross roads; the road straight ahead, going down behind a farmhouse is an obvious shortcut to the bridge over the Roughty River, so we take that. Shortly, we reach a T-junction. We will soon be going left, on the Kilgarvan Cycle Route, but we divert right for a look at Roughty Bridge. A short distance along, we have a good view over a pleasant scene and the substantial stone bridge, with two arches. The Roughty River is the main ‘feed’ for the bay; it rises in the high land near Kilgarvan. Pearl-bearing mussels are found in some rivers flowing into the bay and are legally protected. Only one shell in a hundred contains a pearl, and only one in a hundred pearls is acceptable in size and clarity.
Now, as we walk south, there are acres of purple-headed reeds, moving like a sea in the wind, on the right hand side between us and the Kenmare River. The “river” here is wide, the fields that edge it are regularly flooded at spring tides. Through binoculars, one may see wading birds, curlews, redshanks, green shanks and dunlin. Cormorants, various gull species and grey herons are also present.
The reed marshes end, and we see open water; in the early 2000s, new houses were built on the other side. We shortly find ourselves once more at Sheen Bridge. Then we are retracing our steps into Kenmare, westering home with, perhaps, the evening sun in our faces.
Start point: From Killarney take the N71 south for 32km to Kenmare town. The Post Office, our trailhead, is located at the southern side of town, before we cross the bridge.
Distance/time: 9KM/2½ hrs.
Very easy going on quiet back roads. Lovely views of mountains, mountain streams and falls. A nice mix of wooded roads and open moor land.
Map: OS Sheets 78 and 85
JAN 28: Tuesday Walk, Challenging Kellogyboy, moderate, 10km, 3hrs, meet car park of the Carraroe Retail Park (Curry’s end), 10am.
JAN 31 — FEB 2: Nine walks over Saturday and Sunday, 6 of which are guided. Groups, clubs and individuals welcome. Welcome evening with live music on Friday at Aherlow House Hotel, 9pm.
FEB 2: Knockanaifreann Ridge Loop, Comeraghs, grade easy A, 6hrs, 15km, meet Ash Tree Pub, 8am.
FEB 2: Cratloe Woods and Woodcock Hill, 3.5hrs, meet Woodcross Pub, Cratloe, 10.30am.
FEB 2: Sunrise Walk, Maumturks, grade A, 5hrs, meet Maam Cross, 6.45am.
FEB 2: Inchitaggart to Trafask, grade B, meet the square, Kenmare, 10am.