Killarney, Co. Kerry in the south of the country is one of my favorite places in the whole world. Many a Joyce family childhood year has been spent roaming the forest rivers and beaches, but like many beautiful spots in Ireland that attract many tourists, the commercialism can be hard to take. Its very easy to get information on the usual tourist spots, Ross Castle, Muckross House, Gap of Dunloe and Lady’s view to name a few, but there are quieter beauty spots not yet overrun by tourists. I list some of my special spots here.
Wild and wonderful the views of the mountains and valley in good or bad weather are breathtaking. You can be guaranteed the stereotypical “Irish Sheep” photo here with the wind, trickling bog streams and the bleating of the sheep the only sound to reach your ear. The black valley is reached via the Gap of Dunloe and the very narrow road runs through the valley to Molls gap. Due to the remoteness of the area very few houses dot the landscape, you will see many ruins of cottages abandoned during the famine. The black valley was the last place in Ireland to receive electricity due to it absolute remoteness. Where the valley road and the head of the Gap meets is Lord Brandon’s cottage where coffee and cake and be consumed while contemplating the scenery. You will need a car or a hardy pair of walking boots to traverse the valley.
After leaving the car park you are transported to a mystical green forest where the luscious green moss blankets the rocks and ground creating a silence only broken by the birds and the distant roar of the waterfall. There are many walks around the waterfall and a direct path up to falls itself. A walk here is magnificent whether in sunshine or the ever present light misty rain. It take 15 minutes to walk to the falls itself and you can continue up and past it if you are feeling adventurous. Torc Waterfall is approximately 7 kilometres from Killarney Town and approx. 2.5 kilometres from the motor entrance to Muckross House and can be accessed from a car park on the N71 better known as the Killarney – Kenmare road.
Blue Pool Nature Reserve
This is an amazing little secret place. Its known to locals but very few tourists. I am sure there are “little people” and faeries living here as it is such a magical place. The pool is colored naturally by local limestone deposits resulting in a crystal blue hue to the pool. The wildlife is also spellbinding with kingfishers darting in and out of the water and trout trying to avoid them. You can also spot the odd squirrel foraging in the trees. To reach the reserve turn left at Molly Darcys pub on the Muckross Road and follow the signs.
Derrynane Beach and House
We first visited Derrynane house while my father was researching his family. The cousin of Daniel O’Connell the liberator (who grew up in the house), Ellen O’Connell married into the Joyce Family and her portrait hangs in the main drawing room. The house is very interesting and tours take place regularly, there is a little cafe and you can wander amongst the rhododendrons in the gardens to walk the scones and cream off.
However the best thing about Derrynane to me is its majestic beach one of the most beautiful in Ireland. It’s a sandy beach curved around a natural harbor, but with large “islands” of Smooth dark rock dotted on the far end of the bay. When the tide is in, they almost look like large animals lumbering out of the surf. To the right arm of the beach is a church and graveyard which are slowly being reclaimed by the sea but which make a poignant and beautiful scene. The beach has a blue flag and is same to swim there. The waters are a refreshing turquoise blue in the sun and a mysterious duck egg blue when the sky is overcast. Not to be overlooked. Take the N71 t before the town turn right onto the N70 and follow along the coast to Catherdaniel where Derrynane house and beach is signposted.