Walk Distance: 3.5km
Walk Duration: 1hr 30 at toddler pace
Map: OS Ireland Discovery Series 78 (1:50000)
Suitable for: babies in carriers, little legs, sturdy buggies and off-road pushchairs, bikes, all the family.
Walk features: Beautiful lakeside views, lovely woodland walking, castle, cafe, toilets, boat and jaunting car rides available.
The lakeside paths starting from Ross Castle in Killarney National Park are less jammed with visitors than neighbouring Muckross Estate and are the pleasanter for it. The views here are mesmerising. Walking through the trees here , part of Ireland’s largest remaining area of native woodland, you frequently come across the nation’s famous Sessile Oaks. In late August the walk was alive with butterflies. Given the gravelly flat earth tracks the walk is suitable for good pushchairs in dry weather and we saw heaps of bikes, many with kids trailers (you can hire them in Killarney), enjoying the trails here. The below route is just one option – the paths are easy to walk and well waymarked so you can adapt the route to suit the time you have available. Head on towards Library Point for a longer walk!
The Ross Castle lakeside loop walk starts from the car park for Ross Castle. Head out the car park following signs for Ross Castle which you can access via the lakeside paved path behind the parking. Head over the small footbridge, enjoying the lovely views of 15th century Ross Castle across the stream. This was the ancestral home of the O’Donaghue family. Look out for the ghost of a knight who is said to gallop across the water here!
At the Ross Castle information board take the right hand path down the side of Lough Leane and walk toward the entrance to Ross Castle. This is a bit of a detour but does allow you the chance to get up close to Ross Castle and a good view across Lough Leane. (n.b.If you’re not interested, feel free to carry straight on instead where you will pick up the path just after the café as described below). Head through the doorway and walk round and through to the water’s edge. This is where the ferries for Lough Leane depart and makes an atmospheric, if a little windy, spot to admire the mountain and lakeside views.
Turn left, following the water’s edge and then left again up towards the café. Walk past the café and keeping on the path as it bends slightly right, emerge back on to the wider trail you left at the Ross Castle information boards a short while back.
Turn right and head down the track, with Ross Castle to your back. Walk on following the main track and ignoring smaller turn-offs to the left and right. You will eventually earn yourself another small glimpse of Lough Leane, framed by the trees. When you come to a definite split in the main path, take the right hand fork towards Library Point. The walk now takes you up a few slight inclines through the forest. Look out for lichen – the air is so clean here it is everywhere!
At the next path split, turn left following towards Governor’s Rock. Take the next right-hand fork and walk on until you come to another signpost for Governor’s Rock. Walk on following the small, bumpy trail. If you have a standard pushchair here you might find it more comfortable for baby to be carried for a few hundred meters as it can be a bit of a rough ride in places, although it is passable.
Governor’s Rock is the most beautiful spot to drink in the views of Lough Leane, with its tiny islets and the mountains and trees tumbling down to the water. When you’re ready to move on, walk back along the way you came until you get to the last signpost you passed earlier to Governor’s Rock. Here now turn right, passing through an area thick with Sessile Oaks and Holly trees – it looks like Robin Hood’s Irish equivalent (any ideas?!) should come bounding through the undergrowth at any moment, or as if you might just happen on some druids. The sense of nature and timeless beauty is ever present.
Turn right again at the next turning towards the copper mines and then right once more when the path once more diverges. The walk now takes you down toward the Bronze Age copper mines, passing another turn off on the left which offers a brief detour for yet another beautiful vista across Lough Leane. Continue on as the views open out across the rocky beach onto Lough Leane. The ancient copper mines are on the left of the path here. Don’t be tempted to climb over the fence for a better view – the area has not been fully excavated and the possibility of unwittingly finding an unplotted mine shaft are real.
Walk on, joining up with the main track again. Head off right down this path until you get back to the major crossroads of paths. Here turn right. If you fancy a change of scene for the final stretch back to Ross Castle, then take the narrow track that leads off to the left through the woods immediately after this junction. If you are walking with a pushchair or have any mobility concerns though I would recommend you stay on the main track as the side-path is rough ground and at the time of writing, two large trees that had fallen over were partially blocking the path, making a bit of bending and gap negotiating unavoidable. Instead, continue straight on and the path will take you back to Ross Castle where you started.
For those following the narrower track (as shown on the map below), head off into the woods. Pass the fallen trees and keep walking as the path narrows and winds until eventually emerging once again on the side of Lough Leane. Here you are afforded a behind scenes view of Ross Castle where the many extra tourist boats lie in scenic wait of oarsmen. Keep on the waymarked trail as it bends back around the edge of the Lough Leane and back past the waters edge beneath Ross Castle. Don’t forget about the cafe if you are in need of a hot drink or snack!
Retrace you steps from earlier back through the castle walls and back over the bridge for the car park.
Map of Route:
Parking is available in assigned car parks next to Ross Castle. Follow the signs to Ross Castle from the main road out of Killarney towards the Muckross Estate and Ring of Kerry. If you’re cycling, there is a cycle path all the way out of Killarney which is great for those with kids in trailers.
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