I go walking with my wife once a month in Ballyseedy Woods and it is a nice and tranquil place.
Disclaimer you should always have good hiking boots and rain gear while walking in the woods. Some of the tracks are quite steep. People that walk dogs in the wood often have them off the lead.
Ballyseedy Woods is just 4 km from Tralee town. It is a local known treasure that people from Tralee always use but tourists miss it because it is a little bit off the beaten track. It used to be on the Tralee – Killarney Road but since the road has been diverted you would miss it very easily unless you are looking out for the signs.
Walking in Ballyseedy Woods
The first thing I will say to you is that you must have good walking shoes with good threads. You don’t know what the weather will be like so you should have rain gear if there is any chance of a shower.
When you are in the woods lookout for the names of the trees carved in Irish on stone columns. The first 4 or 5 times I went to the woods I missed them. There are two car parks. I recommend you go to the car park which is off the new Killarney Road. It is the bigger of the two.
You will see a noticeboard with all the birds that you can find in the woods and there are many. When you enter the wood, take the first left so you will be walking with the Slieve Mish mountains on your left-hand side.
There are directional signs that will have different routes in the woods. I recommend you should stay with the Slieve Mish mountains on your left-hand side until you can’t go any further.
Then you will have to turn right. It is a steep decline and if you have young kids you will have to keep them close. This decline can be very steep. There is a load of exposed roots that you could trip upon as well.
Once down the decline, look to your left to see where the walkway from the Blennerville Windmill will be when entering Ballyseedy Woods in a few years’ time. At the moment, they have only gone from Blennerville Windmill to the other side of Tralee 3.75 km.
They still must go another 1.50 km with a walkway, and it must go under the new Tralee to Killarney Road. It is also the opening into the woods from the lock gates that were there in 1837. The coach road exited the wood and traveled up to where you came off the main road. That is where the gates were in 1837.
You are now at the western end of the woods. Directly in front of you is the old house of John Blennerhassett where there is a notice board there providing information. When you are looking at the notice board just turn around and upon one of the trees is a house for a squirrel or an owl.
By the river, there is a ruin of an old watermill but I can’t see that when I was visiting there. It is very easy to fall into the river so maybe that is why I missed it. You should watch the kids if you have any. I go back to the ruin of the house where there is a path.
Once leaving the house walk along the Coach Road. Now the coach road used to be the road from Tralee to Castleisland a long time ago and was there in the 16th century. A lot of people think it is the Old Road from Killarney to Tralee but that is not the case.
A recent addition to Ballyseedy Wood is the Fairy Village that would be a great hit with the young ones. It is off the coach road near the John Blennerhasset house.
After a short distance on this road, you will come out into a clearing. There you will see a carved wooden seat where you can rest a little. If you stop and listen you can’t hear the hustle and bustle of Tralee or the Castleisland Road (which is even closer). You can only hear the wildlife even though it is 4 km from Tralee and it is a great amenity so close to the town.
Walking on the Coach Road you will enter under the canopy of trees again. If you are tired of walking just up to the right is the way to the car park that you entered. If you want to walk further you can keep on the Coach Road. You will see another wooden carving seat. On the eastern side of the woods, you will find a path back to the second car park.
You will have to cross the River Lee but there is a strong steel bridge. (Did you know that Tralee gets its name from that river. It means Bay of the Lee. Ceann Tra in Irish is beside the sea.) At that car park, you will find 2 signs showing you what plants and creatures are in the woods.
Is Ballyseedy Wood wheelchair-friendly?
1 of the 3 tracks is and it is going through the spine of the wood. There are hardly any exposed roots on this track and it will meet up with the coach road. You can enter this track by the 2 carparks.
History of Ballyseedy Woods
Ballyseedy Wood was first mapped in the 16th century by Sir Edwards Denny. In the 18th century, John Blennerhassett started planting numerous different trees. His house was in the woods along with a river mill. He planted Beech, Ash, Oak, Hazel, and Yew trees.
John Blennerhassett then moved to occupy the newly built Ballyseede Castle. He planted more trees in the garden of his old house.
A piece of local information; in the 1970s and ’80s there were 2 peacocks living in the woods. I think they belonged to a local farmer.
In the early 2000’s Kerry County Council applied for a new road going through the forest linking Tralee to Killarney. They were stopped at a European level because the forest was deemed to be a candidate for a Special Area of Conservation.
They had to give authority to the habitats listed in appendix 1 of the habitat’s directive. As a result, the road goes around the woods and is 1 km extra. I am glad they didn’t get permission because it is a wonderful amenity near Tralee.
Now, at this moment in time, the wood is managed in terms of trees, wildlife, and general maintenance. There were a lot of alien invasive species (rhododendron etc) that were not native to Ireland. They are being managed and there is tree felling of dangerous trees.
Some of the bigger trees that were felled were used to make bench carvings located around the wood. So, if you are tired of walking in the woods you could rest there. One of the trees was given to Manor Village, Tralee with which they made a lovely carving of an owl.
All in all, strolling around Ballyseedy Woods is an excellent way to spend a morning or afternoon. It is a unique, fantastic, and underrated amenity located just outside the heart of Tralee.