Country Kerry’s Hidden Gem of Walking Trails
A walk-in Glanageenty Woods is much like a scene from a Disney movie – a dense forest along a steep glen that allows shafts of warm sunlight to illuminate the green shrubbery below. With birds chirping, butterflies fluttering, and streams gurgling, it’s as surreal as can be.
For the unacquainted, Glanageenty Woods (which is about 12 km from Tralee) features walking trails developed as a collective effort by the landowners, who have generously allowed public access to the area. They have signed an agreement with An Coillte to open walking trails for everyone to enjoy.
One of these landowners and the man to bring Glanageenty Wood in the limelight is John Lenihan, a Kerryman and an athlete of great calibre in mountain running. He is Ireland’s only World Mountain Running Champion. One of the trails in Glanageenty Wood is named after him, the Lenihan loop.
Things to Know Before You Go
Glanageenty Woods features three trails, each marked with different colour signposts to guide walkers. All three trails start from the Bernard Collins Memorial car park.
Caution – All the loops lead into the Fairy Garden. After the Fairy Garden, you will be climbing a steep hill with no handrail. I, myself do not like heights and was extremely nervous.
Glanageenty and Lenihan loops require moderate physical fitness, while Bernard Brothers Loop is a strenuous walk. Also, for any of these loops, you want to carry rain gear (don’t take a chance, it is Ireland, and rain is always a possibility) and wear comfortable hiking boots (the ground can get treacherously slippery at some places).
Picnic tables and benches have been set up strategically in the woods to provide comfort during a break with the best views possible. Carrying a refreshing drink with a light snack is a great idea for those who are not time-bound.
Fairy Garden and Boot Hill
Glanageenty, also known as the Valley of Fairies, features a fairy garden with a fairy door trail along the Glanageenty Loop. There are also some picnic tables around, so it would be a great idea to carry a picnic basket and enjoy a break here, especially if you’re with kids.
Some local children have made a lovely job in the fairy garden. They have thought of everything for example houses with solar panels, a clothesline, fairy table and stools and a fairy firepit.
Boot Hill is a relatively recent initiative by locals Brian Byrne and his wife Julie, the couple who played a major role in making the fairy garden. The couple found a way to upcycle old boots while adding to the woods’ beauty. They painted old boots, took them to Glanageenty, and planted flowers in them. The spot is now known as ‘Boot Hill.’
The History of Glanageenty Woods
Glanageenty Woods has a rich history, and the forest was a place of importance in the Desmond Rebellion and the Irish Civil War. The woods offer many stories that would be of interest to history enthusiasts.
The last Earl of Desmond, Gerald Fitzgerald was beheaded in Glanageenty in 1583. The woods served as a refuge for him during his last several months, until one of his men betrayed his whereabouts for a wee bit of silver.
At the roadway between the lower and upper parking areas, a plaque commemorates the spot where his body was discarded under an Oak tree after he was beheaded. His head was put on a pike and displayed on London’s Tower Bridge to warn people from betraying the crown. The rest of his body was eventually buried at Kilnanima graveyard, Castleisland.
In Glanageenty, you can also see Desmond Castle and Sean Thaigh Og’s cabin’s ruins, where Robert Monteith had evaded enemies in 1916.
The woods also hold the story of Stephen Fuller, who was the sole survivor of the Ballyseedy massacre, a Civil War landmine atrocity in 1923. Along the trail, you can see the very route he took and his hideaway. Interestingly, the Lenihan family is linked to Stephen Fuller.
Glanageenty Wood is one of the many perfect getaways in County Kerry that offers the right mix of everything. The walkways are well marked for you to enjoy a hike in the lap of nature, and the best part is they’re not too overprotected with fences, etc, which keeps the surroundings as natural as can be. The summer months make this picturesque forest yet more beautiful with everything around taking a lush green hue.
I urge all nature lovers not to skip Glanageenty when in County Kerry. One can easily spot and encounter Oak, Sycamore, Mountain Ash, and Hazel trees in terms of the greenery around. Of course, the colourful birds and butterflies and red squirrels only make the scenery that much better.
If you’re up for a long walk and decide on the longest route, you can enjoy stunning views of the Slieve Mish mountains and in the distance the McGillycuddy Reeks.
The many benches and picnic tables around make Glanageenty ideal for families; unfortunately, the walks are not wheelchair-friendly. Some aspects of the walk are not ideal for children as some of the hills are steep but there is still plenty to do at the fairy garden to keep children occupied.
Beyond the majestic views, what makes Glanageenty Wood spectacular is that it’s a hidden gem. There are only a handful of people most times, so it’s nice and quiet for you to soak it all in.
In addition, the parking is more than adequate for the number of visitors here, which makes the trip yet more convenient. Overall, I definitely recommend you stop by for a couple of hours; it would certainly be worth your time. And don’t forget to try and make it on a sunny day, if possible.