Killegy Woods loop is a rewarding, atmospheric 5km trail through the woods on the fringes of Killarney National Park. It is fair to say that it is one of the lesser known trails around Killarney but don’t let that put you off. Once you leave the main road and head into the trees, you will know you have found a special place.
Killegy Woods is a varied trail with a steady rise through tall forests before levelling out into less dense woodland. It is quite an enclosed trail and it is all about the woods – you are enveloped by trees at all times. Only the road at the start and finish give a glimpse into the real world that waits outside the woods.
How to Get There
There are several places to start and finish the trails around Killegy Woods. The woods link the uplands of Torc with the foothills of Mangerton so you can venture into the trails at many different access points. These are usually marked with a single forestry style gate. Approximately 5km from Killarney, on the main N71 road to Kenmare, there is a left turn immediately after the car park of the Muckross Park Hotel, signposted for Mangerton. A few hundred metres up this road, there is a small parking area at the entrance to the Blue Pool & Cloghereen walking trails.
For this 5km loop of Killegy Woods, we are going to start near the entrance to the Blue Pool walking trail. You can continue along the road a bit farther to reach the entrance to Killegy Woods but the Blue Pool parking area is a good place to park your car if you are driving. Starting here also rounds the loop up to approximately 5km. From the parking area, continue along the Mangerton Road for another couple of hundred metres until the road takes a sharp left. At this bend in the road, you will see a minor road heading into the trees on the right hand side. There is a sign saying ‘pedestrian access only’. This is the entry point into the woods.
If you go up to Killegy Woods today
The start of the trail meanders past fields before beginning a steady ascent into the woods. Near the start of the path, the trail forks in two. Stay on the left to continue on the Killegy Woods trail. the track to the right leads to Torc mountain and the Old Kenmare Road. As the path continues to rise, the trees rise with it. The woods begin to close in around you as you ascend towards the saddle between Torc and Mangerton.
Every few metres takes you further into the woods and further away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Ancient stone walls border the trail initially before being engulfed by fern, moss and rhododendron. The changing vegetation is a feature on this trail as you ascend and descend the hills on the loop.
The surface is a typical forest path of loose gravel and stone but it is very clear and continues to rise steadily until just before the 2km point on the looped trail. Once the trail levels out, you will see that the path continues straight ahead through a locked gate to a private residence. Turn left before this and follow the trail through the flat tracks that you will share with some local pony trekking operators.
From here the trail opens out to a brighter track as the trees are less dense for a while. The ferns and bracken that are high during the summer, wilt away in the winter to give a greater glimpse of the surroundings.
|Route||Killegy Woods loop|
|Ground||Paved roads, gravel path, forest tracks|
|Elevation||Steady gentle incline & matching descent for 1.5km each|
|Environment||Woodland, mountain foothills, minor roadways|
|Conditions||Sheltered within woods, windy at higher ground|
|Dogs/Pets||Yes, keep dogs on leash|
|Sights/Attractions/Features||Woodland, seclusion, rural|
|Options||Extend to Torc Mountain,|
|Availability||Open All Year. Note: Trail can be mucky after rainfall|
Before long you will need to veer left off the main trail to follow one of these pony tracks. It is marked with a sign for pony treks and it is a significant left turn so you should spot it if you keep vigilant. From here the trail begins the steady slow descent as you return into the depths of the woods. There is a wonderful sense of isolation and tranquillity in this section as you are surrounded by trees on all sides for another couple of kilometres. During the wetter times of the year, the track can become quite mucky and slippery at points so take care when descending.
Slowly but surely, the trees part to reveal an exit to the main Mangerton Road, a little further on from where we joined it at the starting point. Although this is a quiet road, it seems to dwarf the woodland tracks you’ve left behind. it comes as a bit of shock to the senses when emerging from the woods. At the road, turn left and follow the road as it gently snakes down to where you entered the woods initially. From here it is a few hundred metres back to where you set off from the Blue Pool.
The Quiet Woods
As you enter Killegy Woods and ascend up the trail, you can feel the fresh air wash away your worries and cares. The deep cover provided by the surrounding trees will protect you from the worst of the rains on a wet day. On a warm, sunny day, the shade of the trees provides a cool refuge during a jog in the woods. Perhaps it is only on very windy and stormy days that the woods do not entice you in. On any other day, you are almost guaranteed peace and solitude and you are certain to love it there. There is a feeling of true isolation in the shadows of the iconic Torc and Mangerton mountains that start to rise from these woods.
A trip into Killegy Woods will always leave you feeling better afterwards. There may not be stupendous views or towering cascades but you are certain to enjoy your time there. Its attraction is its simplicity – a quiet, peaceful wooded trail away from the humdrum of daily life. The gentle rise at the start of the trail will get your blood flowing and those same slopes welcome you back down to your starting point. A charming 5km trail on the edge of Killarney National Park.
If you would like to get an eBook of some of the best 5k runs in Killarney, enter your email address below.