The Best of Kerry – (5) Gleninchaquin

You just couldn’t dream up this place! Our ancestors certainly knew how to pick a location! I’m still on the Beara Peninsula in south west Ireland but in a place that won’t feature in many travel brochures and is definitely not easily accessible to tour buses.

Located near the town of Kenmare, signposts will lead you to a 7km track into the valley. The way is narrow but the surface is ok and there are lay-bys for pulling out of the way of oncoming traffic. Traffic? Maybe the odd car, tractor or sheep!

The long valley was formed by glaciation about 70,000 years ago. A spectacular waterfall feeds into a series of lakes along the valley floor. You can just drive in and out and admire the scenery or, preferably, bring your picnic and spend the day on one or more of the trails which cater for pretty much every level of fitness.

Uragh Stone Circle.

I’m very proud of my country as you know but this must be one of the most breathtaking scenes I’ve come across. Standing strong on a hillock between beautiful Lough Inchiquin and Lough Cloonee Upper, is the stunning monument that is Uragh Stone Circle.

Etymology – the origins of ‘Uragh’ are a bit vague – iúir is yew ( crann iúir = yew tree). Alternatively, úr achadh means ‘the fresh field’.

A bit about Stone Circles…..

Axial stone circles are found in south west Ireland (and also in north east Scotland). Typically, an axial circle has 5 stones like this one, or multiple stones (up to 19). Regardless of size, they all have the same distinctive features. One stone – the Axial Stone – is set on its side. This makes it the lowest standing stone. The rest of the stones are placed symmetrically in pairs and increase in size as they curve away from the axial stone. The last 2 stones which will be opposite the axial stone are therefore the tallest. These are the Portals – the entrance to the circle. Thus there will always be an uneven number of stones in the circle.

There are dozens of these circles in this region. Interestingly, despite the best efforts of zealots down through the centuries, there is no pattern of astronomical orientation or geographical location. Some circles do align with the solstice – intentional or by chance? No one knows. Some are aligned with mountains or water sources – again – coincidental or not.

The date range is circa 1650BC – 800BC. It is thought that the 5-stone circles came later – downsizing maybe towards the end of the megalithic tradition. They were presumably built for ceremonial purposes but the exact ritual function is not clear. The circles were never constructed in settlements and were usually located well away from any dwellings or structures.

The great thing about these circles nowadays has to be the fun in finding them! The odd one might be close to the roadside but many are off the beaten track, necessitating a trudge across fields or up mountain paths. Its worth the effort – you won’t be disappointed!

So – back to Uragh

A short laneway (off the ‘main’ laneway!) brings you to a small car park. There’s an honesty box with the request of a €2 entrance fee. The pathway up the hillock can be muddy after rain – best leave the suede stilettos in the car! The circle remains out of view until you reach the top which only adds to its magnificence.

You’ll quickly identify the Axial stone and the Portals – be sure to impress any companions with your superb terminology and expertise!

One of the portals has fallen and now leans outwards.

Towering over the circle is the outlying standing stone reaching over 3 metres towards the sky

There is evidence that something has been removed from the centre of the circle.

Surrounded by 3 mountains, the views are amazing. Out in front is Lough Inchiquin. The backdrop of the waterfall definitely adds to the mystical aura and presence of the place.

In the other direction, out beyond the parking spot, is Lough Cloonee Upper with the McGillycuddy Reeks in the distance.

You may not have come seeking a spiritual experience but maybe sit and meditate for a while anyway. Watch the mountains around you change colour with shifting sunlight and cloud. You could be the only person on the planet!

On we go……

The ‘road’ continues on along the shore of Lough Inchiquin – we’re heading to the waterfall…..

Gleninchaquin Park

The end of the road brings you to family owned Gleninchaquin park. Here you will find nature trails for a bit of a wander as well as extended walks for experienced hikers. There are picnic tables so you can plan for a full day.

There’s a little bit of scampering required…

They don’t mind…

The force of the 140m high rock face waterfall is dependent on recent rainfall.

The run off from the waterfall feeds into the nearly lakes.

The park owners have laid out six lovely walks which will take anything from 45 minutes to 7 hours to complete. They vary in terrain and bring you through farmland and woodland, along hill trails and glens, across streams and around lakes. Even if you’ve only a short time to spare, its worth walking up one of the nearest trails just to get an appreciation of the surrounding landscape.

One of the shorter pathways will bring you up to Cummenadillure Lough. The region is dotted with such corrie lakes – carved out of the land by melting glacial ice at the end of the last ice age.

You can finish off with a stroll through the Water garden.

How’s that for a nasty sky!!!! Time to go!!!

Small Stuff

Getting There:

There is no public transport to the valley.

Uragh Stone Circle:

€2 (honour box)

Gleninchaquin Park:

Open: Easter – November

CASH only

Adult: €6 (Students: €5 / Seniors: €5 / Children age 6-12 €4 / Family: (2 adults 2 children) €15 / Children under 6 years are free). 

Dogs welcome but must be kept on a lead

There is a small cafe on site and picnic tables in the park.

There is no mobile or WiFi connection.

Gleninchaquin Website

If you’ve been following my posts for the past few weeks, you now have the makings of a great day out – Starting in Glengarriff in the morning, hop on a boat to Garnish Island. After lunch (either on the island or back in Glengarriff) drive over the Healy Pass and on to this valley. From here, you can head to Kenmare for a choice of great restaurants and accommodation.

Before you go

If you’re thinking of visiting the south-west, have a look at these…

The Best of County Cork – Garnish Island

The Best of County Cork – Healy Pass

The Best of Kerry – Killarney National Park

The Best of Kerry – the Ring of Kerry

The Best of Kerry – Slea Head

The Best of Kerry – The Maharees

26 thoughts on “The Best of Kerry – (5) Gleninchaquin

  1. Hi Marie, I enjoyed the romp around Gleninchaquin. Strange name for an area in Kerry, sounds more like a location in say – Mexico. Nice to be able to take a virtual tour in these travel restricted times. Right on about footwear and speaking of same I couldn’t but admire Tom’s pristine runners, just saying.
    Regards,Br.

    1. Ha – hadn’t even noticed the runners!!! Had to go back to the photos and have a look. Certainly didn’t remember him bringing white ones. So of course I checked … he tells me that because it wasn’t a good day and was mucky underfoot, he took off his walking shoes and had these in the car….. yes… follow the logic… he put on WHITE runners to save the darker pair!!!….

  2. I was in awe while exploring Beara Peninsula this summer. Once we arrived, it felt like we were in a Jurassic Park sort of scene. The peninsula is not that easy to get to and that’s what made it even more appealing. We had a chance to visit the waterfall, but left Gleninchaquin Park for some other time. Thanks for sharing and bringing back memories from our trip 😊 I hope all is well 😊 Aiva

    1. Like yourselves, we came away from Cork and Kerry with an even longer list of ‘must go back sometime and do that properly’ places and activities. We’ll definitely go back to the valley again and do one of the longer walks. We were, as usual, trying to fit too much in to the day! XXXMarie

  3. You really are showing us the very best of Kerry. This place is beyond amazing. I would really love to visit and feel the magic for myself. No wonder so many myths and legends (not to mention fairy-tales) come out of Ireland, blessed as it is with places like this.

    1. We didn’t even know about it ourselves – the owners of the B ‘n B in Kenmare told us to go. You’re absolutely right about the story telling – corners such as this truly lend themselves to poetry and legend. XXXMarie

  4. Hope this doesn’t appear twice as my comment disappeared after I hit Post. So. You have certainly shown us the very best of Kerry and this place is up there with the best. No wonder Ireland has so many myths and legends when it has places like this. I’d love to visit and sit opposite that waterfall and feel the magic for myself.

  5. Wow, what an amazing place to visit! The stone circles are really impressive and with the waterfall as a background, it makes for a stunning scenery. Thank you so much for sharing, Marie!

    1. Glad you enjoyed – I’d love to revisit in good weather it must be amazing….. although even as I write, I wonder if the distant mist on the day added to the aura of the place…. XXXMarie

  6. What a fantastic hike! Beautiful waterfall over that cliff…worth the scrambling! How fascinating about the stone circles. I didn’t realize they were in Ireland as well…only really read about them in the Outlander series 🙂

  7. As long as they don’t run a new road out there and open a Visitor Centre. Hidden Ireland is better left to the discerning who make the effort to find their way there.

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