Torc Mountain and Waterfall (part 1)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by greenierexyboy on October 8, 2012

Torc is a mountain you can watch live. Just mosey on over to...

...and hopefully it'll be there, across the lake and directly over the trees.

Torc Is Cheap
'Convenience' is a word that breaks out the hardened hillwalker in hives. One is meant to embrace the challenge of the outdoors, to eschew the comfy sofa, to try to strike that unsteady balance between climber and peak, and generally make one's experience as pure as possible. But some folk might like the idea of a mountain walk 30 minutes from the airport that can be accomplished within a few hours without needing the aerobic threshold of an Olympic rower. So, this one's for you.

Torc (like many mountains, it's named after the wild boar) is an irascible little peak 1755ft in height, just south of Killarney. Shagged with trees and sporting a fine waterfall at its base, it squats like a watchdog over the town's eponymous Lakes, providing both a literal and metaphorical gateway to the higher peaks of County Kerry.

Leave Killarney on the N71 towards Kenmare: this is the start of the fabled 'Ring Of Kerry', one of the world's great drives on the right sort of day (that being 'nice weather, out of season'). If you're 'in season', be aware that you'll be driving against the flow of tourist-laden coach-delivered Death, but this won't present a problem if you're only going as far as Torc. (It's beyond Torc that the road starts getting interesting, with its cavernous potholes, vast subsidence and Last-Stop-Before-The-Next-Life narrow blind corners). After a couple of miles you'll draw alongside Lough Leane, largest of the Lakes of Killarney, and then the entrances to Muckross Priory and House: low level walks, National Park Visitor Centres, jaunting cars, traditional farms and gardens, if that's what you're into. And a couple of miles later, on the left, a spacious car park is signposted for the Torc Waterfall.

It's only a couple of hundred yards to the waterfall along an obvious maintained path (past a National Park information point: open from the end of June to mid September). Any able-bodied person incapable of handling the moderate gradient of those couple of hundred yards should probably reconsider their lifestyle: I suspect (without having tried) that a wheelchair user could be taken within viewing range of the falls. This ease of access is something of a double-edged sword: you'll be lucky to get any quiet contemplation done here at any time of year, unless one turns up in the middle of the night. But let's not be churlish: Ireland is a land surprisingly unblessed with waterfalls, and this 60 foot cascade is one of the better ones. It's possible to clamber carefully to the very foot of the falls, but most pedestrians will be content to view them from where the path doubles back steeply uphill. For this is the point that separates the folk 'going to the waterfall' from those 'going up the mountain'.

Torcin' 'Bout a Revolution
Actually, that's not entirely true: there are several colour-coded trails based on the falls looping through the woods above and around (see the notice board at the car park for details: none of them are more than a couple of miles in length and as such are suitable for the vaguely active family party). But the route up the mountain does go round this sharp left hand bend, and onwards and upwards, through the woods. The rumble of the falls gradually recedes to be replaced by a veritable parliament of birds, and gaps in the trees allow views over the lake. I saw a wild, untamed teenage couple attempting to snog each other to death hereabouts, but they may not have been indigenous. After about ten minutes you will pass a track on the right leading to a bridge over the stream: this signals that the top of the wood is near. Ignore it, unless you're doing one of the colour-coded things, and soon you'll arrive on a road next to another car park. Yes, I deliberately didn't tell you that you could have reduced the climbing by about 400 feet by driving up here. You'd have missed that nice stroll up through the forest, and besides, this is what you get for reading the daubing of an exercise fascist.

Anyway, once you've finished swearing, you need to turn right along the road. This soon becomes a rough track: the Old Kenmare Road. As you walk west along it, the trees thin out and the Owengariff River burbles down to the right. After a few hundred more yards the track decides that it prefers its burbling on the other side, and crosses a bridge before hanging left and hugging the river bank on its way up the valley. Throughout your use of it, the Old Road is delightfully easy to walk upon, only rarely conspiring to be anything more severe than 'gently uphill'. In fact, whisper it, the most strenuous part of the entire ascent is the bit up through the wood...

The valley becomes more open and bleak as you progress. Deer and hares are often seen here, comparatively easy to pick out against the stark hillsides. One could continue along the track as far asGalway's Bridge on the New Kenmare Road (aka the previously used N71), as do many hikers, forming as it does a section of the popular Kerry Way (whose markers you may notice hereabouts). But it's worth bearing in mind that you'd eventually reach the striking-and-supposedly-haunted derelict church of Derrycunnihy (at the junction of the Old and New roads: you can't miss it on the N71. We're talking late-night female apparitions, passing cars, drivers looking in drivers' mirrors, something suddenly being on the back seat, etc. Yikes. Where's Psychic Derek Acorah when you need him? Actually, probably playing one of his frequent shows at INEC in Killarney...seems like the Irish haven't cottoned onto him even if everyone else has), and the owls in Kenmare itself are really vicious, allegedly.
Torc Mountain, Waterfall, Kerry Way
Killarney National Park
Killarney, County Kerry

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