Girls Who Hike Goes International
By Meg Farrell, Girls Who Hike New York Ambassador
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.”
— Cheryl Strayed
Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? If not, start it now! Well, not now… read my blog about hiking in Ireland first.
While talking about her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed says, “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.” After reading this quote, I re-read it, re-read it again, and then I put the book down and thought long and hard about it. Strayed explains that fear is typically that — just a simple story we tell ourselves.
I now look at fear as some abstract thing which we brew within ourselves. Don’t get me wrong — by no means do I think I am invincible — but, it’s those everyday fears which we need to overcome. What is stopping us from brewing a different story for ourselves — one that does not involve fear?
Fear can get in the way of allowing us to alter the course of our life. In 2010, I knew I wanted to study abroad in Ireland, but I started brewing all of these fears — can I really travel alone? Should I really take out that big of a loan? Will I still graduate on time? Will I be homesick? Will I make it? There were so many stories of fear that I told myself. However, I decided to replace those stories of fear with stories of my own independence, courage, hope, and all of the positive “what-ifs” I could imagine. Yes, I had to practically beg the financial aid office to cover the costs of my initial trip to Ireland, but I don’t have a penny of regret!
Fast-forward to January 2018. I’m now living back in New York, but I’ve spent more than three wonderful years living in Ireland (with periods of living back in New York in the mix), and I know for certain that I would not be the same person I am today if I had let fear be the story I told myself. It was that trip to Ireland — that trip in which I brewed a story which did not involve fear — that led me to be the independent woman I am today (along with an incredibly dashing Irish lad as my hubby). However, with all romance aside, the moral of this story is:
Step outside of your comfort zone. Do not let fear be the only story you remember.
I found a lot of things in Ireland, but one of them was my rekindled love of the great outdoors! If you happen to find yourself venturing to the Emerald Isle, check out my Top 5 Hikes in Ireland’s Hiking Paradise!
Top 5 Hikes in Ireland’s Hiking Paradise — County Kerry!
County Kerry is nicknamed “The Kingdom” of Ireland. Read/see below for five simple reasons.
1. Torc Mountain, Killarney National Park, County Kerry
If you find yourself visiting County Kerry a.k.a. “The Kingdom”, you'll most likely pass through the vibrant town of Killarney. In doing so, be sure to take a hike up Torc Mountain. The incredible view at the summit is reached within just 2 hours. The hike is a gradual ascent from the car park on the Old Kenmare Road. There's a steady path of railway ties (or 'sleepers' as they're more commonly known here), so the hike isn't too strenuous. But that doesn't mean proper footwear, water, and gear aren't essential. I’ve now hiked Torc Mountain three times — the views, tranquility, and all-around amazing Irish atmosphere is enough to make this a weekly hike if I lived nearby!
2. Mount Brandon, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
The hike up Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula was absolutely unreal. Right after finishing this hike, I labeled it as my favorite hike in Ireland. I’ve bagged a few more Irish peaks since then, but this is clearly still up there on my list! There are two main routes to the summit of Brandon — the avid, experienced hiker should tackle Brandon from the East, and the beginner who is looking for a very gradual ascent should tackle it from the West at Ballybrack. I first did this hike with my brother-in-law, who had climbed Brandon a few times. We tackled him from the East, beginning in the village of Cloghan. This route includes a steep incline involving some serious scrambling to reach the top. Even though we barely had a view through the mist and we were soaked to the bone, I found the hike from the East incredibly exhilarating. In saying that, I’m not sure I would have been prepared if I didn’t have my brother-in-law as a guide!
3. Caherconree, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry
Caherconree is the second highest peak of the Slieve Mish Mountains near the Dingle Peninsula. This hike was a bit boggy, but nothing to worry about with a good pair of boots, poles, and gators. Park your car at the very small trailhead along a very windy road. Look for a sign all about the ruins at the top of Caherconree — where Kings once lived — according to local myths.
From the summit, we had the most amazing view of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, Inch Beach, the Blasket Islands, Dingle Bay, Tralee Bay, and beyond.
4. Tomies Mountain to Purple Mountain, Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry
The thing that continues to amaze me about Ireland is that there is beauty around every single corner. Just after Christmas, my friend and I decided to play in the rare Irish snow from the summit of Tomies Mountain. We parked at the famous Kate Kearney’s Cottage (where we stopped for a pint afterward), and walked along the road, then onto a farmer’s lane, in order to read the trailhead. We climbed, strolled, and switchbacked our way up to the summit before getting caught in a blizzard. Luckily the snow passed rather quickly, and we were left with incredible views across the Gap of Dunloe and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
5. Carrauntoohil, County Kerry
Carauntoohil is the highest peak on the island of Ireland. The cross at the summit stands at 3,405 feet. There are a few ways up Carrauntoohil, as it’s the central peak of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range. Personally, I really enjoyed the route I took last summer! The pure tranquility of the lakes, landscapes, and ridges have me daydreaming now as I write this. For an experienced hiker, I would recommend planning some amazing loop hikes along the Reeks, and stop over at Cronin’s Yard for shuteye and a cuppa tea.
This photo was taken just after descending Caher, Ireland's third tallest mountain at 3,284 feet. The final ascent to Carrauntoohil took just about an hour from here. The lakes below me, Lough Eagher and Coomloughra Lough, are easily accessible for a swim on the way back down!
If Ireland is on your bucket list, I hope you make it there soon! If I could, I would make it my full-time job to give travel/hiking advice about Ireland! Please feel free to follow me on Instagram and DM me for any advice! And no matter what you do, please remember the words of Cheryl Strayed — “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.”