MacGillycuddy's Reeks (Irish: Na Cruacha Dubha, meaning "the black stacks") is a mountain range in the mid-south of County Kerry.
Stretching slightly over 19 km (12 mi), it includes the highest peaks in Ireland and the only peaks on the island that are over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). The highest of these is Carrauntoohil (1,038 m), followed by Beenkeragh (1,010 m) and Caher (1,001 m).
The range also includes many other peaks of over 2,000 ft. The name of the range dates to the 18th century. It is derived from the family or clan name Mac Giolla Mochuda (anglicised MacGillycuddy) who are a sept of the O'Sullivan's.
They stretch from the picturesque Gap of Dunloe in the east to Glencar in the west. Attracting over 25,000 walkers annually, they are a wonderful playground. However, many routes are not clearly marked and mist or fog covers them for three quarters of the year. Access to a proper guide is therefore essential before venturing on to the Reeks.
The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Carrauntoohil entire Mountain Range Walk from the Gap of Dunloe to near Lough Acoose is a rewarding but strenuous to difficult 10-12 hour (21km) long walking route over the entire MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain range near the town of Killarney, Co. Kerry in the south west of Ireland. This is a tough full day hike with amazing views over the Reeks and Black Valley and steeped in Irish Mythology where you walk in the footsteps of the Fianna.
The reeks are essentially “Y” shaped with Carrauntoohil at the junction. To walk takes in all of the Reeks tops above 3000 ft (914.4 m) which are often called “The Irish Munros”. There are 13 Irish Munros of which 10 feature in this walk.
There is some sensational scrambling (mostly avoidable) between Cruach Mhor and Cnoc na Peiste and on the Carrauntoohil to Beenkeragh ridge. Choose a good day as the Reeks can often be in cloud. Navigation is relatively straightforward apart from the descent from Beenkeragh at the end of the day but if you need to, you should be able to easily reset your GPS to the Irish National Grid System.
The walk passes through an area where Fionn MacCumhail of Irish Mythology and the Fianna, his army of warriors and hunters hunted deer with their famous pack of 500 Irish Wolf Hounds. This walking route starts in Derrynafeana meaning ‘Oak Wood of the Fianna’ and rises to Irelands 3rd highest mountain Caher (1,001m) or Cathair na Féinne, meaning ‘Stone fort of the Fianna’.
Look west from Caher to the nearby mountain Seefin or Suí Finn in Irish meaning ‘the Seat of Finn’ (fionn). The fact that these Irish Mythology names of places and mountains have survived for so long, suggests that these were real people that lived, stories were told about them, and over time these stories were embellished with magic, fantasy and myth to keep them alive through the ages and I guess it has worked!!
This route requires some careful scrambling on the Eastern Reeks on the ridge between the Big Gun (939m) and An Cruach Mhór (932m) on the exposed Beenkeragh ridge so a guide may be the best option for those with less mountain experience. This walk requires a full day. It is not advised to undertake this walk in poor weather or high winds due to the exposed ridges.
If times and weather allows, this is one of the best walks in Ireland and offers you some great views back towards Killarney and west into the Iveragh Peninsula and to the Beara Peninsula if you are lucky. It is only a short drive to the Reeks and Gap of Dunloe from Killarney or Tralee, which are in the south west of Ireland in County Kerry and the route is just off the Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way.
Overnight accommodation is available at the Black Valley Hostel, situated roughly half way through the walk. A great place for a few pints after a long day in the hills is the Climbers Inn at Glencar. The Inn offers reasonably priced accommodation and a field at the back of the pub for campers and/or revellers who can’t manage to locate their vehicle. Click here to book a walking guide with John fromThe Lodge and Reeks Guiding Company.