Discover the beauty of one of Ireland’s largest, and oldest, oak forests.
One of the high points of last year (as let’s face it, there weren’t many) was the reopening of Tomies Wood. Having been closed to the public a new access road and car park officially opened in December 2020.
Where is Tomies Wood?
Tomies Wood is located in Beaufort, in the Reeks District of Kerry, approximately 10km from both Killarney and Killorglin. Found at the base of Tomies Mountain it meets the southern shore of Lough Leane and is part of Killarney National Park.
BTW we have no idea why the pin on Google Maps is for Killarney Trail. We assure you, it’s Tomies Wood.
Parking at Tomies Wood.
The car park opens from 0800 to 1800 daily and has 26 regular car spaces. Parking is free but an automatic barrier closes when the car park is full. At weekends and during holidays the loop walk at Tomies Wood is very popular so unless you arrive early, you could find the barrier down. The small, residential road that brings you to the barrier is narrow and not suitable for on-road parking. We advise you to wait near the barrier until parking is available. People come and go regularly so you shouldn’t have to wait too long.
Another option is to cycle to the access point or, if you’re staying locally, you could walk. Walking from Inveraray Farm B&B for example is approximately 40 minutes and, as a bonus, it takes you past the Dunloe Ogham Stones.
Tomies Wood Loop Walk.
The new access road takes you closer to the entrance of the wood, shortening the total distance by around 3 km compared to the original 9 km walk. Today the main loop walk is approximately 6 km and takes between 1 to 3 hours to complete depending on your pace and whether you also visit O’Sullivan’s Cascade. There’s a few ups and downs but it’s suitable for most ages and levels of fitness.
The trail is unsurfaced and is a little rocky in places. After a lot of rain, it can get muddy so be warned. Wear sturdy walking boots if you can.
If you have babies or toddlers you could use a solid ‘off-road’ pushchair to get around the loop. When accessing the woods you may need to lift it over a second barrier at the very entrance to the trail. You may find a baby carrier easier.
After entering the woods you’ll soon come to a fork in the path. If you go right (anti-clockwise) you’ll be on the high-road. If you go left (clockwise), you’ll be on the low-road. As it’s a circular walk, both bring you back to the same point.
O’Sullivan’s Cascade Walk.
One of the highlights of Tomies Woods is O’Sullivan’s Cascade. It’s a spectacular waterfall which runs into Lough Leane. If you don’t want to complete the full loop walk, a round trip to the cascade is a great option. The distance from the car park to the cascades and back is roughly 3 km and takes between 40 minutes and 1.5 hours depending on pace. It is said these magical cascades used to run with uisce beatha (whiskey) and that Fionn MacCumhal, Chieftain of the Fianna, lived above the cascade. Sadly, when the English invaded the whiskey turned into water. If you develop a taste for a drop after a day’s walking, you could visit the Beaufort Bar in Beaufort village. They have over 200 different types of whiskey to sample.
If you want to only visit the cascades, access them via the low-road (left/clockwise path). You’ll see a sign for the cascade approximately 1.5km into your walk on your left. Follow this track downwards, then bare right. You’ll have to descend approximately 60 steps to take you down to the cascade. If you have a pushchair you’ll need to leave it near the top.
“Take time to relax and take in the scene. It is breathtaking.”
Please take care on the steps as they are quite steep and a little uneven. At the bottom, you’ll find yourself at the shores of Lough Leane. Take time to relax and take in the scene. It is breathtaking. You can also take the path to the right which will take you closer to the top of the waterfall. There is a fence along the length of this higher path but it is unfenced at the end. Although the unfenced part isn’t too dangerous, still be sure to mind younger children.
Unfortunately, the only way back is up those steps. Once you’ve reached the main path you can turn right to go back to the car park or left to continue with the loop.
The nature and wildlife of Tomies.
The woodland is largely made up of Oak and Holly trees although there is an area of Pine on the high-road. There are many streams and small waterfalls running from the mountain into Lough Leane. In the spring, the still pools are a nursery for tadpoles and froglets. Nearly all of the rocks on the woodland floor are covered in moss, making it exceptionally lush and green. If you’re quiet and have a keen eye, you could spot Sika and Red Deer, Red Squirrels or Pine Martens. It’s quite possible you may also spot mountain goats. They are regularly seen nearby in the Gap of Dunloe and could venture into the woods. You’ll also hear plenty of songbirds and might be lucky enough to spot birds such as Falcons, Owls, Buzzards or White-tailed Eagles in the area. Like much of Killarney National Park, the beautiful but evasive Rhododendron is causing problems. Although it hasn’t taken hold in Tomies as much as in other parts of the park, it constantly needs to be managed.
If you are interested in learning more about the flora and fauna of Tomies, Kerry Gems have this useful article.
The history of Tomies Wood.
This whole area of Kerry, and Lough Leane in particular, is steeped in myth and legend. It is famous for its tales of the Fianna and its leader, Fionn MacCumhal. Fionn’s son, Oisín, is said to have met Niamh on the banks of Lough Leane before riding off to find Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth.
If you look closely among the trees, you’ll see the signs of more recent history. At times, indistinguishable from the moss-covered rocks, you can work out the structures of old stone walls and even the remains of small, stone dwellings. There would have been people living within these woods up to the time of the famine. On the most eastern part of the trail, you may be able to spot remnants of potato ridges on the mountainside. You can’t help but wonder what might have happened to the people who lived here. Did they manage to flee and find a better life in a new land or did they perish like so many others during that time?
Amenities at Tomies Wood.
There is no cafe, toilets or bins at Tomies Wood. You’ll need to bring drinks and snacks with you for the walk and take any rubbish away with you.
Remember, take nothing but photos and leave no trace of your visit.
If you find yourself doing this walk, do let us know how you enjoyed it in the comments. Happy exploring.
Inveraray Farm is a friendly and welcoming family-run B&B in Beaufort, County Kerry. We have spectacular views of the Gap of Dunloe and the MacGillycuddy Reeks. We’re also a 5-minute drive from Tomies Wood.
Find out more.