Discover the beauty of one of Ireland’s largest, and oldest, oak forests.
One of the high points of 2020 (as let’s face it, there weren’t many) was the reopening of Tomies Wood. Having been closed to the public for a number of years a new access road and car park officially opened in December 2020. This is a beautiful, family-friendly walk that’s suitable for all ages.
*This blog was last updated in October 2022*
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.
Click on either this link, or the image of the map below, for directions to the car park via Google Maps.
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 28 regular car spaces. Parking is free but an automatic barrier closes when the car park is full. At weekends and during holidays Tomies Wood is very popular. If you find the barrier is down you might be able to park in a space near the barrier. You can then walk to the entrance of the woods which takes about 10-15 minutes. Cars come and go regularly so, if the barrier is down you shouldn’t have to wait too long for someone to leave.
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 takes approximately 40 minutes and, as a bonus, takes you past the Dunloe Ogham Stones.
For walking directions to the access point from our B&B you can click on this link.
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 1.5 to 3 hours to complete depending on your pace and whether you also visit O’Sullivan’s Cascade. There are a few ups and downs but it’s suitable for most ages and levels of fitness. It’s also very popular with dog walkers. Remember to keep dogs on a lead it’s a National Park) and clean up after them.
Although unsurfaced, the condition of the trail is generally very good. It can be a little uneven and stoney in places, especially around the furthest point of the trail. After a lot of rain it can get a bit muddy. Sturdy walking boots are great if you have them but you should be fine if you only have trainers.
Parents of babies or toddlers could use a solid ‘off-road’ pushchair to get around the loop. After parking you may need to lift it over the barrier at the entrance to the trail.
What you can expect on the loop walk.
Around 200m after you enter the woods you’ll come to a fork in the path. If you go right (anti-clockwise) you start off on the ‘high-road’. If you stay left (clockwise), you’ll be on the ‘low-road’. As it’s a circular walk, both bring you back to the same point so you can go in either direction.
Personally, if I’m doing the full loop I prefer to go anti-clockwise (but some people prefer going left so they tackle the steps at O’Sullivan’s Cascade earlier in the walk). I take the right fork and head straight on up the hill. This is quite steep for a short while, becoming more gentle around 1.5km. You’ll get wonderful views from the top of Lough Leane, Killarney town and Ross Castle. At the highest point you cross the first footbridge and the landscape opens up. The oak and holly trees of the woodland are replaced with young pines, ferns and heather (and sadly, the evasive Rhododendron). From here you get clearer views of the surrounding mountains which include Tomies Mountain, Shehy and the Purple Mountain. The trail then starts to gently descend.
At 3km you’ll have reached the furthest part of the trail and the trail loops back on itself. Before too long you’re back amongst the trees again. Around 5km into the walk you’ll cross a second footbridge and soon after you have the option to visit O’Sullivan’s Cascades. The last stretch of the trail is approximately 1km of undulating woodland leading back to the car park.
O’Sullivan’s Cascade Walk.
The real highlight of Tomies Woods is O’Sullivan’s Cascade. This is 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 45 minutes and 2 hours depending on your pace and how long you spend at the cascade. It is said these magical cascades used to run with uisce beatha (whiskey) and that Fionn MacCumhaill, Chieftain of the Fianna, lived above the cascade. Sadly, when the English invaded the whiskey turned back into water. The video below by Beaufort-based Videographer, Tomas Straka, tells the story beautifully, plus it gives you stunning footage of Tomies Wood in the winter months.
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 bear right. You’ll have to descend approximately 130 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.”
The 130 (or so) steps that lead down to the cascades have recently been redone. They are now much shallower and more evenly spaced which is great news. At the bottom of the main steps turn right get up close to 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. When you walk back down follow it down to waters edge. You’ll find yourself at the shores of Lough Leane. Take time to relax and take in the scene. It is breathtaking.
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 in the clockwise direction.
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 and in Autumn there’s plenty of interesting fungi to discover. 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 evasive Rhododendron is causing problems around Tomies. Although it hasn’t taken hold in the woodland as much as in other parts of the park you can certainly see it encroaching on the furthest points of the trail. It constantly needs to be managed. If you’re interested in helping to protect the park you can volunteer with the Killarney Mountain Meitheal.
If you want to learn more about the flora and fauna of Tomies, Kerry Gems have this useful article.
Rutting season in Tomies Wood
Late-September to early-November is rutting season for Killarney’s deer population. Although it is very rare for deer to be aggressive towards humans the rise in hormones emboldens the males so they would be more inclined to attack if they felt threatened. Be extra vigilant when walking through their territory in the Autumn. With any luck you will be able to hear their calls and clashes of antlers safely from a distance but if you do come across a stag, them give him space and a clear exit path. Don’t try and get close to them.
In the extremely unlikely event that one should charge you the ideal thing to do is to get yourself up off the ground, in a tree. If there isn’t one nearby which is easy to climb use a tree trunk, or a bolder, as a barrier between you.
Although this shouldn’t put you off walking in the autumn months, if you do feel at all nervous perhaps walk to O’Sullivan’s cascade and back rather than walking the full loop. This shorter walk has plenty more trees and, in my experience, I haven’t seen as many stags as I have on the furthest, more open section of the trail.
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 MacCumhail. 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
Since originally writing this blog Tomie’s Wood now has a little cafe, Tomie’s Tea Bean, which is located a short distance from the main car park and is usually open from 11am until 4.30pm Thursday to Sunday + public holidays (times may change so check their social pages). You’ll find a couple of parking spots as well as some picnic tables with umbrellas. Grab a coffee and a cake and say hi to owners Denis and Collette. They’ll look after you.
There are no toilets or bins at Tomies Wood so please take any rubbish away with you.
Remember, take nothing but photos and memories and leave no trace of your visit.
Looking for somewhere else to explore? Why not discover the beauty of the Gap of Dunloe, without a car…
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.