A small ramble up Strickeen

If you’re looking for a hike around the Killarney area that offers a combination of great views and easy trails, you couldn’t get much better bang for your buck than Strickeen. The mountain’s name is anglicised from Stricín, or “little peak” (-een or -ín is a diminutive suffix as Gaeilge) but while the peak is indeed little (only ~380 elevation gain for a summit height of 440 meters), this 6.5km hike finishes with lovely views of the surrounds, the lakes of Killarney, and the rest of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, such as Carrauntoohil.

The ultimate easy-hike-amazing-views choice is still Torc, in my opinion, simply because it’s so convenient to get to if you’re staying in Killarney town. That one you can walk or cycle to through the national park, whereas the Strickeen trailhead requires a bit more of a trek as it’s in the Gap of Dunloe which is about 6km from Killarney. However, it’s well worth it as the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley beyond are some of the most beautiful and rugged spots in Kerry. Moreover, there are plenty of ways to arrive whether you travel by car, cycle, tour bus, or take a boat across the lakes and up to the top of the Gap.

Starting off near Kate Kearney’s

Most likely, you’ll start off at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a traditional pub and café at the very start of the road up the gap. Here you’ll find parking—although not enough if you go on a sunny Sunday morning like we did; we had to park along the side of the road—and plenty of jarveys with jaunting carts (horse-drawn carts) offering their services. However, the trailhead to Strickeen is only a ten-minute walk from Kate Kearney’s so there’s no need. There is also technically parking at the base of Strickeen itself, but the road is narrow and there’s only room for a few cars to park anyway, so just don’t worry about it.

No sun over the Gap

Begin the hike by passing through the obligatory gate reminding you that you’re on farmers’ land and to watch out for grazing sheep. While dogs are allowed on the route (not often true of hikes that pass through private farmland in Ireland), they have to remain on-leash at all times. We saw quite a few very cute dogs on our way up. The hike is definitely the easiest of the Reeks and one of the most leisurely in the area. It never gets steep an the path is always wide and clear, if a bit eroded due to its popularity. I would imagine it is rarely empty due to its proximity to the Gap of Dunloe.

Although it’s a short and easy hike, it is still important to be prepared as weather on the Reeks is always changeable. When we went on Sunday morning it rained on and off (although luckily never heavy) and when we reached the summit there were strong winds. Always bring an extra layer of clothing and some food and water, just in case. Also, the trail is mostly rocks and gravel but there are a few spots where it’s dirt and grass and if it’s been raining recently I would definitely wear waterproof shoes or proper hiking boots because it could definitely get muddy (see also, my mudhole mishap on Mangerton).

Ascending to the summit took us just over 50 minutes, and coming back down was a few minutes shorter than that, so all told the hike was about an hour and a half and I’d say to budget an extra half hour or hour depending on your fitness and the weather if you’re trying to work it in to a tourist itinerary. While I wouldn’t rank the hike itself as one of the most exciting ones I’ve done, it’s definitely worth a quick jaunt up the mountain for the stunning views, and you can always go for a nice coffee or meal at Kate Kearney’s afterward (or head back into town for a 99 ice cream like we always do after a hike). Happy hiking!

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