– on a race against Hurricane Ophelia to see Autumn colour

Beech leaves make a splash of Autumn colour over the 18th century mining road on Ross Island in Killarney

This road was developed to take out large quantities of copper ore in the late 18th and early 19th century for smelting in Wales. The ore was quarried in the nearby oldest copper mines in north western Europe dating back over 4,500 years.

Sunday October 15th was the day before the much heralded arrival of Hurricane Ophelia. Would all of our Autumn colour be blown away? Might flooded paths prevent access? To see autumn colour we headed for Ross Island.

Arbutus in flower and fruit on Governor’s Rock, from where there is a huge, high panorama over most of Lough Leane

Arbutus Unedo, the Killarney strawberry tree, outside of pockets in a very few places in the south west of Ireland is not found growing in the wild further north than the north coast of Spain. It has a two year cycle. This year’s flowers produce next year’s fruit.

When and how this headland came to be known as Governor’s Rock I am not clear. Was it called after a member of the landlord Lord Kenmare family or some eminent visitor? I would appreciate any information.

Hyde’s Bay, Governor’s Rock and Tomies mountain

This scene over Hyde’s Bay was the clearest evidence of the approach of Autumn. Brown reeds, the evolution of the tree leaves from green to brown, the stillness suggested by the slight ripple of the water and the cloud resting on the mountain.

Perhaps the bay is named for the Rev Arthur Hyde who was Church of Ireland Minister in Killarney in the first half of the 18th century. Or perhaps it is in memory of his great grandson the first President of Ireland Douglas Hyde.

Demesne road to Library Point through swamp woodland

Swamp woodland of short lived sally and alder is one of the three internationally important areas of woodland in Killarney. The other two are yew on the Muckross Peninsula and the oak woods in Derricunnihy. The swamp woodlands are extensive in the environs of Ross Castle.

On our October 15 walk on the day before Hurricane Ophelia, the photo shows the lake water levels already flooded the route but it was possible to get past. If Ophelia was accompanied by prolonged heavy rain this area might be cut off for weeks or even months – as in the winter of 2015/16.

We walked to Library Point along the rough woodland track running high along the northern shore of Hyde’s bay with constant glimpses of Autumn colour and continuous panoramas of lake, woodland and mountain.

While the sheltered leaves on this beech tree are green, the higher and more exposed areas were already yellow and brown. In the upper foreground the leaves of a horse chestnut, one of the first trees to show seasonal change

For more than 40 years our children – and latterly grandchildren – hid in the hollow trunk of this great beech tree. lts interior had rotted away many years before. Might the storm of the following day finally bring it crashing down?

Boat docked in one of the many lake inlets in the off-road south eastern part of Ross Island

The real enjoyment of Ross Island is to wander off the Park road. Follow every track and be endlessly fascinated.

Where had this boat gone on its most recent lake trip? Perhaps to Innisfallen’s ancient abbey. Or to O’Sullivan’s Cascade on the mountain shore. Or maybe a last day’s fishing before the season closed.


From Lovers’ Walk on October 23 .. looking out through yew tree branches on Lough Leane with a mountain backdrop of Purple, Glena and Tomies

On Sunday October 22 – six days after Ophelia – the low routes beside the three main Killarney lakes were all flooded. There had been torrential rain on the Friday and Saturday.

But Ophelia had not been as severe as forecast. The great beech on Ross Island is still standing.

On Monday the 23rd we spent three hours on the Muckross Lake Boat Tours hugely enjoyable boat trip around the Muckross Lake – that also took in the back channel that flows directly from the Upper Lake to Lough Leane. We also delayed in front of the ruined Glena cottage on Lough Leane. We were recording a programme that was broadcast on Radio Kerry on Saturday October 28. You can hear it on podcast on the Radio Kerry web site.

After three hours on a boat to stretch our legs we walked in a figure of eight formation for an hour from Torc via Muckross to the south eastern corner of Lough Leane and then back along the shore of the lake, on Lovers’ Walk and then along the fringe of Torc woods high over the Middle Lake.

– Frank Lewis

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