A gateway to wilderness
G REAT DRIVES BEAUFORT TO GLENCAR:Good weather on a drive to Kerry might be a little too much to hope for, writes BOB MONTGOMERY, but stunning views around Ireland’s highest mountain are pretty much guaranteed
NOBODY LIVING IN Ireland needs to be told that this has been one of the wettest summer periods on record – so it was with some trepidation that I pointed my Daimler SP250 for Co Kerry recently. My plan was to use the car to explore some of the less well known parts of the Iveragh Peninsula and, if time allowed, to progress into the Beara and Dingle Peninsulas.
The eastern part of the Iveragh Peninsula is, of course, dominated by Ireland’s most spectacular mountain range, the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, containing Ireland’s highest mountain, the mighty Carrauntoohil, which stands at 1,040 metres, in turn surrounded by several other mountains that all top 900 metres. Incidentally, the Irish name of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks is Na Cruacha Dubha – the black peaks.
Of course, there are no roads up to Carrauntoohil or the surrounding peaks, but I had noticed that one road skirts the northern and northeastern side of the mountain and is, in fact, the starting point for most climbers as they set out to ascend the mountain.
Sadly, the day chosen to drive this route was predictably wet and, as I set out from my chosen starting point – the pretty village of Beaufort – the skies were leaden. Beaufort is actually more correctly called Beaufort Bridge for the bridge that crosses the River Laune. Its Irish name is Lios an Phúca, meaning the púca’s ring fort.
Leave Beaufort heading south and travel for two kilometres before branching off southwest at an angled crossroads. Follow this winding road for about 10 kilometres until it joins the Killorglin to Glencar road, at which point turn southwest along the pretty Glen of the Cottoners River.
Before this road is joined, there are several places where Carrauntoohil is sign-posted with brown signs. These roads lead to parking and viewing areas, which are used by mountaineers as jumping-off points for their attempts on the mountain. They also provide wonderful viewing points across the lower flat lands to the northwest of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
Heading south again along the Killorglin to Glencar road, Lough Acoose is soon reached. In sunlight, it’s a pretty place but I have to admit that on the day of my journey it was a dark and forbidding sight. A little beyond is the area known as Glencar. Glencar – Irish name Gleann Chárthaigh – is a delightful spot around the Caragh River and, loosely speaking, extends over the wooded area surrounding the river as well as the Owenroe River that drains Cloon Lough to the southwest.
But, for me, the attraction of Glencar is that it serves as a gateway to some of the wildest and most beautiful places, not just in the Iveragh Peninsula but, to my mind, in all of Kerry. Ballaghsheena Pass to the southwest, Cloon Lough and, to the east, Lough Brinn and my own personal favourite, Ballaghbeama Pass.
Although I travelled this route in very inclement weather I would not hesitate to recommend it. No single part is spectacular – except perhaps the views of the Reeks and the view from the car parks described, yet it gives a unique view of Ireland’s highest mountain before journeying the little-mentioned Glen of the Cottoners River and then delivering you into the heart of one of Ireland’s wildest landscapes beside Glencar.
Just try to pick a day when the sun is shining as it only does in Kerry.