Fine perch for Kerry views
A summer exploration of Gullaba Hill
Bird Hill to the north as viewed from Gullaba Hill in Co Kerry.
While I have roamed extensively in the Caha Mountains over the years, it struck me recently that I had never investigated the northern limits of the range. A study of the Ordnance Survey map indicated that Gullaba Hill, near Kilgarvan, was the peak to explore. Shortly after the start you will come level with Lough Akinkeen which is backed by the impressive Caoinkeen cliffs. Caoinkeen is the Irish word for nose around these parts and indeed from a certain angle one of the buttresses has a distinctive Roman profile.
The forest path peters out after a kilometre, but the route to the ridge is made easy by walking along the side of a newly cut drainage channel. When you achieve the crest take a left turn up to Spot Height 637m to get a view into the Sheen Valley, while to the southeast you’ll spot Knockboy (706m), Cork’s highest peak.
The walk across to Gullaba Hill (603m) was a pleasure; the boggy boulder clay had a fine grassy surface speckled with its summer dressing of fluttering bog cotton enlivening the surface in the fresh breeze.
The two cols on the crest are wet but with a bit of judicious route finding you should avoid getting your boots wet. On reaching Spot Height, (625m), take time to appreciate the valley containing Coumyfaun Lake and the unusual surface patterns of the valley sides. And so on to Gullaba which is as fine a perch as you could wish for with its splendid views over Kenmare with its encircling mountains stretching away to the most westerly peaks of the Iveragh Peninsula. To the north lies the curiously shaped Bird Hill (412m) which I had planned to summit but the route between the two peaks is steep and apart from the possibility of some tedious route finding, there would be the long haul back up to Gullaba. Instead I dropped down a 100m to the north and contoured back towards Coomclogherane Lake at which I wanted to have a closer look as it is contained in an impressive coom.
One thing I didn’t take into account was that I would be sheltered from the wind on this section and while that would normally be a good thing, this was one of the hottest days of our summer heat wave and I don’t think I have ever experienced such high temperatures on an Irish mountain.
As there are no large outcrops of rock on the mountain there was no escaping the sun and even though the scene was most attractive, with its sparkling lake, dramatic cliffs and a pastoral landscape beneath reminiscent of an Alpine valley, I didn’t linger and climbed back up on to the ridge through heather. I retraced my route back to the car and made haste to rehydrate in the watering holes of Kilgarvan.
Map: OS Discovery Series. Sheet 85. (Kilgarvan is on Sheet 79)
Start and finish: A sharp bend on the road from where a track leads into L Akinkeen. Grid Reference 022 657 How to get there: Kilgarvan is on the R569 which links the N22, Cork-Killarney Road with Kenmare. At the south end of the village turn left for Bantry. Time: Six hours. Distance: 14km
Total Ascent: 750m Suitability: Hard. Map, rain gear and walking boots needed. Food & Accommodation: Kilgarvan. Kenmare.