GO WALK: JOHN G O’DWYERhas a route that is not too difficult but delivers breathtaking vistas
YOU’VE STOOD on the summit of Carrauntoohil and Lugnaquilla. You can tick the boxes for Mweelrea, the Comeraghs and the Maumturks while you felt in control crossing the Beenkeragh Ridge. But the curse on hillwalkers is that we perpetually live in suspended animation, just one tantalising challenge from true contentment. So inevitably you are wondering, what next?
A rewarding excursion where your hands aren’t unemployed would be nice, but scrambling is your game and you don’t have any hankering for the scarifying complications of vertical ascents.
In such circumstances, your answer to a prayer may be a monumental ridge anchored securely to the craggy east face of Kerry’s Brandon range. To enjoy what is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s finest mountain excursions, begin from Faha carpark (see panel) by passing a biscuit-tin pretty farmhouse to open mountainside. Follow the Mount Brandon pilgrim path past a grotto to Our Lady of the Mountains and then track some white marker poles. These climb steadily before contouring left which is your cue to continue straight ahead and up the green ramparts guarding the Faha Ridge.
Taking some time to weave its spell, the ridge initially consists of a broad grassy crest. It isn’t until you reach point 822m that the real fun begins. Great views open into Coimín na gCnámh and unfolding ahead are the enormous cliffs that defend Brandon’s airy summit. Now the ridge narrows into a sharp arête as it descends, but even though it looks intimidating the rocks are generally user-friendly and the steepest bits can be avoided.
Then in its own good time Faha allows a first glimpse over Coumaknock, savagely gouged by ice and water with its morose bare rock and string of paternoster lakes. At point 809m, descend steeply to reach great boilerplates of rock tilting left.
If you cross this you must abseil to continue. So, instead, go right and scramble down a short chimney to reach a path beneath the north face of the ridge that leads to a rocky col.
Now the steepest section of the ridge rises ahead and brings you unambiguously into rockclimbing territory. To avoid this, follow with care, a rough path up the steep, grassy slopes to the right leading to Brandon’s north peak (891m). Now just head south and join a well-trodden path that reaches down like a spindly arm welcoming the walker to Brandon’s summit.
In one of its good moods Brandon offers captivating views stretching from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks to the outrageously photogenic Blaskets and then north to the shimmering outline of the Aran Islands. But, be warned, here we have a sublime but mercurial mountain that mostly hides its handsome head in mist.
To descend, retrace your steps northwards until a sign points right to a steep downward path. The going may initially seem intimidating but you will find yourself back on the floor of Coumaknock surprisingly quickly.
From here a rough trail, indicated by occasional arrows on the rock, contours left past some small lakes and then follows the wall of the coum to a high point. From here it’s just a question of following the line of white poles back to the farmyard at Faha.
Startpoint: Take the main road to Dingle Peninsula from Tralee and go straight ahead at Camp village. Further on, follow the signs right for Mount Brandon. Beyond Cloghane village take the second left, signposted Mount Brandon. This leads to Faha carpark.
Suitability: Demanding outing requiring competent scrambling and route-finding skills along with a good head for heights.
Highest Altitude: Brandon Mountain 952m.
Time: About five hours.
Map: Ordnance Survey Ireland, Mount Brandon, 1:25,000