Walks: There be dragons down Iveragh way

Kerry’s Iveragh mountain range is wonderfully remote

Sat, Jul 19, 2014, 01:00

O n ancient maps, unexplored areas are often adorned with drawings of exotic creatures accompanied by the warning that “There be Dragons”.

The southern Iveragh Mountains have that unexplored feel to them, surrounded as they are by the busy Ring of Kerry and guarded on the north by the Magillicuddy Reeks, where the boots of the legions of walkers who are attracted there are now the main cause of erosion. You could walk for a week further south and not come across another walker, let alone a boot mark.

A track eases your way at the start. Cross the stile about a kilometre along and head up to the outlet of Eagles Lough where the cliffs of Knocknagantee loom over the tarn. Continue up to Spot Height, 636m, which gives a view down into Lough Coomacronia, the second of the many bites which ice has taken out of this plateau.

Walking northwards from the peak along the top of the cliffs, Lough Coomanassig (the coom of the waterfall) opens up and you get a superb overview of the two tarns linked by a 150m-high waterfall.

Cross the bog to the spur over Coomalougha Lough for a most glorious view. Below you the primal terrain of the col shows the imprint of the Armorican Foldings worn down by the abrading action of passing ice sheets.

To the north, the land opens out into the Owenroe Valley with the glittering lakes of Reagh and Cloon. The terrain on your right stretches along the Mullaghattin Ridge towards the great bulk of the Reeks and beyond, a glimpse of Dingle Bay and the Slieve Mish Mountains. The inspiring view will keep you rooted to this spot for some time. When you are sufficiently satiated, skirt around the back of Coomura from Spot Height, 666m, to Knockmoyle, 684m, which is perched over the Inny Valley.

The view is not particularly inspiring, with bleak moorland dotted with squares and rectangles of coniferous plantations. However, Knockmoyle redeems itself as you walk down its southern slopes to the edge of Coom an Bhóthar with its string of five Paternoster Lakes, so called because of their likeness to rosary beads. They are also known as Rock Basin Lakes and again are a product of a glacier scouring out areas of fragile rock. Beyond them you’ll see the outer part of Derriana Lough which completely occupies the neighbouring Coom an Bheannaithe (Coom of the Saints).

I had hoped to have a closer look at this, the largest lake in the area, however time was moving on so I crossed back to the cliffs over Coomanassig and made my way along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Knocknagantee, 678m, and then on to the top of the track which leads back to the farmyard.

The farmer, Michael Murphy, who always has a great welcome for walkers, invited me in for a hefty salad – a perfect ending to a perfect day.

WALKS Knocknagantee & Knockmoyle, Sneem

Start and finish: Beside a farmhouse and barn, 5 km north of Sneem.

How to get there: Coming from Kenmare on the N70, turn right at the signpost for Sneem burial ground and the Lomanagh and Fermoyle walks. Keep left at first fork and uphill over Lomanagh Bridge. The parking spot is just beyond the forestry plantation.

Time: Six hours.

Distance: 15km.

Total Ascent: 1,000m.

Suitability: Hard.

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