The heights of fashion
It is a pretty steep ascent up Torc Mountain, which featured in US ‘Vogue’, so don’t try it in heels
The Kerry mountains have been in vogue for many a year; but now that they have appeared in US Vogue they have become fashionable as well and I am regularly asked by fashionistas which is the safest mountain to climb to get a flavour of these mighty hills.
There is really only one answer to that, and that is Torc Mountain (535m) which towers over its more famous waterfall. As it lies within the Killarney National Park, the park rangers have been at liberty to construct a pathway to its summit, thereby allowing walkers with little or no mountain experience safe passage to a summit which gives an opulent view of the range of peaks which form the broad massif surrounding it.
The start couldn’t be easier as it is constructed of steps of flat slabs of shale running up beside the mighty waterfall. Crossing a bridge will bring you onto a coniferous forest track. Turn left here and you will shortly emerge into the open moorland of the Owengarriff River, bounded to the east by the great bulk of Mangerton Mountain and on the west by Torc, which looks quite intimidating at this point as its surface is steep and exceedingly rough. But walk along a hundred meters or so and you will come to the start of the prepared route, which is mainly formed of railway sleepers covered with chicken wire to provide a grip; these link the easy natural stretches of the mountain. By the time you start your climb you are already at 235m so you have only 300m of ascent and, with plenty of zigzags built into the trail, it is not an arduous proposition.
The view from the top will make many of you resolve to take up hill walking as you sit there and survey the panorama of crests which runs all the way from the Magillicuddy Reeks, past the less travelled summits of south Kerry, and on to Mangerton and the Paps. Even the lowlands are enticing, from the great oak forests of Muckross to the mysterious Black Valley burrowing its way through the mountains. Had veteran photographer Annie Leibovitz happened on this spot during her researches for Vogue, I have no doubt the models would have been told to pack their haute couture in a haversack and substitute their high heels for hiking boots.
When you return to the track, turn right onto the Old Kenmare Road and strike out for Galway’s Bridge. The first part of the route, which brings you to O’Sullivan’s Cascade, is a solid track for the most part. While nowhere near as high as Torc Waterfall, you are more than likely to have it to yourself and it is a good spot for lunch on the grassy bank.
From here, a narrow rocky path brings you to the Esknamucky Glen and a superb oak grove in the middle of which is the ruin of a 19th-century National School. Continue on to cross Galway’s River and pick up a solid track to bring you to the small car park, beside which stands the boarded up but picturesque Derrycunnihy Church.