Don't pass up on this lonely spot


GREAT DRIVES BALLAGHISHEEN PASS:There are few equals in Ireland to this grassy plain with its broad view of the mighty Macgillycuddy’s, writes BOB MONTGOMERY

TODAY’S “GREAT Drive” stays in Kerry and focuses on Ballaghisheen Pass and Glencar Valley, also somewhat confusingly called Ballaghasheen Pass as well as Ballagh Oisin Pass. Returning to the original Irish we find it called Bealach Oisín or simply Oisin’s Road.

The pass is situated on the road from Glencar to Waterville, and our journey begins where the last article a fortnight ago left off. The two drives can easily be combined into one – my reason for breaking them into two articles being simply the space available for each article.

I began the previous article by extolling the beauty of this area, bounded as it is to the north by the magnificent Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and to the east and west respectively by the Ballaghnabeama Pass and Caragh Lake. Now, heading southwest along the road from Caragh to Waterville, this beauty is more apparent than ever.

The landscape is a grassy plain bounded on all sides by mountains and truly on a bright, sunny day it has few equals anywhere in Ireland. And that, I can promise you having spent the last six years exploring Ireland for this series, is impressive.

However, I want you to discover this part of Ireland for yourself, so continue along the road until the mountains start to come closer and the road begins to gently climb. Before long the road is climbing steadily and up ahead the Ballaghisheen Pass is visible.

This is a lonely spot with little sign of human involvement, something confirmed by the broad view from the top of the pass back towards the mighty Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. I should also say that the road from Glencar to the pass is quite narrow but with a good surface.

However, approaching the top of the Ballaghisheen Pass a shock awaits you in the form of a long line of double poles carrying electricity lines stretching from the pass itself into the distance and leaving a grotesque imprint on a place of such great natural beauty.

Regular readers may remember my horror to find a quarry and a landfill site on Slieve Muckish in Mayo, and similar thoughts occur to me here. The lines and their poles don’t scar the landscape in the way that the giant gash of a quarry on the slopes of Muckish did, but why, oh why, disfigure one of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland in this way? We hold such places as Ballaghisheen in trust for future generations. To place such disfigurement in the landscape is to deny the birthright of those future generations.

Despite this misgiving, power lines or not, this is a simply magical landscape. Please don’t be put off from visiting it soon.

Before finishing, let me point out a diversion from our route that sadly I did not have time to explore but which promises much on the map. Shortly after the start of today’s journey is a junction at Bealalaw Bridge.

The road from this junction leads to lonely Cloon Lough, beautifully set between the mountains of Knocknacusha (449m) and the higher Mullaghanattin (773m).

Once again, I traversed the route in my Lotus Exige, demonstrating that although narrow, the road surface was very good and provided no problem even for a car as low to the ground as the Lotus. Enjoy this wonderful part of Kerry and in the next article we’ll explore a landscape as different as it’s possible to get.

Next great drive: April 20th