High life on Dingle Peninsula


There’s views galore and tales of yore on Caherconree, writes TONY DOHERTY

I DON’T really get promontory forts. If your enemies break through the defences, how can you fight if your back is up against fresh air? Give me a solid wall any time. While coastal forts, such as Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór, are easily reached some effort is required to inspect their mountain cousins. But it is worthwhile as they give extensive views of the surrounding countryside.

Caherconree Fort (683m) on the Slieve Mish Mountains is one of the finest examples of this type of defensive structure in the country and also the easiest to access. Its distinctive cliffs are visible from both sides of the Dingle Peninsula.

From the road there are way markers to lead you up as far as the fort (683m). The route arcs up on to a ridge between the natural ramparts of the fort and a similar outcrop to the south at spot height 513m.

There is a discernible track for most of the way. The ground is wet and boggy in places while the last 200 meters of ascent are on steep ground. The broad defensive dry stone wall of the fort is 2.5 meters high and runs across the neck of the precipitous promontory.

This was the stronghold of Cú Roí mac Dáire. Legend has it that he was a demigod with magical powers, one of which was his ability to spin the fort around at night to confuse his enemies.

He was pals with Cúchulainn until they fell out over a femme fatalecalled Blathnaid who set Cú Roí up by telling him that he needed to strengthen his defences. While his warriors were away collecting rocks to reinforce the wall, Cúchulainn attacked and the poor demigod ended up at the bottom of his own cliffs.

The defenders certainly had a commanding view in every direction. I would have been useless as a sentry as the panorama of sea and mountains would have preoccupied me to such an extent that I would probably have ended up being thrown over the crags by my own side.

IF YOU WISH to continue you will need mountain skills as there are no further navigation aids to assist you. The ascent up to the summit of Caherconree (835m) runs along the edge of the cliffs on dry stony soil. The view is as formidable as the fort below. The great beaches which form the sand spits of Inch and Rossbeigh at the head of Dingle Bay on your left compete for your attention with the mighty arc of the Castlegregory tombolo which marks the outer limit of Tralee Bay on your right.

For a most pleasant ridge walk on easy ground head north towards Gearhane (792m). When you drop down to the col between them you will have a good view down into Derrymore coom and the western slopes of Baurtregaum.

As you progress, the northern slopes of the peninsula’s mountains open up and you will be able to see as far west as the Brandon Range.

Keep going north until you come to a cairn that has a distinctive rock pillar with a circular patch of white lichen on it. This will see you perched over the port of Fenit. On summer weekends you will be entertained by yacht races in the bay. When you’ve had your fill retrace your steps.

As I headed towards the fort I had to resist the urge to return to my boyhood and go charging down uttering warlike whoops with my trekking pole acting as a spear. Sadly, I realised that the only cries would be of pain as I’d surely break my leg long before getting anywhere near the fortifications.

RouteCaherconree, Co Kerry

MapOrdnance Survey, Discovery Series, Sheet 71.

Start/finishA small clearing on the third class road which links the R561 Castlemaine to Dingle road with the N86 Tralee to Dingle road. Grid reference: 716 057. There is an information panel at this point.

Get thereFrom the R561 take the turning signposted “Scenic route to Camp” about 11.4km west of Castlemaine. From the N86 turn left at the sharp bend on the road about 300m east of the village of Camp.

TimeTo the fort and back is two hours and four/five hours for the full route.

DistanceFort 4km, full route 10km.

Total ascentFort 460m, full route 725m.

SuitabilityEasy to the fort but for the full route bring a map, rain gear and walking boots.

Food/accommodationA good selection is available in Annascaul, Camp, Dingle, Tralee.