The rebels' tallest boy


Straddling the border between rival neighbours Cork and Kerry, Knockboy is the tallest peak in the Rebel County – but puny by Kerry standards. All the same, TONY DOHERTYenjoys its charms

The stile at the car park brings you on to a track that leads down into the coom of Lough Nambrackderg (the Lake of the Red Trout). This is a classic coom, with its circular cliffs and tarn fronted by a moraine. Once you’re level with the front of the tarn, drop down the steep grassy slope to the lake shore. South of the tarn, cross boggy ground between the forest and Lough Beg to a fence. Cross the stile, skirt around the rocks ahead of you and begin the ascent of the spur that runs up between the coom and Borlin Valley.

You will have the rare pleasure in this part of the world of walking up grassy ramps parallel to the rocks. Keep the green barn in the valley directly astern. When you can no longer see it, work your way over to the right and you’ll reach the fence that will bring you to the top of the cliffs. Follow it around until you can see spot height 608m across the valley. To avoid losing height, it’s better to track the 500m contour as it arcs around the head of a small valley and then cut across to Lough Akinkeen and up on to the ridge. Notice that there is a lake of the same name on the Kerry side. Was it a case of, “Well, if ye’re going to have a Lough Akinkeen, we are going to have one, too,” I wonder.

There is some very wet ground to negotiate until you come to the steep ground that leads up to the pillar on the summit. The view is superb. You are high over Whiddy Island and Bantry Bay, and the deeply indented west Cork coast stretches away to the southeast. Ahead is the flat summit of Hungry Hill, beyond which a great sweep of peaks leads westwards to Macgillicuddy’s Reeks.

Retrace your steps to spot height 608m, near which you will come across an unmarked lake that would startle you in thick mist and make you doubt your position. Head north to Lough Nambrackdarig (are the Kerry crowd correcting our grammar?), then up the easy slope to Knockboy (don’t ask) and across to the stone cairn at the top of the 300m cliffs of Caoinkeen (the Irish for a nose in this part of the world).

Here you are back to the comfort zone of a fence, which will facilitate your descent over rocky and boggy ground. At the first fence which runs at right angles to your course, cross the stile and keep to the main fence, but at the next one turn right along the new fence until you come to a stile. Once over it you’ll then have to cross the fence on your right and follow it until you come to a gate. If you work your way down to the right here you will come to a track that will lead you back to the cars.

If you’re from Cork you’ll have to climb it sometime, and if you’re a visitor we’ll expect you to climb it, boy.

  • Knockboy, Co Cork
  • Start and finishAt the highest point on the third-class road between Kilgarvan and Bantry, grid reference 039 649. There is room for four or five cars without blocking gateways.
  • How to get thereKilgarvan is midway on the R569, which links Kenmare (N71) with the N22 Cork-Killarney road. You can also reach the starting point by turning off the N71 Bantry-Glengarriff road 2.5km north of Ballylicky.
  • TimeSix hours.
  • Distance12km.
  • Total ascent800m.
  • MapOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series 85.
  • SuitabilityRoute is hard. Compass, map and raingear are essential. Good navigational skills required.
  • Food and accommodationKilgarvan, Bantry, Glengarriff.