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Stark elemental beauty on circuit of Kerry lake

Walk for the Weekend: Fortune favoured the brave with an enthralling trek around Coomasaharn lake

Even though there was no promise for us in the sky or in the weather forecast, no prospect of vistas or even colour, we had a very enjoyable day

Edmund Hillary once said that the reason we climb mountains was simply “for the hell of it”. And on a bleak November morning of elusive beauty, we far lesser mortals couldn’t think of any better way to put it. Ahead of us, Coomasaharn’s black waters lapped steep stony shores, and sulked under a lowering sky of grey mist; around us were Ophelia-ravaged thorn bushes, small waterlogged fields and sad and crumbling mossy gables. And all the time, as we got into our hiking gear, a cold windchill slapped our faces and dampened our spirits. But, even though there was no promise for us in the sky or in the weather forecast, no prospect of vistas or even colour, fortune favoured the brave with a very enjoyable day, and not just in retrospect.

The steep rock-ribbed sides of our first hill, Knocknaman, were, as often happens, much easier underfoot than when viewed from a distance. We made good progress up and across its broad, watery back and into the mist. A modern fence, and later an ancient wall, guided us along the high rim of Coomasaharn, up and down over a peat cover reduced in places by centuries of rain to a thin black ooze.

Men of long ago

The wall intrigued us. The flat sandstone slabs were huge, some standing but mostly scattered as if by a thousand storms; we thought of the men of long ago, no Gore-Tex or working gloves or advice on back care, who assembled this wall on such days as this, and for what purpose?

Soon though, dropping just below cloud-base on to the airy col between Meenteog (715m) and Coomacarrea (772m), the first of our favours were granted us – thin streamers of ground-level mist flowed spectacularly up and over the col, and a day of 50 shades of grey was punctuated by lovely Technicolor yellows and warm browns, as a westering sun lit upon distant beaches and hillsides.

We passed, now back in mist, between the summit of Teermoyle (760m) and the sadly-named cliffs of Leam an Soggarth, huddling regularly over compass, GPS and maps, intent on not missing the “promontory” that was our exit off the plateau. The west wind was rising unexpectedly and alarmingly as we carefully descended the promontory on to the narrow arête towards Coomreagh mountain. We stopped to stow our walking poles, briefly taking in the stark elemental beauty around us, and especially the great glacial chasms on either side; however, sightseeing would have to wait, and we very carefully worked our way over on to the sensible and safe ground of Coomreagh mountain.

The crux of the day now over, we were wind-assisted to the eastern end of Coomreagh, from where we descended easily to a clear track. The wild waters and winds of Coomasaharn enthralled us with the haunting beauty of the place, as we strolled back to our car, now very happy with our day.

Walk for the Weekend: Circuit of Coomasaharn Lake, Glenbeigh, Co Kerry

Map: Discovery no 78

Start/Finish: outlet of Coomasaharn Lake, circa 7km from the N70 at Glenbeigh (park with respect for local users)

Effort: 800m, 11km, 5 to 6 hours

Suitability: fitness and mountain experience required, special care needed on the steep arête from Teermoyle to Coomreagh