Walk for the Weekend: Glanmore Valley and Knockowen Ridge, Beara, Co Kerry
Spectacular scenery on the walk up the valley, carved out by the grinding of great glaciers
There is nothing more pleasurable than a walk up a glaciated valley, and the Beara Peninsula has plenty of them. Although they all have the same origin – carved out of the Caha Mountains by the grinding of great glaciers – each has its own special characteristics.
Glanmore (The Big Glen) could be described as first among equals and, with a road leading right up to the head of the valley, there is no rough ground to distract you absorbing the spectacular scenery along the way.
The start of the walk is along the broad flat flood-plain of the Crowshagh river, which drains Glanmore Lake. It is bounded by the steep slopes of Knockastumpa and Commeennahillan mountains. As you reach Glanmore Lake the valley narrows. The beauty of this striking body of water is enhanced by the steep wooded slopes that drop down to the shore from Deelis Mountain. Somehow one doesn’t expect to see groves of oak in this barren peninsula.
Reaching the end of the lake you enter cooling woodland and at a bend on the road about a kilometre past the end of the lake a stream runs down from the Healy Pass Road. This is a good point to ascend even though you will have to do a bit of route finding among the crags. When you reach the road, walk a couple of hundred metres up to the Cork-Kerry border and take to the hills again going northeast up to Spot Height (412m) and on to Cladaggarriff (498m), from which there is a superb view down into the glen.
This is typical Beara country with outcrops of rock impeding progress as you wind your way around them. It’s a stiff pull up on to Knockowen, but it didn’t seem like an effort with the vistas all around to be admired. From your position astride the county boundary you’ll be able to look down into both Kenmare and Bantry Bays.
Knockowen (658m) is as good a perch as you will find anywhere on this peninsula. As well as the sea views, on the north side there are the brooding cliffs at the head of Glanrastal – those on Cushnaficulla (596m) are particularly impressive. Although you won’t be able to see it until you descend, the north face of Knockowen is imposing as well.
The descent is down the spur heading north. For once you will be following the grain of the rock, but as it descends in a series of steps you must take care. Keep on the ridge until the 250m mark, which will bring you past the cliffs and you can begin your descent into Glanrastal. A good marker to aim for is a ruined farmhouse at the end of the road.
A line from the ridge to there will get you safely down and then there is a 3km walk back to Lauragh by the side of a river named An Oinseach. But you certainly won’t feel like an oinseach after completing such a splendid route.
Glanmore and Knockowen, Beara, Co Kerry
Map: Ordnance Survey Discovery Series, sheet 84
Start and finish: The village of Lauragh. Grid Reference. 774 584
How to get there: Lauragh is on the R571 Kenmare to Castletownbere Road, 22km southwest of Kenmare
Time: Six hours
Suitability: Hard. Boots, rain gear, map and compass required
Food and accommodation: Kenmare