Walk on water


Even when the Dingle Peninsula is suffering from really dirty weather, Mount Brandon is a magnificent place to be, writes Harry McGee

THERE HAVE BEEN times when, struggling up Mount Brandon in the teeth of a polar gale and spitting squalls, you imagine St Brendan had an easier time voyaging to America than climbing the mountain named after him.

But even on those dirty days the mountain is magnificent. If you are lucky enough to go up on a day when the sky is clear and the sea is calm it brings with it the amazing phenomenon of feeling you are standing on top of the sea.

The 952m mountain and its dramatic sister, the 840m Brandon Peak, are flanked by water to the north, east and south. The Blaskets, the Skelligs, the Magillicuddys and the coasts of Cork and Clare all in your sight.

There are multiple approaches to the mountain. The easiest and most popular is Cosán na Naomh, from An Baile Breac in the southwest - just follow the stations and the many waymarks to the summit. Today's route begins in Faha, east of the mountain. It includes some steep sections that require care, but nothing that requires the use of your hands.

If you're coming from the Dingle, or Daingean Uí Chúis, side, drive over the Connor Pass and turn left at the bottom to take the R585 into Cloghane; from Tralee, take the R560 and turn right about seven kilometres after Stradbally.

To get to the start, continue through the village and turn left on to a minor road to the townland of Faha, where you can park beside renovated cottages.

Walk past the grotto along the path that rises diagonally up the ridge. Follow it westwards for almost two kilometres, gaining height all the while. The path dips down slightly, then a wonderful scene unfolds (if you're lucky enough to have picked a cloudless day). The glacial valley that opens up, running southeast from the peak, is a majestic sight.

In front of you are the imposing cliffs guarding the western flank of Brandon, always in shade, always brooding. Below are the Pater-Noster lakes, strung out like rosary beads on the floor of the corrie.

You follow the stony path that runs along the right flank of the valley for some pleasant walking in eye-achingly beautiful surroundings. You then begin to veer over to the left at the head of the valley, working your way across relatively flat ground and near the upper lakes.

What follows is a vertical path that screws its way up the very steep slope at the head of the valley. It ends dramatically at a shoulder where you get your first panoramic view of the Atlantic. You then turn left and walk along the tussocky path to the summit, where there is a cross, a leaba and a trig point.

You return as you came, exercising care at the steep parts. As an alternative, if you have two cars, you can park the second near An Baile Breac and make the gentler descent along the southwest slopes.

Mount Brandon, Co Kerry

Start and finishFaha, on the Dingle Peninsula.

DistanceAbout 10km; vertical climb of about 750m.

TimeFive to seven hours.

MapOrdnance Survey Discovery sheet 70

Best thing about the walkOne of the finest in Ireland.

SuitabilityModerately difficult. Mountain experience desirable on cloudy days.

AccommodationMount Brandon Hostel, Cloghane (066-7138299); The Captain's House B&B, Dingle (066-9151531); Dingle Skellig Hotel (066-9150200).

End of walk pit stopO'Connor's in Cloghane is a lovely bar. Call into An Bóthar in Feothanach if you descend on the other side.