A Walk for the Weekend: Hills you can have to yourself

The mountains to the west of Magillicuddy Reeks are quieter but no less scenic

 

Dr Tomás Ó Carragáin (UCC) in his essay on Iveragh’s Mountain Pilgrimages makes the interesting point that, because of their poor soils and the formidable barrier they presented to travellers, the Magillicuddy Reeks were somewhat of a cultural desert in the pre-modern period.

On the other hand the land around the mountains to the west, such as Knocknadobar and Drung, have a dense distribution of archaeological monuments indicating substantial communities for whom Drung and Knocknadobar were foci for pilgrimages, fairs and assemblies in prehistoric and medieval times. The name Drung comes from drong, meaning a gathering of people for a particular purpose.

Nowadays, while the Reeks attract swarms of walkers, you can absorb the essence of these western hills in delightful solitude.

The start of the walk is a track which forms part of the Kerry Way and it allows you to access the slopes of Drung without having to cross any farmland. Once you have passed the last of the fenced land, turn left and commence your ascent.

Steep though it may be, it is a relatively easy ascent owing to the grassy ground under foot. There is a good scattering of boulders as you get higher, but there is no problem in winding your way around them.

The view to the north is impressive as the great beaches of Inch and then Rossbeigh come into view with the backdrop of the Slieve Mish Mountains trending westward towards the Blasket Islands.

Away to the east, the stately peaks of the western Reeks mark the start of a serrated skyline which runs south to the sea. Immediately across from you are the cooms of the Coomasahern Horseshoe which encircle the lush valley of the Behy River.

The summit cairn (640m), whether it marks the burial place of a king or not, is a most stately viewing point as you look down on the microscopic motor traffic of the Ring of Kerry.

The walk across to Beenmore (660m) is on a narrow footpath of springy peat and over its one kilometre length there is only a rise of 60m.

From Beenmore there is a stony descent of 120m to a boggy col where you will have to take care to avoid the wetter bits.

There is a steep pull along the edge of Coomacronia before you veer right to Been Hill (651m), and while its summit is not as distinguished as the other peaks on your route, it does offer an impressive view of that other sacred mountain of Iveragh, Knocknadobar, while the intervening lowland sweeps down to Cahersiveen and Valencia island.

From the top, take the western spur down towards a point where the Kerry Way meets a third class road (grid reference 566 853), at which point there is a cluster of pre-famine cabins.

You can now turn right and follow the well-marked route of the Kerry Way, back to your starting point.

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