From Cuas to Cloghane over Mount Brandon.
“To Brandon sacred, as tradition says,
There stands a place where trembling lightening plays;
Hence to be purged, souls pass the cleansing flame,
To fit them for the test of judge supreme.”1
Leaving An Bóthar, my B&B last night, the clouds are clearing from the top of Mount Brandon. It’s a dry, fresh morning. I set out to be purged2
The route goes up to a col between the peaks of Cnoc Bréanain (Mount Brandon) and Más an Tiompáin (Masatompian ‘Rump of the hollow’?) at a height of around 600 metres. It’s a steady climb from the gentle lower slopes to the higher, steep ascent, first to a false summit and then to the col itself.3
I take frequent breathers and look back over the equally breathtaking landscape that was hidden from view yesterday.
The climb is hard and there is no straight path; I negotiate rocks, water and boggy outcrops, keeping a slow, steady pace and I don’t find it as difficult as I expected. White posts have been placed at regular intervals to show the path if visibility is poor, but today is clear with just the peak, 200 metres above the coll, capped in cloud.
Below me a farmer is working his dogs herding sheep and his calls drift up the slopes. I meet a group of four American hikers I have got to know over the last few days as we travel the trail and stay in the same places each night. A young german couple pass by on their younger legs. I have met them a few times too.
At the coll, a glorious view opens out with most of the route over the next two days in sight. The huge sweep of sand around the Maharees peninsular, Ireland’s longest beach will be most of tomorrow’s hike, then over to Tralee Bay on my way back to Camp the next day.
An Ogham stone sits on the coll, surviving remarkably well in the conditions4
The descent is steep and very hard on the knees, clambering down slippery rocks and deep, muddy overhangs. My poles prove their worth, and I don’t think I could have managed this section without them, but I eventually get down onto easier ground and eat lunch, sheltering from the blustery wind behind some rocks.
The route joins a track winding down the lower slopes between old turf cuttings. Some are still active, white bags of turf blocks stacked by the track.
The track becomes a road which veres off north to Brandon Quay. I consider a shortcut but stay on the route up a hill and down to the quay. I sit in the warm sunshine enjoying a smoked mackerel open sandwich.
From the quay to Cloghane seems longer than expected but I eventually arrive at Brandon Hostel which is a sort of cross between a hostel and a B&B, so I have a private, en-suite room. It’s a really nice place and Mary helps me with my Irish too!
This was a tough but wonderful route on a perfect day for hiking.
About the route
View my route in Google Maps
This route is the northernmost section shown in red on the map
21km (13 miles) in about 7 hours.
Total ascent: 836m. Max elevation: 635m.
- Alexander Nekham, 1157-1217 (from the Kerry Camino leaflet)
- There is still a pilgrim path up Mount Brandon with a shrine near the base and a cross somewhere near the top. The Dingle Way uses a different route but the pilgrim path is marked on OS maps and is waymarked as ‘Cosán na Naomh’, starting in Ventry.
- On the OS map the false summit has the fascinating name of ‘Cnoc na mBristi’ which seems to translate as ‘Trouser Hill/Mountain’?
- See https://ogham.celt.dias.ie/stone.php?lang=en&site=Arraglen&stone=145._Arraglen&stoneinfo=inscription about its disputed inscription.
Hooray for a perfect day for hiking. You’ve certainly had a bit of everything on this trip. It has all the elements of a proper pilgrimage, and I’m grateful to be able to follow you in words and sketches.