With only a couple of days left in Ireland, I was delighted to get a chance to go out on the hills again. A few weeks of kayaking and swimming have started to get boring so it was nice to do something different for a change. With a few old friends from UL on their way down to Kerry, I was more than happy to tag along.
We were headed towards Mount Brandon (Cnoc Bréanainn), a magnificent mountain located at the western end of the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne). The second highest in Ireland at 953m (3123ft), it dominates the surrounding landscape. It’s a mountain that features heavily in local mythology and religion. Heavily connected to Saint Brendan, it’s a popular pilgrimage site but it is also linked with a pagan voyager that of Bran from the colourful tales of Irish and Gaelic mythology. Both men are meant to have voyaged to America and the name Brandon seems to indicate the amalgamation of both the Celtic and Christian tale.
The two most popular routes up Brandon are the traditional pilgrimage route Cosán na Naomh, which is quite boring, albeit safer. The second is from the east from the village of Cloghane which is my favourite for its spectacular views, threading through a glen strewn with Paternoster lakes. However we opted to go for the scrambling option along a less well trodden gem, that of Faha Ridge.
The red and yellow indicates our approach route along the ridge. The yellow is the scrambling part. We returned by the route through the valley.
The map really doesn’t do Faha much justice so heres a look at what the ridge looks like from the opposite side of the glen.
The first part of the day was relatively boring, just some steep hiking up along the ridge towards Beenagh and the scramble. The weather was surprisingly warm which is a rarity in Ireland. Blue skies and sunshine generally don’t have a place here.
A typical west Kerry landscape.
The ascent into cloud. Supposedly to the right of the ridge there are the remains of a crashed German bomber from the War.
Once onto Beenagh, the ridge narrows noticeably with the drops becoming more sheer to each side. Rather than rattle on with a description, I’ll let the pictures speak for it. Suffice to say, it’s fun scrambling but the exposure on either side might be a bit much for some people. This is alleviated by wider patches where the ground levels off.
The drop down from Beenagh.
There’s a sort of track for much of the ridge. Route-finding really isn’t an issue, just keep going forward. There is a couple of downclimbs that can be a little tricky but the rock is very grippy and unlike the much maligned Howling Ridge on Carrauntoohil, actually quite solid. We didn’t need any gear though I imagine it’s a different story in winter conditions or anything not a lovely summers day. Those without a head for heights might appreciate the reassurance of a rope.
The view back along the ridge.
It’s really a walk just to enjoy the views and with amazing exposure on both sides, we made good time. The most interesting feature is an inclined rock plateau that has to be seen to be believed. In winter it could be fantastic if conditions were right.
The drop down to the plateau.
Just for scale, top right of the ridge, you can make out Davis climbing.
Below the plateau and upwards.
After the plateau there was a small traverse through some broken ground across outcrops of rock and grass. The ground was quite steep, I’d imagine it’s not so much fun in snow or in wet weather. A steep bit up a grass gully and it wasn’t long till we were on the saddle below the summit.
Nearing the end.
Considering we were in cloud for most of the day, it was a nice surprise when we got onto the saddle to be greeted by..
The mountain sights in Ireland are fantastic but rarely seen. We got lucky. It was fantastic how the western side was all clear like the above while on the eastern side we had the cloud confined to the glen and ridge.
We went back down the track into the glen and followed it back to the carpark. Five hours roughly round trip and it meant we had enough time to make it to see the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Not that I know anything about the sport.
Faha Ridge, well recommended.