The Ten Best Views in Ireland - and How to Get to Them
Our personal, entirely arbitrary and eminently disputable selection 14 Erris Head 16 Slieve Binnian 18 Hungry Hill 20 Mweelrea 22 The Bone 24 Glendalough 26 Sliabh League 28 Torc Mountain 30 The 12 Bens 32 Lough Tay
Erris Head T
his linear walk starts at the road end southwest of Erris Head and finishes at a small slipway some 9km away. You will need some means of getting back to the start as the return walk along roads will be far too much for most walkers, for although the distance doesn’t seem great, the terrain is rough in places. Walking in a west to east direction allows you to fully appreciate the excellent views of this rugged coast with the mountainous Mayo interior as a backdrop.
Getting to the Start At the small roundabout in the centre of Belmullet, turn right along the R313. Just over a kilometre from the edge of town turn right onto a minor road signed for Corclogh. After three kilometres turn right again. Follow a narrow road for a further three kilometres to a fork. Keep to the right and follow this road onto a stony track that descends toward the coast. Continue to a wide turning area at the bottom of the hill where you can park a couple of vehicles (GR: F 682,390). To leave a vehicle at the finish of the walk take a minor road from Belmullet signed for Ballyglass. After approximately six kilometres turn left onto a narrow surfaced road and follow it for a kilometre and a half. Now turn left onto an even smaller road leading up through areas of turbary where it becomes unsurfaced. As it descends towards the sea and a small slip there are laybys on the right where you can park two or three cars (GR F 725,375).
The Walk The first point of interest comes at the very start of the route. The small headland adjacent to the parking area was the site of a promontory fort called Spinkadoon, and its tip is littered with conspicuous slabs of rock, remnants of the fort’s defensive structures. The broad stony track leads north up a steep hill to another large turning area and gate. Go through the gate and strike out across firm heath towards the clifftops. You soon reach an area where the cliff-top vegetation and peat has been stripped away by the repeated assaults of salt-spray and high winds. Cross an old boundary wall and swing around to the east, following the cliff edge to a short steep climb with great views on your left across a bay towards Erris Head. The cliffs on the far side of this bay are spectacularly eroded with several deeply-cut caves visible. Skirt the edge of a sheer drop where in spring and summer,
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Distance: 9km Ascent: 210m Time: 4 hours Maps: OSi 1:50,000 sheet 22
fulmars ride the air currents, before dropping down to view a striking chasm which looks for all the world to have been formed by the headland literally splitting in two. From this point you have a steady climb of almost 80m to the triangulation pillar on Erris Head. Towards the top of the climb you round the back of a long narrow inlet where in calm sea conditions, grey seals can often be seen in the clear water below. To the southwest there is a fine, distant view of Eagle Island Lighthouse. For most walkers, arriving at the trig pillar will not seem enough to say they’ve been to Erris Head, for at this point there’s still a kilometre of land to the north. At the very least you’ll probably want to see the view from the old coastguard hut sited on the next rise to the north. From here the final vestiges of Mayo drop away into the Atlantic with only Illandavuck raising a final protest. Having reached Erris Head, the route now turns southeast and although you may have reached your putative goal, there are in fact greater scenic highlights ahead. It’s not easy to keep to the cliffs at first as they slope away gradually, and the terrain is rough in places. But as you reach Danish Cellar, the cliff edge sharpens and some majestic views open up across the foreboding black cliffs to the southeast and the filigreed coastline beyond.
Descend towards a group of cottages and some enclosed farmland. There are stiles in place to enable you to cross a field and reach a minor road where it ends at a makeshift parking area. There is a mapboard here for the start and finish of the looped walk. To continue on the linear route however, walk a short distance onto a low grassy headland, cross a fence and follow it back inland into a small narrow valley. Cross the stream and scramble up the steep slopes on the far side to reach easier ground. Gentle slopes of heather and grass now lead to the high point on the walk at just over 100m. A superb panorama is revealed with Ooghram Point serving as a backdrop for the domes and ridges of the Nephin Beg Mountains. As your eye sweeps around to the north across the coast of Broad Haven Bay you can pick out the whitewash of Ballyglass Lighthouse, and finally the mighty cliffs of Benwee Head and the Stags of Broad Haven. Make your way along cliffs and then detour inland a short distance to negotiate a deep gully. A steep climb out the other side of this gully is the last real effort of the walk. After you cross a short-lived section of flat, boggy ground the final slopes to the end of the walk are revealed, with a new perspective on the stacks and outcrops of this dramatic coastline.
Words and Photo: Gareth McCormack
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Words and Photo: Gareth McCormack
Slieve Binnian from the T
his walk takes in the Silent Valley, Slievenaglogh and the Ben Crom dam before climbing Binnian by its north ridge. It then traverses the summit north to south before descending along the Mourne Wall across Wee Binnian and back into the Silent Valley. This is not an inconsiderable undertaking and options to reduce the difficulty include an easy detour around the west side of Slievenaglogh, or simply walking along the road between the Silent Valley and Ben Crom. In the summer you can even take the shuttle bus to Ben Crom leaving you with just the return walk over Binnian.
Getting to the Start The Silent Valley is well signed from several different junctions on the A2 NewryNewcastle coast road. The main parking area is on the left a short distance past the gates (GR: J 306 208). The Silent Valley grounds are open daily from 10:00 until 18:30 during the summer and 10:00 until 16:00 from October to April. A shuttle bus service to Ben Crom runs at weekends dur-
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ing May, June and September and daily in July and August.
The Walk From the parking area in the Silent Valley, follow the main drive north to the Silent Valley dam. Cross to the western side of the dam on a wide pavement and then turn right, following a gravel path up rough slopes of gorse and heather. At a sharp lefthand bend look for a red and white waymark. Beside the waymark you should be able to see an informal path turning off to the right. Follow this, picking your way carefully through the gorse and then across a stile to reach firm, well-grazed ground on the other side. Turn left and follow a wall northwest onto a broad, generally flat area just south of Slievenaglogh. Don’t be tempted to head straight for Slievenaglogh as the vegetated lower slopes are very hard going. Its easier to stay beside the wall, soon crossing to the left side and following it up the mountain’s southwestern shoulder. A stile at the top allows you to cross back to the right hand side to visit the small summit cairn
and admire the fine views across the Silent Valley Reservoir to Binnian and the rest of the Mournes. Stay on this side of the wall and make a steep and picky descent to the stony track known as Banns Road. Unfortunately you don’t get to make use of it, but instead you follow the rough track leading northeast and gradually downhill towards Ben Crom and the Silent Valley. Follow this old track to where it fades away and then strike out across the rough, open ground, making for the northern end of the Silent Valley Reservoir. The going is extremely difficult in places with long grass and hidden boulders demanding constant attention to foot placement. Cross the Shannagh River and Ben Crom River, which are normally small streams, but very pretty as they cascade down towards the reservoir. Finally hop across the boulders of the Mill River to reach a gravel track beside what I take to be a small hydro-electric station. If the river has too much flow to cross safely then make your way upstream to a footbridge just below the dam.
e Silent Valley Climb away from the eastern side of Ben Crom dam and cross a stile for a steep diagonal ascent to the col between Slieve Lamagan and Slieve Binnian. Once at the col, turn southwest and follow an eroded path up onto the north ridge of Slieve Binnian. Scramble up across some steep rocky outcrops to easier ground above. From this point the ridge broadens into a wide shoulder and an informal path can be followed all the way to the North Tor (678m). From the North Tor, follow a worn path south into a col and then up along a broad ridge. Here you pass the Back Castles, a string of fascinating tors. Itâ€™s now only a short climb to the Summit Tor (747m), which can be turned on either the right or left. Pick up the Mourne Wall as a guide for the descent of the southwest shoulder. A worn path on the southern side of the wall helps you down the steep gradient, which eases gradually as you near the flat col between
Distance: 14km / 9 miles Ascent: 1020m / 3345ft Time: 6-7 hours Maps: OSNI 1:50,000 sheet 29; OSNI 1:25,000 Mourne Country
Binnian and Wee Binnian (459m). The easiest way past is by following the wall a short distance out of the col before heading left into a notch and onto a steep, eroded path that leads around onto the southern slopes of the mountain. Follow the path back to the Mourne Wall, then pass through a metal gate and continue along the wallâ€™s northern side. Cross over a secondary wall, and continue southeast across Moolieve (332m) and down the final steep descent into the Silent Valley. Close to the bottom, use a stile to cross to the south side, then use another stile to re-cross the wall at the very base of the slope. Now turn right and follow a track for a hundred metres or so to reach the main Silent Valley drive. Turn left and follow this road back to the car park.
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Words and Photo: Tom Hutton
Hungry Hill H
ungry Hill is the tallest peak on the Beara Peninsula, and a monster of a mountain; especially when viewed from the south coast or Bear Island. As you approach from the west, one line stands out above the rest: the south-west ridge. The opening section is steep, and the cliffs that define the very foot of the ridge will need to be flanked to one side or the other. But once over these, there follows a delightful middle-eight which lies almost level and offers sumptuous skyline walking as well as mouthwatering views over Bantry Bay and Bear Island. More rocky towers put an end to this glorious section and they now start to come thick and fast as the ridge jacks up steeply one more time on the final, lengthy push to the summit. The ridge finally fades on the approach to the south summit; surely one of the finest viewpoints in the whole of Ireland; it’s then just an easy stroll over gentle peaty ground to the slightly taller northern top. It’s worth noting that the descent route can
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Time: 5/6 hours Distance: 11km/7 miles Ascent: 680m/2,231ft Maps: OS; 1:50,000 sheet 84
be very awkward to locate, and there’s a fair amount of steep and dangerous ground around. For this reason, and to make the most of the views, save this one for a good day.
Getting to the start The walk starts from a small car park at the head of a narrow lane, a few paces south-east of Park Loughs (GR: V 789,481). This is easiest reached by turning north from the R572 just a few metres east of Rossmackowen, approximately 8km west of Adrigole.
The Walk From the car park, continue up the road; at its end go through a gate and onto a gravel track. Continue along here, passing Park Lough to your left, and shortly after this, beyond an obvious rocky knoll, bear right to locate the foot of a clear, grassy gully that splits the slabby rock and leads directly onto the flat section of the ridge. Once up, bear
right to stroll easily along the crest, enjoying the opportunity to catch your breath after the steep ascent and also gawping at the views, which really are quite magnificent. This sumptuous section comes to an end at the head of another steep grassy gully and the ridge now jacks up again, offering short, flat grassy sections, broken by frequent craggy outcrops that are too tall and steep to tackle head-on. If you’re looking for scrambling opportunities, it’s best to ‘work’ the ridge, in the same way a surfer works a wave; dropping right to the foot of the crag, and then scrambling back up, using the obvious lines that lead back onto the crest. There are one or two fine gullies and some quite exposed faces that are fortunately blessed with plenty of holds. If you’d prefer to avoid the scrambling, easier passage is provided to the left of centre, where the crags tend to dissolve back into the grassy crest. Eventually the ridge is swallowed up by the summit plateau and from here it’s just a five minute walk to the impressive cairn that
marks the south top – probably one of the most scenic summits you’ll ever sit on and an excellent place to take a break before continuing away from the coast. Fully sated, turn to the north and track your way through a few small peat hags to follow a faint path over a shallow saddle, past a cairn crafted from glistening white quartz, to the main top, which is crowned by a small shelter and the usual ugly grey concrete trig point. A shapely cairn marks the skyline just a few metres further north. To descend, head north for a few paces, following the blunt crest of the north ridge and keep your gaze westward to locate two small loughs nestled in rocks on the far side of the rocky western ridge, some two kilometres away. Your route tracks along the ridge above and to the south of these, crossing the 442m spot height that defines its end. To get there you need to swing northwest after a few hundred metres and then wind your way down through a succession of narrow rock bands to locate a grassy col that marks the start of the ridge proper. Climb slightly, following a trail of small cairns and pass close to a small tarn that’s not marked on the map. The path becomes clearer and easier to follow at this stage. Now,
follow this past the Glas Loughs that you spotted earlier from the summit, and up and over the 442m spot height that defines the end of the ridge. From here, keep ahead and slightly to the right to gain a grassy hump of a ridge that carries a good track. Turn left onto this and follow it down to a vee, where you turn left again to follow the well-
waymarked O’Sullivan Bere Way back down into the lovely Coomnagapple Glen. Cross the bridge and enjoy a few paces wandering up the stream beneath the huge mountain, before veering sharp right and following the now-clear track back beneath the south west ridge and on past Park Lough to the car park.
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t 814m Mweelrea is Connacht’s highest summit; an engaging and complex mountain with so many ridges and subsidiary peaks that there are almost endless possibilities for exploration, but this route has a ‘purity’ and the advantage of being a loop. Whichever option you choose remember that there are no ‘easy’ routes on Mweelrea; it is a big mountain with a great deal of difficult and dangerous ground to consider if you find the weather closing in or the light fading.
Getting to the Start
Approach on the R335 either from Louisburgh to the north or Leenaun to the south. The route starts and finishes at the Delphi Mountain Resort, five kilometres south of Doo Lough on the R335 (GR: L 840,652). This is not a public car park and large groups should not expect to be able to park several cars here, particularly at the weekends when Delphi is normally very busy. If you have several vehicles it is best to use the laybys around Doo Lough and shuttle walkers to Delphi from there.
The Walk From Delphi car park, look for a gravel track that runs around the right (north) side of the building. Follow this onto a forestry track and along the south side of the Owennaglogh River. Keep right at several track junctions and stay beside the river as you cross a large clearing. Just before you enter the next band of forestry, turn left at a track junction and then keep left again at a subsequent junction. The track leads out to the southern boundary of the forest, then after approximately thirty minutes it swings to the right and begins to descend along the western edge of the trees. At this point the track peters out into the bog and you have a route choice to make. In wet conditions it is better to traverse across the rough hillside directly towards the unnamed summit at 495m. In dry conditions the easier route is to follow the track to its finish, then trace the banks of the Owennaglogh River and its tributary, the Sruhaunbunatrench, up into the col between point 495 and the southeastern shoulder of Mweelrea. Whichever route you choose, it is worth climbing to the top of point 495 to appreciate the fine views across Mweelrea’s
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Distance: 15km (9.5 miles) Ascent: 1070m (3510ft) Time: 7-8 hours Maps: OSI 1:50,000 sheet 37
magnificent east face. At this point you realise that the views of the mountain from Delphi do a disservice to the true scale of the mountain. Descend northwest from the peak to the col beneath Mweelrea. The terrain now becomes much easier underfoot, through the gradient is fairly steep at times. As you climb towards the 700m contour the ground flattens out at a point where a great cleft cuts into the shoulder. Above this landmark you swing north and the slopes taper into a more defined ridge that narrows to an airy arete. Sensational views open up across the beaches of southern Mayo to the island of Inishbofin. The slopes converge in a lofty apex that feels almost alpine in nature, and leads you up the final, steep ascent to the top. The summit itself is curiously flat, adorned with a modest cairn perched on the very edge of the eastern face. Along with even more expansive Atlantic views, the vista to the south and southeast sweeps impressively across the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks. Descend into the col between Mweelrea and Ben Bury, then climb to a cairn in the gap between Ben Bury and the Ben Lugmore ridge. The cairn marks the top of ‘The Ramp’, the only non-climbing route up and down Coum Dubh. This route continues southeast however, along the most entertaining and exhilarating walking on the
mountain. Follow a faint path along the airy crest of the ridge, which although rocky at times, proves straightforward. To the east huge cliffs drop away into Coum Dubh, while to the west the slopes become increasingly steep. Ben Lugmore (803m) is the penultimate summit on the ridge. From here you drop down into a grassy gap and then climb a short distance to a broad unnamed summit, where there is a fine view back to Mweelrea. Now turn northeast and enjoy some excellent, easy walking along a broad ridge with the rim of Coum Dubh on your left. Ahead, the Sheefry Hills and Ben Creggan dominate the view. At the end of the ridge turn slightly south of east and follow an easy ridge that runs down towards the Delphi Mountain Resort. A straightforward descent deposits you on some boggy and rough ground in the Owennaglogh Valley. Follow an old boundary wall towards Delphi. Just before the buildings you must ford the Owennaglogh River, a straightforward undertaking in normal water levels, but probably impossible in flood. If you are stuck there are two iron girders carrying a water pipe that with care will suffice as a makeshift bridge. All that remains is to cross a fence and follow a forestry track for a few hundred metres back to Delphi.
Words and Photo: Gareth McCormack
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Words and Photo: Tom Hutton
The Bone T
his walk traces two of the Reeks massif ’s less-used access routes. First climbing up onto the ridge via the knobbly and undulating northwest ridge of Maolán Buí, known as ‘The Bone,’ then descending a seemingly unlikely path that cuts a narrow terrace into the precipitous east face of Carrauntoohil and goes by the evocative name of Heaven’s Gates. The early views across the head of the Hag’s Glen to Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh are among the best you’ll ever get of the two highest mountains in the land. The ambience at the foot of Ireland’s tallest peak is quite overpowering; especially where the path squeezes through a narrow gap between the main face and an outlying rocky knoll – the Heaven’s Gates themselves. There are a few steep and awkward sections still to negotiate, but beyond the Eagle’s Nest the path joins the well-worn track down from O’Shea’s Gully and all that’s left is a couple of easy scrambles down to the shores of Lough Gouragh. And a gentle walk out along the floor of the Glen.
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Time: 7-8 hours Distance: 14km/8.5 miles Ascent: 900m/2,953ft Maps: OSi; 1:50,000 sheet 78
Getting to the Start As an alternative to Lisleibane, the walk starts at Cronin’s Yard, the traditional starting place for the Devil’s Ladder climb onto Carrauntoohil. From Killarney, take the N72 towards Killorglin and turn left for the Gap of Dunloe. Pass the road to the Gap at a crossroads and continue straight ahead for another 6km until you come to a sign on the right, pointing left for Carrauntoohil. The yard is at the end of the road. GR: V 837,873
The Walk From the farmyard, follow the signs and the well-worn path south, crossing a bridge and then continuing easily up into the Hag’s Glen, with the Gaddagh River down to your right. Cross the Black Stream (drops from Lough Cummeenapeasta) and, once over this, bear left to follow the broad grassy ridge that forms its west bank. This actually points directly to the foot of the Bone. Continue climbing with the stream to your left, until you reach slightly more level ground, with the line of the stream now
1:25, 000 Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Harvey 1:30,000 Macgillycuddy’s Reeks.
heading up into the coom that forms the left wall of the obvious spur of the Bone. Now leave the stream and continue to contour around towards the obvious foot of the spur. Continue around this foot to its western flanks, where a grassy ramp carries a faint path up onto the ridge. Follow the path up onto the crest, and then stay with it as it ducks and dives around various outcrops and crags, sometimes to the west of the spine, sometimes to the east. Keep Lough Cummeenmore in sight as you approach the top, and you’ll find a clear path that weaves up the steep final slope to the summit. Turn right to descend easily southwest into a grassy col, and then follow the path as it tracks along the escarpment edge, with fine views back over the steep northwestern face of Maolán Buí. The path hurdles a spot height, sometimes known as Ballaghnageeha, at 926m, and then continues easily for another 500m before it starts to climb again, this time onto the summit of Cnoc an Chuillin. This summit offers fine uninterrupted views across to Carrauntoohil.
It’s a big drop now into the next col – almost 200m in total – but thankfully the path ignores the eastern top of Cnoc Tóinne and instead cuts across the steep grassy slope, with excellent views south and west over the Black Valley. It rejoins the escarpment edge on the 845m summit, where it then plummets again, this time all the way down to 734m and the boggy col that marks the top of the Devil’s Ladder. To locate the Heaven’s Gates path, first cross the col, then continue up the main cairned path as if going to Carrauntoohil. As it levels, and before it steepens again, bear right to traverse towards a large outcrop of rocks. The path is faint but discernible to start with (look for a small cairn in the scree), but it becomes a lot clearer as it continues, eventually cutting a precarious line across the steep slope with scree and cliffs above and precipitous drops below. You’ll eventually cross a couple of small streams, by spectacular waterfalls, and pass through the atmospheric gap in the rocks that gives the route its name. Now drop steeply down a loose gully and after a short distance you’ll see a small a mountain rescue hut – on a lovely flat grassy knoll. To your left now is the wonderfully wild, steep corrie that splits Carrauntoohil from Beenkeragh; and as you drop from this point, you’ll meet the clear path that follows
this valley. Cross the small stream beneath the rescue hut, and follow the path around the hillside above Lough Gouragh, scrambling down a couple of awkward steps as you go. The path eventually lowers you down to the valley
floor, where you should head south to meet the main Devil’s Ladder path. Now follow this back down the glen, over the Gaddagh River to the Black Stream, where you should retrace your outward steps back down into Cronin’s Yard.
he beautiful valley of Glendalough in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains is a truly spellbinding place possessing the uncanny ability to completely enchant and enthral the first-time visitor. Apart from being a very popular tourist destination it also offers the hillwalker wonderful walking on its surrounding mountains. Tourists and day-trippers normally congregate about the valley floor, around the monastic city, its churches, but this walk begins away beyond Glendalough and yet takes in a classic circuit of its mountains, high above the glen with views of the magnificent glacial valley from their lofty summits.
Getting There From the east of the mountains, take the M50/M11 to Kilmacanogue and cross the flyover onto the R755. Drive via the villages of Roundwood and Laragh and turn left immediately after the bridge in Laragh onto the Rathdrum Road. After 1?km fork right onto the Military Road, signposted Glenmalure. Drive uphill for nearly 4km. As you crest the brow of the hill you are on The Three Crosses Pass (375m). Immediately to the right is ample car parking at the recently created Shay Elliot Forest car park. (GR: T 130,922). From the west of the mountains, take the N81 to Hollywood, turn onto the R756 and enjoy the drive via the Wicklow Gap and Glendalough to Laragh; here turn right before the bridge, onto the Rathdrum Road and follow as above.
Route Exit the car park back onto the Three Crosses Pass. Turn left on tarmac for 175metres before turning left again onto a forest track beyond a barrier. Follow this track for 1? k past a cluster of beehives before the track comes to an abrupt end at a fence. Cross the fence and follow the remnants of the old road for approximately 150 metres before turning left and climbing west through the heather using any game trails to ease your progress; always keeping a line of ESB poles off on your left and always heading for the high ground to locate a cairn at 466m on Cullentragh Mountain. From the cairn, follow a single file trail west towards a fence line; if in doubt tend to the right, but always hold the high ground above Derrybawn Glen. Cross the fence and traverse to your right, down through the
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Distance: 15Km Ascent: 646 Metres Time: 5 to 6 hours Maps: OSi Sheet 56 or Harvey’s Wicklow Mountains
heather towards several trails converging on a fairly insignificant col linking Cullentragh with the Derrybawn Ridge. Here turn north and follow a well used trail onto Derrybawn, and follow a long wide ridge to the final summit cairn. Keep to the trail as it rises and falls for nearly 1?km along the top of the ridge, with vistas opening up into Derrybawn and Lugduff Glens until on the final ascent to Derrybawn 474m summit cairn, the upper lake in Glendalough comes into view. Continue beyond the cairn for a short descent onto the northern shoulder of Derrybawn to immediately turn left and follow a deeply eroded single file trail on a long downhill through the heather to enter an area of clear felled forest before joining a forest track. Cross the track to continue downhill across a grassy area with a scattering of trees to join a second forest track and turn left to reach and cross a bridge and immediately cross a second bridge over Lugduff Brook, upstream of the deep gorge of Poulanass poll an easa ‘the hole of the waterfall’. Beyond the bridges there are three forest tracks, follow the middle track directly ahead as it doglegs uphill amid tall mature Douglas Fir trees. As the track gains height and turns left, immediately to the right follow a narrow trail into young forest as it rises steeply on nearly 600-steps created by railway sleepers to eventually reach a stile and turn left onto the Spink spinnc ‘a pointed hill’.
Follow the boardwalk of railway sleepers along the Spink, gradually gaining height as the most amazing views into Glendalough emerge. Continue uphill on the boardwalk to reach a fork, here turn left alongside the forest to reach an open trail leading uphill towards Lugduff log dubh ‘black hollow’ Mountain. The trail turns left at a signpost onto the eastern shoulder of the mountain with views across the heavily forested Lugduff Glen to the distant Ridge of Derrybawn. Directly below is Prezen or Prison Rock, the legendary hiding place where Glendalough’s monks buried the monasteries artefacts and treasures to save them from pillaging Vikings! The trail again turns left and downhill to a boardwalk leading to the high pass of Borenacrow. From the pass, leave the boardwalk, to climb the western slope of Mullacor Mountain 657m. From Mullacor descend due east following a well used trail with Lugduff Forest off on the left, to reach a stile at the corner of a fence line, here continue east on the outside of the fence to a fancy three-way stile on spot height 510m. Continue with the real Cullentragh Mountain off to the left and on the right the falloff into Ballybraid Glen, ahead are Kirikee, its summit dissected by a field and Carriglineen Mountains. Follow the fence east to a small gate at a corner of the fence line; here turn right and left to follow a firebreak southeast over spot height 425m and a gentle downhill that leads directly back to the cars on the Three Crosses Pass.
Words: Denis Gill
Photo: Eoin Clarke
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Slieve League W
ith the exception of Errigal, the walk to the summit of Slieve League is by some distance the most popular walk in the northwest of Ireland. The approach from the car park at Bunglass is the standard out-and-back route. However, a full traverse of Slieve League with a finish at the beautiful beach at Trabane is highly recommended. You will of course need to arrange transport from this end. The figures provided for each walk are totals for the out and back journey and in the case of the traverse to Trabane, cover the whole walk from Bunglass.
GETTING TO THE START Drive west from Donegal town through Killybegs and Kilcar to the small village of Carrick. Drive up into the main street and take a road to the left signed ‘Slieve League & Bunglass Cliffs’. To reach the start of the Pilgrims’ Path turn right shortly before Teelin village onto a minor road signed with a walker symbol and the words ‘Slieve League’. The signs lead to an informal parking area at the bottom of a single-lane road (GR: G 578,768). It is possible to continue up the road by car, passing through a gate and parking 1km higher up. However, due to the narrowness of the track it is best to walk this section. To reach Bunglass continue into Teelin and look out for a road to the right beside the school, signed for Bunglass. The road climbs steeply to a gate, which cars are allowed through (be careful to close it behind you), and continues to the parking area at Bunglass (GR: G 558,757). For the A-to-B traverse of Slieve League you’ll need to leave a car at the parking area above Trabane beach at Malin Beg. To get there continue through Carrick on the R263 for 4km and turn left onto a minor road. Follow this for another 7km and turn left onto the R263. The parking area is situated at the end of the road (GR: G 498,800). The map required for all three walks is OSi 1:50,000 sheet 10.
Bunglass to Slieve League In some ways the best view of Slieve League is from the car park! If you’ve never been to Bunglass before, the sudden sight of the cliffs in all their glory falling almost 2000ft into the Atlantic is utterly absorbing. This place is also known as Amharc Mór (the Big View). For a short distance a well-constructed flagstone path leads northeast from the car
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park close to the cliff edge. Where it ends, an informal path continues across Scregeighter (308m). The path then swings northwest and climbs right along the cliff edge to the Eagle’s Nest (323m), from where the drop to the ocean is almost vertical. Take care here in windy conditions. The path now moves away from the cliffs and crosses a couple of small rises before climbing diagonally across the heathery slopes of Crockrawer to a ridge with fine views at 435m. There is a wonderful juxtaposition as you look back down the line of the ridge. On one side the cliffs fall away for over 1000ft, while on the other the sheltered waters of Teelin Bay point inland to the farmland around the Glen River. The cliffs are now at your left-hand side with increasingly steep slopes on the right. At one point the ridge narrows to a rib of rock, half a metre wide, with dangerous drops on both sides. Although the OSI map marks One Man’s Pass as close to the summit of Slieve League, this section is surely more deserving of the name. It is a straightforward scramble in good conditions but is best avoided in wet and/or windy weather. An easy alternative path to the right avoids the difficulties and rejoins the crest of the ridge a little higher up. The ridge now relaxes and you emerge on the broad peat-covered eastern summit (560m). This isn’t the true summit, which is still about a kilometre further to the
Slieve League Traverse Distance: 15km Time: 4-5 hours Ascent: 570m Bunglass to Slieve League Distance: 10km Time: 3.5-4 hours Ascent: 500m northwest, but it is only 45m lower and for many walkers it is good enough. The views after all are very similar from both. However, a fine ridge (One Man’s Pass) connects the two, and it is worth going all the way to the trig pillar at 595m just to take in this enjoyable stretch of walking.
Slieve League Traverse From the summit of Slieve League head almost due west and pick up a stony path that winds steeply down onto the superb western shoulder of Slieve League. The descent is steep but you’re rewarded with wonderful views back to the southeast across the cliffs, and in particular some precarious pillars of shattered rock. It is worth keeping to the cliff edge as you reach the bottom of the descent for some dizzying views over cliffs which seem to overhang the ocean. Drop down into a streambed and climb steeply onto a southern spur of Leahan. Now follow along the cliff edge before swinging northwest to reach the end of a rough track. This track leads around the bay with the fine horseshoe beach of Trabane immediately ahead. You can either descend steep grassy slopes onto the sand or continue along the top to reach the car park.
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Words: Helen Fairbairn Photo: Gareth McCormack
Torc Mountain T
orc Mountain in County Kerry is a modest hill that leaves a big impression. Situated in the heart of Killarney National Park, the view from the 535m-high summit is the main attraction of the route. The outlook offers a magnificent panorama over the celebrated Killarney Lakes, backed by the peaks of Ireland’s highest mountain chain Most Irish hillwalkers learn to associate such viewpoints with a significant amount of toil, yet the trip up Torc Mountain is not overly strenuous. Granted, there’s no getting away from the 490m of ascent (or 380m if you start from the upper car park), and the mountainous nature of the route means you have to keep an eye on the weather. But the recent completion of a mountain trail means this is now a walk that is suitable for almost all the family.
Getting to the start The route starts and finishes at the main parking area for Torc Waterfall ( GR: V 966,847). This is located on the eastern side
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of the N71 Killarney-Kenmare road, around 6km south of Killarney The route can be shortened by 1.5km by starting at the upper car park (GR: V 967, 842). This will also take around 110m of ascent and descent off the walk, but means you will miss Torc Waterfall. To access the upper parking area, take a minor road south from the N71 around 1.5km north of the main waterfall car park. Follow the road steeply uphill to the car park at the end
The Walk From the main car park, follow signposts to Torc Waterfall. A wide footpath leads through the woods to a viewpoint beneath the main falls, where the Owengarrif River Opposite: At Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park The boardwalk on Torc is designed to reduce erosion of the mountain plunges over a series of rocky walls on its course to Muckross Lake. The cascade is widely acclaimed as one of the finest waterfalls in Ireland, and it’s a popular tourist site during the summer months. Though the area is likely to be busy from
June to September, the falls still make a beautiful start to the day From the main viewpoint, turn left and begin up a flight of concrete steps. The path zig-zags up the steep, wooded slope beside the waterfall, with steps and handrails in place where necessary. The climb is sustained all the way to the top of the falls, where you rejoin the river shortly above its precipitous plunge. This section of trail is part of the Kerry Way, and you should follow signs for the ‘Kerry Way to Kenmare’ for the next kilometre Turn left beside an old stone bridge and then, 20m later, turn right onto a sealed road. The upper car park that provides the alternative start/finish point is situated here on the opposite side of the road The road section lasts for just 100m before vehicle access is barred. Pass around the barrier and continue ahead along the track. The route now traces the old 18th century Killarney-Kenmare road, the main thoroughfare between the two towns before the construction of the N71. In places the original cobblestones are still visible underfoot Follow the track over a bridge and turn left on the opposite bank, still walking through beautiful deciduous woodland. It is
not long, however, before the trees fall back and you cross onto open, mountainous terrain beside a national park information board. Across the river to your right lies the high grassy slope of Mangerton Mountain. Continue to follow the track, climbing gently along the valley floor. Around 300m beyond the last trees the path for Torc Mountain leads off the track to the right. It is now essentially a matter of following the path all the way to the top. The recent construction work means that the route is easy to spot as it winds gradually up the southern flanks of the mountain. Cut stone lines part of the route, while boggier sections are crossed by wooden boardwalks wrapped with metal wire for traction. Less than an hour of climbing will bring you to the compact summit and its marvellous views. The town of Killarney lies below you to the north, and the Killarney Lakes are spread out to the north and southwest. Many of Kerryâ€™s most famous mountain peaks are also visible, including the McGillycuddy Reeks directly to the west. Once you have fully appreciated the view, retrace your steps down the mountain to Torc Waterfall.
Distance: 8km/5 miles Total Ascent: 490m/1610ft Time: 3-4 hours
Maps: Use OSI 1:50,000 sheet 78 or, for more detail, OSI 1:25,000 Killarney National Park.
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Words: Tom Hutton Photo: Eoin Clarke
The 12 Bens T
he rugged quartzite peaks of Connemara’s Twelve Bens huddle together to form a rocky star-shaped hub from which radiate a succession of remote and beautiful valleys. The northernmost of these, Glencorbet (anglicised from Gleann Carbad) forms a classic horseshoe of skyline walkways that tower high above the tumbling Kylemore River. The head of the valley is dominated by a congregation of impressive peaks, including the steep and forbidding Muckanaght, which looks almost impenetrable from the approach; and the mighty Ben Baun, which at 729m (2,392ft) is the tallest of all the Bens. Like all the horseshoes in the Twelve Bens, you’ll know you’ve done something special by the time you get back.
Getting to the Start The walk begins quite close to the N59, about halfway between Letterfrack and Leenane, just a couple of kilometres east of Kylemore Lough. Take the R344 at the eastern end of the lough and follow this for
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Time: 8-9 hours Distance: 16km/10 miles Ascent: 1,300m/4,265ft
2km to a turning on the right. Take this and park courteously by the bridge over the Kylemore River. GR: L 799,574.
The Walk From the bridge, continue up the track and take the left fork where it bends around to the right. Follow this easily upwards onto the shoulder of the ridge and then, as it starts to drop again, leave it to the right to follow the pathless crest of the blunt, boggy spur upwards towards Minnaunmore. The going is quite rough, with boggy patches and rocky outcrops to outmanoeuvre in places. But it’s not too steep so progress is reasonably easy. Bear left once you reach the top – probably close to the spot height of 273m – and continue westwards to cross a fence. Stay close to the crest, which undulates a fair bit, and you’ll eventually come to a steep descent that leads into a boggy col ahead of the main ridge. Cross this and keep ahead, up a grassy gully, into an obvious saddle between Benbaun (not the highest one but instead one that’s also known as Maolan) and Benbrack.
Maps: OSi 1:50,000 sheet 37; Harvey Superwalker 1:30,000, Connemara
Bear left here, where you’ll locate a semblance of path, and continue upwards to the summit cairn, which is concealed amongst broad rocky bands. At 582m (1,909ft) this is the tenth highest of the Twelve Bens and the first of four climbed by this route. Head southwest away from the summit on a vague path and then drop steeply down the edge of the west-facing escarpment into the deep notch of Maumnascalpa. Take a good look at the lie of the land, on the steep flanks of Muckanaght, ahead as you descend. The safest climb is to the west of the obvious steep spur, trending rightwards slightly as you near the top. A careful approach is definitely required, especially nearer the summit where the way is guarded by small outcrops than can be really slippery. Weave your way through these and the summit cairn is reached by an easy walk to the left. Those with a faint heart can head southwest from Maumnascalpa instead, and locate a good path that runs beneath the northeast face of the hill. This leads to the col beneath Benfree, but then leaves an up-and-back
sortie to the west to claim Muckanaght. From the flat top of Muckanaght head southeast and then east to drop steeply into the next col. The steep, craggy section is best flanked to the right. Ahead now lies another steep climb, this one onto the summit of Benfree. It can be made a little more interesting by trending rightwards to enjoy fine views over the sweeping southern face of Benbaun, but either way it’s steep and relentless, and you’ll be pleased to see the top. Benbaun looms large now, just over a kilometre further along the ridge and 100m higher. Drop easily into the saddle that separates the two peaks, and then continue on a clear path that eventually threads its way through a desert of white quartzite – far more typical of the Bens – to the summit. The true name, Binn Bhán, means ‘White Peak’ and it’s not difficult to see where the name came from; especially on bright days when the reflections from the quartzite are almost blinding. Leave the summit to the north – almost doubling back on yourself – and stay on the summit ridge until you locate a faint stony path that drops steeply east, weaving its way through a field of scree onto the long whaleback spur of the northeastern ridge. The path becomes clearer as the ridge narrows and eventually you’ll arrive at a cairn
on a spot-height named Knockpasheemore – a fine spot to sit and reflect on the day. From here double back slightly to avoid steep ground, then descend northwest and then north to drop down the steep grassy hillside, keeping a stream gully over to the left. The
going gets boggy as you near the bottom, but the banks of the Kylemore River aren’t too bad; and there’s a vague path following its twists and turns downstream too. Stay with the river all the way back to the bridge and your car.
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Words: David Herman Photo: Gareth McCormack
Lough Tay T
his is one of the loveliest areas in Wicklow, a superb mix of rugged mountains flanked by impressive cliffs, interleaved with valleys carrying a hill stream and a placid mature river. There is only one long climb, that to rocky Knocknacloghoge, a splendid viewpoint over much of the eastern part of the range. An enjoyable and easy walk suitable for short winter days.
Getting to the Start From Dublin take the M/N11 to Kilmacanogue; here take the R755 towards Glendalough, but turn right after 7 miles, signed for Sally Gap. Park at the forest entrance on the left after 1.8 miles (GR: S 172,063).
The Walk From the forest entrance turn left uphill, pass the entrance to Ballinrush Estate and take the tarmac road. And now for a downhill, a happy way to start a walk. The view along here, dominated by the mighty cliffs of
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Maps: OSi 1:50 000 sheet 56 or Harveyâ€™s 1:30 000 map, the latter better for the tracks at the end of the walk.
Fancy, ending in huge boulders on the shores of Lough Tay, is among the most splendid in Wicklow. The mountain to the left of these cliffs is Knocknacloghoge, todayâ€™s goal. The pointed peak to the left again is Scarr. Take the road for about 500m and turn off left downhill onto a rough path that ends back on the same tarmac road, but now close to the valley floor. Turn left onto the road again and cross one wide wooden bridge. Just beyond it cross a gate-cum -stile on the right and continue into the valley of the Cloghoge Brook, with Fancy dominating on the right and Knocknacloghoge on the left. By the way, from this stile you can tackle Fancy directly (thereby adding about 40 minutes to the walking time). Continue upstream along the delightful Cloghoge Brook, on improving underfoot conditions, until you enter a gently shelving plain. Cross the Brook and walk southwest, heading for the shallow col between Knocknacloghoge and the high ground stretching away northwest to the Military Road. From the col head directly to the
Distance: 13km (8 miles). Ascent: 520m (1700 ft).
summit (534m), a rocky height offering a few places where you can enjoy a well-deserved break. You will hardly fail to recognise Lough Dan, shaped like a banana stretching away to the south, with Scarr to the south overlooking it. You should also easily recognise the reservoir ramparts of Turlough Hill with Lugnaquilla to its left. The descent is easy enough, though take care in high heather. Start off southwest and you will see forest ahead with an enclosing fence and firebreak. Head for the left end of the fence and when you reach it keep it on the right to walk a rough path. This will take you down to the Copse (GR: S 132,046), a lovely stand of old oak trees on the opposite bank of the river, the Inchavore. About a kilometre or so from the Copse a clear path emerges along the river and passes between the southern cliffs of Knocknacloghoge and Lough Dan, presaged by a lovely crescent of yellow sand at the western end of the lake. Walk a little further on and you will come to a two-storey house close to the convergence of the Cloghoge
River and Lough Dan. This is the crux of the whole walk, the point where you will have to cross the Cloghoge on mercifully massive boulders that are, not so mercifully, in places, inconveniently widely spaced. If the water is high you may prefer to wade either here or a little downstream where the river is wider and therefore shallower. If you elect to wade at the boulders do so just upstream of them so that you can balance easier against them if the current is strong. If you donâ€™t feel up to this river crossing there is a ready solution: simply take the track you are now on back to Pier Gates, a lovely walk all the way. Having crossed, take the clear path uphill through an ancient wood and so reach a track. Turn left onto it but only for a few moments. Take the first track right, a steeply rising grassy one heading acutely back (this section is not shown on the Harvey map, one of its few errors). It shortly bends sharply left and continues uphill through old conifers and passes the remains of houses and field boundaries on the left. Continue diagonally upwards on what is now a narrow path showing increasing hints of expiring completely; if all else fails head directly to a dense block of forest to the northeast. Once there turn right and only a few hundred metres further on you will come
to two sturdy posts. Turn left here onto a clear track and immediately left again onto another track. After a few hundred metres you will see a wide track off to the left which
you can reach on a narrow path. Turn left onto this track (itâ€™s the Wicklow Way) and take it all the way to the start about two kilometres away.
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The most spectacular vistas in Ireland - our personal, entirely arbitrary and eminently disputable selection.