Friday September 31st;
I normally avoid heading to touristy places during very busy periods if I can, but last weekend, due to a reasonable weather forecast, and an itch to head away, I made an exception. I wanted to try somewhere I hadn't stayed before so after a bit of searching I chose the campsite at Berehaven Golf Club. This is about 30 kilometres further west than Glengarriff and would allow me to more easily explore the furthest reaches of this most beautiful of peninsulas.
I headed down on Friday afternoon so as to enjoy a nice relaxing evening, before going for a cycle on Saturday. I arrived into the pretty little golf course at around 5pm and discovered that the little camping area was nearly full. Four large family tents were already in situ and these took up most of the space. There was room for my little tent but I knew that things would be far from peaceful. There was another area for tents further to the left but this was pretty sodden after the heavy rain of the previous day so reluctantly I settled for the busy area. The evening resounded with the boisterous playing of about 12 kids and later the carousal of the parents. It wasn't that bad really, but I guess I am just becoming an old curmudgeon. There is a small stony beach below the clubhouse and I took the opportunity to "enjoy" a chilled soak in the flat calm waters. While I was in the water some whitebait were being hunted just a few feet away and when I dunked my head under water I could see several small fish flash by below me. I explored a couple of the holes near the clubhouse and I must say they look very nice, especially the 8th, which is over 140 metres and is almost entirely over water. Very spectacular. I actually wished that I had brought a few clubs with me. I settled down to an enjoyed the evening despite the distractions. Good phone signal meant I could enjoy YouTube.
Saturday August 1st;
I was looking forward to today. The Beara Peninsula offers some of the best and most spectacular cycling route that are to be found anywhere. The last time I was down in this neck of the woods I cycled from Glengarriff over the Healy Pass, to Kenmare, over the Caha pass and back. Today I was going to head to Allihies, Eyeries and return over the Healy Pass from the north. The western extremities of the peninsula must be one of my most favourite places and I was really looking forward to returning there. It helped of course that the weather was also playing ball. There had been some showers and some were still to be seen on the hills, but it was mostly blue skies and the wind was not too bad.
|Looking back to Castletownbere|
The cycling initially is easy. Flat roads lead into and out of Castletownbere and soon you are pedaling through beautiful wild countryside. One thing that would help is if they would re-surface the street through the town. It is butt bruisingly rough. The first challenge is the hill that rises gently at Gour. Here about 130 metres of height is gained but the increasingly wonderful views are ample compensation for the effort. The view back towards Castletownbere and the bulk of Hungry hill is beautiful and up here the blue sea and rugged shore compete for your attention. I took the opportunity for a brief stop so as to really enjoy the view. Next comes a beautiful gentle descent that comes ever nearer to the sea as you head west. The breeze was directly into me so some effort was required to make good progress. After 5 kilometres you reach the crashing shore at Cahermore and then a gentle climb gradually rises to the pass above Allihies. This gains another 80 or so metres but what a spot to stop and enjoy the stunning scenery laid out beyond. Rugged shore, rugged hills, distant mountains and islands rising from the sea. It is simply wonderful. Mind you some rain was also to be seen and I caught the edge of a shower as I neared the pretty village of Allihies. It was a brief affair and soon I was enjoying blue skies again.
After the descent from the pass, the short but steep climb into the village comes as something of a shock but it is soon over. The next four kilometres are just gorgeous. A narrow but well surfaced road twists and turns along by the shore and is a wild and wonderful experience. Next comes a steep climb that had me struggling to simply keep moving. At times the gradient is very steep and overall almost 100 metres is gained. I managed to stay on the bike but it really tired me out. At the top you pass through a rocky notch and you head down to a beautiful bay at Gortahig. The scene is gorgeous but some care is required, as the road is steep and twisted. The respite is short lived though, and you are faced with another 100 metre climb that I found very hard on my already tired legs. Once at the crest I stopped for a few minutes to recover and soak in the view. Thankfully the remaining route as far as Lauragh had no big hills and I made reasonable progress. The stretch between Eyeries and Ardgroom being particularly lovely.
When I reached Lauragh I was already pretty spent, so I was fairly dreading tackling the Healy Pass. At the start of the day I had thought that I might take the coast road from here and then return to Lauragh over the pass on the main road and then do the Healy Pass. That would have added twenty kilometres and over 200 metres to the day, but the way I was feeling, that was out of the question. After a rest and a bite to eat, I bowed to the inevitable and turned towards the pass. Before too long the climbing begins and I was down in the bottom gear, just willing the kilometres to pass. They did, slowly but eventually I rose up into the wild open mountainside. Glorious and all as the day and scenery was, I was hardly enjoying it. I suffered practically the whole way and the final few hundred steeper metres at the top turned my legs to jelly. I got there though and on the descent on the far side I was able to recover a fair bit. Once down in Adrigole, I was once again riding into the breeze, but I was now on the homeward stretch. That stretch seemed to stretch on for a long while but eventually I reached the turnoff to the campsite and I coasted back to the tent. I was very tired and glad to dismount. The first thing I did was simply sit awhile in my chair and relaxed. A brew and another bite to eat restored me somewhat and a little later I went and had a good swim the the sea. I was delighted to have completed the cycle and the rigours and efforts were receding in the memory.
Over 82 kilometres, 1040 metres climbing in just under four hours.
Sunday August 2nd;
The weather this morning was even better than yesterday and the first order of business was to put on some sunscreen. I was excited about today. I had decided to enjoy a hike on Hungry Hill and ascend via the southwest ridge. It must have been over ten years since I last went up the mountain on this route. It offers a nice scramble up a series of rock bands. Some of these are vertical and have to be avoided but some offer excellent sport. I had contemplated leaving the car where it was and walking directly from the campsite but it would have meant a five kilometre walk on the road at the start so I drove instead. The verges of the roadways in the area are a riot of colour at the moment. Fuchsia, montbretia, meadow sweet and loosestrife give a glorious display and it is a pleasure to see. When I reached the end of the little lane I parked discreetly and set off into the wild.
And wild it certainly is. The amount of steep rock on display makes this a special mountain. The southwest ridge is right in front of you and it looks great. I followed the track in past the small lake and after climbing a little ways I was able to scramble up the first section to the crest of the ridge. From there it is a matter of climbing what you fancy and detouring around some of the difficult bits. The scenery just keeps getting better and better. Below and to the west, Bere Island lies and the little town of Castletownbere nestles under the hills that stretch to the end of the peninsula. To the left the savage rocky ground swoops down from the summit across towards Knocknagree. The many rock bands along here would make finding an early descent from that ridge difficult. I made good progress and enjoyed a few spicy scrambles on the way up. As I said, some sections are vertical and would pose difficulties to very good rock climbers but by picking your options carefully some great sport can be enjoyed. I recall on one occasion over 10 years ago, telling the doyenne of Killarney Mountaineering Club, the incorrigible Tim Long, that the section he was attempting looked very "fallableoffable", much to his amusement.
|The rather wonderful southwest ridge|
|Pick a route (carefully) and enjoy|
|To the west|
All too soon the broad boggy summit plateau is reached, but what a thrill to relax a while and simply soak in the views.On a calm, sunny day such as this there are few places finer to be. The clarity in the air was great and I could see the mountains stretching all the way to Caherbarna and beyond. The Iveragh peninsula competed with the closer hills and the inlets of Kenmare and Bantry bays shone blue. I was loving it. The main summit (682 metres) is just 6 or 7 hundred metres away and I headed across the bog to that.Then an easy descent to the northwest sees you reach the rugged broad ridge that leads to Knocknagree. I say it is easy, and it was on a good visibility day like I had, but in the mist and cloud, then care would have to be taken to avoid dropping down too early into some complex ground. Once on the ridge, things don't get too much easier. There follows a constant series of up and down little steps that are forced on you by water, bog and rock strata that always seem to block the way. It is complex and enjoyable. Just don't be in too much of a hurry. After reaching a couple of small pretty little lakes there follows a steep pull to the summit of Knocknagree (586 metres). Up here is a great vantage point to look back and admire the bulk of Hungry Hill. It was here I saw my first soul of the day. An Asian gentleman who was wearing a large sunhat (the kind with the big visor in front) and a net covering the face.
|Heading to Knocknagree|
|Looking back from Maulin|
Next up comes Maulin. The ground becomes easier after Knocknagree and an easy descent to a boggy col if followed by a slog up to the broad summit (621 metres). A final pause to admire the expansive views before I dropped easily into the glen in the southeast where I joined a farm track. The Beara Way trail crosses this track and once I reached it I turned and followed it back to my car. On the way I met a young man who was nearing the finish of the Way. He informed me that he hadstarted his hike in Limerick and walked to Tralee. He then completed the Dingle Way before also completing the Kerry Way. Now he was almost after completing the Beara Way and to finish he was going to continue and complete the Sheeps Head Way. What a super effort that would be. Over 700 kilometres is required to do that lot. A proper long distance hike for sure. I enjoyed the walk back to the car and once again I was able to enjoy the full might of Hungry Hill as the trail goes deep into the valley on its western flanks.
I arrived back to the car 5 hours 30 mins after setting off. 18 kilometres covered and 1230 metres climbed..The dip in the sea a short while later felt delicious.
Monday August 3rd;
I was heading home today, but before that I was keen to get another hike in. It was another lovely morning so I decided to head to the north side of the peninsula and do the iconic Cumeengeera Horseshoe. This is another gem of an outing and it forms a beautiful natural circuit around the wild and rugged Rábach Glen. I drove around to Lauragh and followed the long narrow lane to its end and set off into the glen at 10.25. A lovely easy start along a good trail see you enter the wild and rugged glen and after a short pull you reach the crest of a spur coming from the left and the full extent of the glen is revealed. On a benign day such as this it was simply beautiful. In bad weather it becomes bleak and savage. A short drop to the easily forded river and then the real climb starts. A steep 250 metres up through the rock bands allows for some scrambling and after that the angle eases back a little and easier ground leads to the summit of Tooth Mountain (592 metres). What a lovely spot to stop and admire the view. The entire Iveragh Peninsula is on show to the north and of course you are in the heart of the Beara so what is local is equally stunning.
The going is pretty easy from here on. A gentle drop and rise see you reach Coomacloghane (599 metres) which is adorned by a trig point. A slightly more awkward descent follows to reach the pass that leads towards Eskaterriff and it is easy to get sucked in to descending too far to the west. It would not be a major problem but it would add to the height that needed to be climbed. The long curved ridge to Eskatarriff (601 metres) is on broad boggy ground. Up here you are right at the furthest point from the car, so from here on you are on the homeward stretch. A drop of over 100 metres and a short climb sees you reach Eskatarriff East Top with its super looking rock arret that could be a climbers dream (or nightmare). A final 150 metre climb sees you reach the last top at Lacabane (603 metres) which is followed by a nice airy walk along the ridge before a steep 250mtr descent to a wide gully which descends back to the valley floor. Once down I crossed the very wet ground, full of bog myrtle, to reach the trail I had walked at the start. A short walk back to the car followed and it was all over.
It had been 4 hours 20 minutes of pure pleasure. 12 kilometres covered and almost 1100 metres climbed.
It had been a delightful end to the weekend. I was a happy boy on the drive home. The Beara delivered yet again.