30 May 2009

Mount Brandon & Kayaking on Killarney Lakes

Climbing Faha Ridge, leading up to Mount Brandon, presiding over the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. From this peak it's told that St. Brendan (Brendan The Navigator) decided to sail to America. Brandon's Creek is nearby and that's where he actually set sail from. Some say that St. Brendan reached America long before Chistopher Colombus ever did...

My next really exciting trip is a Night Ascent of Carrauntoohil on 20th/21st June for the Summer Solstice. Suitable for most abilities. Click here to see more details.

25 May 2009

The 'Alternative' Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry with its classic stops and view points is world renown; however here are some alternative hidden gems along the way.
Visit Kerry Bog Village, on the main road between Killorglin and Glenbeigh. Here you can explore a traditional 1800s replica thatched bog village, complete with Irish wolf hounds and rare Kerry bog ponies; a great family trip.

Entering into Caherciveen take a right down past the old army Barracks, across the river to Cahergal Fort, an impressive Bronze Age stone fort with great views over Valencia Harbour. There is a second even more interesting fort nearby and also the ivy-clad crumbling ruins of 15th century Ballycarbery Castle, once the home of the McCarthy Mor's, now home only to jackdaws...
Back on the main road detour to the sleep village of Portmagee. A must see is the Skellig Experience Centre, dedicated to the history and stories of the 6th century monastic settlement of Skellig Michael. A great wet weather option. It's told by some that this was one of the last pagan sites in Ireland and one of the reasons it was inhabited for 600 years by monks was to drive out the last of the pagans.

Portmagee is named after an infamous pirate, Magee, who was shipwrecked on the coastline, met a local girl and settled down in the village to a life of married contentment and dangerous smuggling. The Bridge Bar serves delicious food and is a great lunch spot. On a fine day you can sit outside at the water's edge, watching the coming and goings of the brightly coloured fishing boats.

From Portmagee follow the narrow road over the top of Coonanaspig Pass and down to Saint Finan's Bay. Here you can swim in the fresh crashing surf at the sandy beach and call into Skellig Chocolate Factory where you'll be rewarded with sensational smells and free samples of delicious chocolates.

Continue to Derrynane Beach. Here long golden beaches, Daniel O Connell’s family home, wetsuit and snorkelling hire, sailing and windsurfing from Derrynane Sea Sports and the ruined abbey on Abbey Island are all calling to be explored. If you're into hiking, best of all, is a hidden mass path and secretive smugglers trail beginning at the pier and twisting along the side of Derrynane Harbour, through thick encroaching rhododrendrons.

Finish your day with a homemade icecream from 'The Green House' in Sneem.
If you've any suggestions of hidden gems on the Ring of Kerry put them into the comments section below.

18 May 2009

Hiking & Hill Walking in Kerry & Cork

10 Tips for Hill Walking

  1. Check the weather forecast: www.met.ie or www.windguru.com.
  2. Have a map: OS Discovery Series Map, ideally laminated or in a Ziploc bag.
  3. Plan your route: where are you going to start and finish, what distance is it, how long will it take you, any hazards along the way such as streams, rivers or cliffs.
  4. Get local knowledge: talk to someone who's already done the walk to find out about places of interest along the way, a good spot to stop for lunch, any access issues.
  5. Have the right equipment: boots, waterproofs, spare clothes, hat & gloves, food & drink.
  6. Park considerately and ask permission from the landowner to cross their land, if necessary.
  7. Leave no trace behind you: everything from tea bags to banana skins should come back with you.
  8. If the weather begins to put you under pressure or your own abilities are reaching their limits then recognise it as early as possible and change your route accordingly.
  9. Take plenty of photos.
  10. Don't lose your car keys!

3 Favourite Locations

Just above the little village of Kells, on the Caherciveen road, follow the Kerry Way along an ancient coaching road, past the solitary Ogham stone on the peak of Drung Hill, through the thick pine woods of Rossbeigh and finish with a refreshing cup of tea or coffee in the Towers Hotel in Glenbeigh. This walk has fantastic views over Dingle Bay and Rossbeigh Beach.

Begin at the little chocolate factory in Bonane village, on the Kenmare/Glengarriff road and follow the Beara Way along narrow country lanes, over a grassy hill pass leading over the Caher Mountains and into the sleepy village of Glengarriff. Casey's Hotel in the village do a great bowl of soup!

West Cork
Gougane Barra Forest Park, in the Shehy mountains, has great forest and nature trails suitable for all abilities. From here the river Lee begins it's journey to the sea. The forest is surrounded by mountains which has excellent hill walking and the friendly family run Gougane Barra Hotel, nestled on the lakeshore, serves delicious food and smooth pints.

7 May 2009

A Day In Kerry's Outdoors

This is a fabulous day in Kerry’s great outdoors, suitable for all ages and abilities, beginning with a boat trip followed by biking, horse traps or hiking, depending on your interest. All you need are waterproofs, warm clothes, a map, picnic lunch and a camera!

Beginning at 600 year old Ross Castle, perched on the shores of Lough Leane, local boatmen will help you into comfortable open boats for the trip through the three Lakes of Killarney. You’ll pass a solitary overgrown rock, called O Donohoe’s Prison. This is where the original castle owners, the O Donohoe Ross’s, chained their captives, to face exposure and hunger. As you pull out into the open waters of Lough Leane the ruined abbey of Innisfallen will pass on your starboard side. Originally a leper colony, it was also one of Europe’s first universities where several of Ireland’s high kings, including Brian Boru, spent time furthering their education. On at least two occasions the Abbey was attached by Vikings, who came up the Laune River from Killorglin.

Keep a watchful eye on the dense woodland and thick rhododendrons that cover the flanks of Shehy Mountain, for a glimpse of soaring sea eagles. After the noisy excitement of the Meeting of the Waters you’ll chug through the secretive waters of the Long Range River. The shores alongside are plentiful with wild goats and red deer, though you may not see them! The final island, McCarthy’s Island, is told by some to be named after a neighbouring chieftain, who fled to the island while fatally injured during a midnight cattle raid.

A welcome cup of tea or coffee and a bowl of delicious soup await in the little coffee shop at Lord Brandon’s Cottage. The ivy encroached ruins of the Victorian hunting lodge still remain today. At Lord Brandon’s Cottage you’ve several choices to continue your journey. A horse trap and local jarvey can take you on a leisurely trip to your destination, while you listen to their stories of bandits, ambushes and legends. You can rent a bike from Killarney, transport it on the boat and continue from Lord Brandon’s Cottage by bike, or you can hike on foot, allowing you to pick as many ripe blackberries as you can eat!

The Black Valley is an impressive glacial valley, ice-carved many centuries ago by vast glaciers scraping their way towards Killarney. The foothills of Ireland’s highest mountains and imposing views of the jagged MacGillycuddy Reeks lie before you; while the steep valley sides often run with swollen streams and cascades, rushing down to feed the Lakes of Killarney.

A delicious treat on a sunny day is an ice-cream from the shop and hostel, nestled beside the church. Just beyond the church the narrow road forks. Right is the fork you want to take, which leads into the Gap of Dunloe, however if you’re on bikes a great detour is the left fork which descends into the back of the Black Valley, or Cummeenduff Glen. Here you can still sense the isolation and back-breaking work farmers must have struggled with in earlier centuries. More recently you’ll see abandoned famine cottages and overgrown potato rows on the rocky slopes. Coommeenduff Lough, inhabited by arctic char and tough mountain trout, is a beautiful lake to relax beside, enjoy a picnic lunch and dip your toes in the icy water.

Back onto the main fork, a long climb leads to the high Head of the Gap, where the incredible Gap of Dunloe stretches before you. Purple Mountain and Tomies Mountain are on your right, named after the blooming purple heather which covers their slopes. Purple and Tomies makes a great hill walk for another day. The descent down through the Gap of Dunloe is a glorious and exhilarating ride as the wind whips past your face; or the relaxed hike is just as nice, surrounded by the gentle popping of gorse seeds at the right time of year.

The black mountain lakes look inviting on some days and cold and mysterious on others, their water levels fluctuating on nearly a daily basis. Sometimes mistaken for someone calling in distress you’ll usually hear the bleating of hardy mountain goats and their kids coming from overhead cliffs. As you pass the fifth and final lake keep your eyes open for rock climbers on the popular roadside cliff, Brennan’s Leap. You’ll often hear them before you see them, with the jingle of metal equipment and their shouted climbing calls.

Kate Kearney’s Pub is a delightful sight at the end of the Gap, where tea and scones await. If you’ve bikes with you it’s about an hour’s cycle back into Killarney town, on country roads and then a busier main road. There’s a detour after Fossa village which takes you through part of Killarney National Park and Knockreer Estate, avoiding most of the main road and leading you out at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

No better way to finish this great day’s trip than with a slice of delicious Dutch apple cake and a steaming pot of coffee, or smooth Guinness, in The Courtyard at Scotts Hotel in Killarney town centre.

Bike Hire: O Sullivan Cycles – 064 31282
Boat Trip: O Donoghue Boat Trips – 087 2390723
The Courtyard, Scotts Hotel – 064 27738
OSI Map 78, Sport Corran Tuathail – 064 22681

Written by Nathan Kingerlee