Friday, 19 June 2015

Dingle Way - day 6: Ballycurrane to Cloghane

This was to be our longest day for the walk. We were to cover some 22.5kms and have a 650m ascent as we climbed over the Mount Brandon col.

Breakfast for the last few days had started at 8:30am and we were getting used to the slightly later start. It gave the day time to warm up a little as the nights had been quite cool.

The breakfast was quite Ok although another cup of coffee would have been welcome.

The col is the highest point on the Dingle Way if you are just doing the standard walk. Michelle and I had been higher when we climbed Mount eagle, but for the general walker the climb over the Mount Brandon col is the high point. All the walk notes contain a warning that this section should not be attempted if weather conditions are poor and visibility is bad. Fortunately, the weather conditions were OK. There was some low cloud on the higher peaks and the wind carried a chill but, otherwise, the day was fine.

Low cloud covering the top of the mountains ahead of us
The intial trail followed some minor roads and these eventually ran out. from this point on we were slogging over roughly grassed slopes and rocks. The ascent seemed to go on and on and we did take regular breaks to replenish our energy.

Sue and Jen taking advantage of the rocks to rest on
Another break with views down to the sea
There were plenty of opportunities to turn around and admire the view that was generally behind us.

The upward climb seemed to be relentless. We kept hoping that the ridge ahead was the col only to be disappointed as the mountainside revealed itself ahead of us.

Looking back along the tracked we had climbed
Finally we made it to the col and Michelle took lots of photos of the three sisters to prove it. The col is actually a saddle between Masatiompan and Piaras Mor.

Sue, Lorraine and Jen at the col
Just over the col there is an ancient marker ogham stone with an inscribed cross.

Michelle had been keen to tackle the climb to the summit of Mount Brandon which would have added another 2 1/2 to 3 hours to the days activities. With cloud continuing to cover the higher peaks and sometime rolling further down the sides of the mountains it was a relief when she decided not to tackle the climb.

If we had thought that the climb up was tough, track down was equally challenging. It required great care picking our way down the slope.

We stopped for lunch at the "Hard Rock" cafe.

Even with the recent run of dry weather there were still a number of boggy sections on the descent. The rough, rocky terrain finally gave way to a gravel track which eventually took us down towards brandon village.

Approaching Brandon Village our notes indicated that it was possible to cut a couple of kms off the walk by heading straight into the village rather than following the prescribed route which wends its way above the village. While Michelle opted for the longer route the rest of us thought that the shorter version had merit on such an arduous day.

If only! Our notes stated that the Way turns left and the alternative was to go straight ahead. Oops. It failed to say where this turn left was to occur and we, Jen, Sue and I, continued on a turn too early and found ourselves about 2km along before we decided that we were not where we should have been.

Sue flagged down the first passing car and the driver stopped and confirmed that we were some 2km from where we should have been. Bother! we turned around and retraced our steps before finding our way into the village.

There was a splendid display of fuchias along the roadside.

In Ireland there is rarely a sign announcing the name of a village/settlement you are approaching let along a sign pointing to any shops/pubs that might consitute the centre of such a place. It makes it hard for visitors and even more so when you are on foot as any error takes considerable time to rectify.

As we headed into the village a couple of other walkers let us know that Michelle had arrived in the village and was looking for us. She eventually found us in the pub drinking coffee.

We still had quite a few kms to get to our overnight stop in Cloghane. Our route was initially over grassland before following small roads which eventually took us past a plantation of mostly conifers.

The descent down to Cloghane was on a narrow track that was muddy in spots and included a number of stiles.

Jen tackling yet another stile
The track passed the old Cloghane burial ground which included the remains of a 13th century church.

O'Connors Pub was a most welcome sight at the end of a long, hard day.

We had covered around 22.5km and climbed at least 730m over quite difficult terrain.

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