Walk ... Cail­leach Beara Loop, Co Kerry

The Irish Times Magazine - - ON THE MOVE - TONY DO­HERTY

The first time my gen­er­a­tion would have heard about “The Cail­leach Beara” was in lines of a Padraig Pearse poem: “Mise Éire. Sine me na an Cail­leach Beara”

The amount of back­ground in­for­ma­tion we got on the Old Hag of Beara de­pended on the en­thu­si­asm of the teacher for this most sig­nif­i­cant fig­ure in Ir­ish mythol­ogy. Mod­ern stu­dents might not have heard of her at all as Pearse’s po­ems have faded from the cur­ricu­lum.

The Hag is said to be an old crone who brings win­ter with her and she was treated with a mix­ture of rev­er­ence and awe. It be­ing sum­mer, I felt it was safe to tackle the Cail­leach Beara Loop with­out bring­ing her wrath down on me.

The walk starts from Molly Gal­li­van’s which is the fo­cal point of a se­ries of looped walks of vary­ing length de­vel­oped by the lo­cal com­mu­nity, all of which pass through sites of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance. The Cail­leach Beara walk is of most in­ter­est to hill walk­ers as it wends its way up to the Esk Moun­tain Ridge on the Cork- Kerry bor­der.

The start of the walk runs through Molly Gal­li­van’s tra­di­tional farm, pass­ing tra­di­tional ma­chin­ery, a famine cot­tage and a Ne­olithic Stone Row; a lot of his­tory in a short time. The route is well marked and leads on to the Old Bri­dle Path to Glen­gar­riff which was in use un­til the con­struc­tion of the tun­nels on the N71

On this sec­tion it joins up with the Beara Way and both routes con­tinue to the top of the ridge where they diverge, with the Cail­leach Loop turn­ing off to the right. From here the route heads west across the crest of the Esk Ridge.

The Caha Moun­tains can be dif­fi­cult to ne­go­ti­ate and to nav­i­gate but this short sec­tion is a safe in­tro­duc­tion for any­one who wants to try fur­ther hill walk­ing on Beara.

The way mark­ers are well placed to guide you through the out­crops. And, as I was in­formed by the gen­tle­man back in Molly Gal­li­van’s, each post is num­bered and if you run into trou­ble they have the GPS co- or­di­nates of each post back in the shop, so they can guide the moun­tain res­cue di­rectly to you; not that there is much like­li­hood of you run­ning into trou­ble on this well- tended trail.

With the land fall­ing away steeply on ei­ther side there is no re­stric­tion on the view north to Ken­mare Bay and The Mag­illicuddy Reeks and a most mag­nif­i­cent view south down into the sparkling up­per reaches of Bantry Bay with Glen­gar­riff Har­bour and the

Cail­leach Beara Loop, Bo­nane, Co Kerry Map:

Ord­nance Sur­vey. Dis­cov­ery Se­ries. Sheet 85.

Start and Fin­ish:

Trail Head at Molly Gal­li­van’s shop and cafe. Grid Ref­er­ence 920620. The shop is on the N71, Ken­mare to Glen­gar­riff Road, 3km south of the church in Bo­nane. Three Hours. 10km. 516m.

Easy. Walk­ing boots and weather- ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing.

How to get there: Time: Dis­tance: To­tal As­cent: Suit­abil­ity:

fa­mous Gar­nish Is­land Gar­dens tucked into its north­west cor­ner.

At the end of the ridge sec­tion is an enor­mous stepped con­crete but­tress sup­port­ing the tun­nels. It sounds in­tru­sive but hav­ing the struc­tural at­tributes of a Mayan Tem­ple, it pro­vides an ex­otic am­biance to the wild ter­rain.

Af­ter that bizarre flight of fancy, it was an easy down­hill trek to Molly’s cafe where an enor­mous pot of tea, which looked like an an­cient arte­fact it­self, awaited.

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■ The way mark­ers are well placed to guide you through the out­crops.

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