Saturday, 3 May 2014

Gortnabinna : Stunning mountain road walk with hill climb included

This varied country lane and mountain walk follows part of the Sli Gaeltacht Muscrai, which is part of the national trail the Beara-Breifne Way.
  • Start-point 60 kms by road from Cork City
  • Plenty of parking available
  • First 3 kms of walk is along road, which is very quiet and safe (with care)
  • Option of ascent of Mweelin mountain on good track, 500 m vertical ascent
  • Otherwise, turn right to climb the manageable (if slightly boggy) Carrigalougha
  • Continue over Carrigalougha to join the Sli Gaeltacht Mucrai track on other side
  • Beautiful views from Carrigalougha, and of the Paps from top of Sli Muscrai
  • Descent on good track with some pretty scenery to the start-point
  • Option at the end to visit a Bronze Age Wedge Tomb only recently recorded

The start-point for this walk, which can be reached by car or by a (strenuous) cycle ride (the start-point is at 300m above sea level), is found by coming out of Macroom on the Killarney direction, and in about 7.5 kms from Macroom you will come round a bend and see the Halfway (also called the Mons) Bar on your left. Turn left here, and it's approx 13 kms from here to the start-point. Pass through Reidh na Doiri (Reananiree), and about 5 kms after it you reach the summit of the pass called the 'Mouth of the Glen'.

When you reach the very summit, just continue a few yards, and a road branches off to your left, signed for Kenmare  and Kilgarvan, though signs are regularly falling down or being stolen (for bars abroad!). Park over on the right in the layby, and set off up the road. Make sure you're wearing waterproof boots for the mountain stretch.

Follow this road as it curves around the mountain for about 3 kms. The views to the right towards Ballingeary and its surrounding mountains, including Gugan Barra, are beautiful (just imagine these hills festooned with 150m wind turbines, it might come to pass). Eventually approach the top of another mountain pass, where the optional extra of a 2km walk up a steep track brings you to the summit of Mweelin (this is for the very fit), but this is just an extra option.

Otherwise, continue on the walk we've planned out, crossing the fence just near the dilapidated gate on the right (100m before you reach the top of the pass), which brings you into the boggy margins of a field. Follow a smoothed grass track which leads around to the right up through the field. You are heading for the top of Carrigalougha mountain, which you can see above you. Follow a strip of green grass which leads up through the rougher ground above, and cross a fence. There is a ridge running away from you on the left, but head for the next ridge to your right, which leads you to the summit, with its panoramic views (soon to be despoiled by wind farms, an outrage in this beautiful place).

For the descent, make your way over to the right, and, looking ahead, plot your way across wet ground to a rocky bluff across from it. Follow the edge of the bluff to your right, keeping a small valley edge just to your right. Cross a fence and you'll pick up an indistinct track. This leads you down to the top of the Sli Gaeltacht Muscrai track at Rath, with lovely views towards Cuil Aodh and the Paps.

Turn right here, and it's less than 2 kms down a good track to the road, with a lively stream accompanying you later on. Where the track meets the road, only 0.5 kms from your car or bike, a detour into the field on the left and up the hill above brings you to a well-preserved wedge tomb.

A view of the Bronze Age wedge-tomb at Gortnabinna, with its beautiful mountain views

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