Of all the hills in Britain or Ireland, which do you prefer? According to Hamish Brown, a man who knows his hills, Brandon Mountain on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry is the best. Given such a recommendation, I was eager to experience it for myself.
Virgin Mary at the start:
There are two main routes up Brandon Mountain. To the west, a pilgrim route is marked by crosses and small white posts. It would be difficult to get lost, even in thick mist. To the east, a quieter but more dramatic path cuts up into Brandon's impressive eastern corries, with the sporting option of a narrow, scrambling ridge. We decided to ascend the corrie path from Brandon Bay, descend the pilgrim route towards Smerwick Harbour, and worry about getting back to the start when we got down.
Entering the corrie:
Cloud obscured any views from the summit, topped like Carrauntoohil by a large cross, and we hung around a while hoping it would clear. Seeing that it wasn't, we headed down the pilgrim route.
Almost immediately we broke out of the cloud. It had filled the corrie and capped the summit but left the rest of the mountain free. Looking back, we could see the way we had come up, from a fine beach below in Brandon Bay to the east and the corrie we had ascended.
Brandon's fine eastern corries:
The pilgrim route shows a completely different aspect to Brandon Mountain, an easy if sometimes steep path, well marked.
The pilgrim route:
No great corries or deep lochans on this side of the mountain but instead, fantastic views across the green patchwork of Dingle to abrupt seacliffs and steep rocky islands.
On our way down we got chatting to a couple who were touring Ireland in their campervan. They offered us a lift back to Brandon Bay and we gladly accepted. So is this the finest hill in Britain or Ireland? Many would say not - including the campervan couple - and that hills such as Liathach or the Buachaille provide more sporting routes and spectacular views. Yet there is nothing in Scotland like the views across green fields to sharp islands and creamy beaches, and the association with St Brendan - who, according to some, discovered North America in the 6th century - adds an extra dimension to this fine mountain.
Clouds clear on Brandon Mountain:
Church Ferry RIP
2 days ago