Start: An Baile Breac/ Ballybrack
Duration; 7 hours
This is the most popular and most straightforward route to Mount Brandon. This route consists of hard, rocky terrain throughout, with steep drops to the side. This high Mountain pass provides dramatic scenery over Brandon and Tralee Bay to the north and Dingle Bay to the south. Given the proximity to the North Atlantic, high winds and low clouds are common and the route can pose a danger to walkers as the knife-edge ridge drops away severely on both sides.
Route: Start in Ballybrack at the start of ‘Cosán na Naomh’ also known as the ‘Saints Road’. From a starting height of 400m, the route heads west on a well- established track and climbs up to the first height of ‘An Bhinn Dubh’ at 478m. From here, with a vantage point becoming increasingly spectacular, the route continues up to ‘Beenabrack’. The view down the valley includes the lakes ‘Loch Tarbh, Loch Uí Fhiannachta and Loch Neil Phádraig’ and the land sweeping down to the sea at Cloghane and Castlegregory. The path becomes steeper and more challenging as the route continues to skirt the ridge line up to the summit of ‘Ballysitteragh’.
From this point, the route up to ‘Gearhane’ is relatively easy following the ridge which is narrow in places with a steep drop either side.
The route continues along the ridge line up to Brandon Peak ( 3hrs 30mins, 8km, 740m ascent). From here to the South Top of Brandon the route is relatively easy and offers spectacular views in all directions on a clear day. The ascent to the actual summit of Mount Brandon from this point is more strenuous.
Before reaching the summit, the route comes down off the ridge and joins the pilgrim route, with clearly visible white markers and crosses. A short difficult rocky sections leads to the final stretch, the rounded and smooth profile of the summit of Mount Brandon (5hrs, 10.5km, 1050m ascent).
The descent by the Saints Road takes about Two hours and is along a well marked route following the stations of the cross in reverse to the car park above ‘An Baile Breac’. The other main descent route is down the valley via the Pilgrims Path to Cloghane and takes about 2 hours and 30minutes.
The conical summit top of Gearhane up to the summit of Mount Brandon is regarded by many as the most dramatic ridge walk in Ireland. The alpine-like features are a result of the Ice Age. Glaciers gouged up to the twenty corries on the eastern flanks of the Brandon Group of Mountains.Walkers look down over the paternoster lakes ‘Loch Chom an Chnoic/ Coumaknock Loughs and Loch na Lite/Lough Nalacken and Loch Cruite/Lough Cruttia. These lakes are another classic glaciated feature in the Irish surrounding landscape.
At the side of the high metal cross marking the summit, the remains of a sixth century cell, ‘Sáipéilin Bréanainn’/’Brendan’s Oratory’ give credence to the association of St Brendan with this majestic mountain.