This truly dramatic, high level walk follows across the Central Dingle mountains and overlooks ‘Loch a’Dúin’ and the ‘Coumanare Lakes’. It starts at the ‘Conor Pass’ and finishes in the beautiful village of ‘Annascaul’.
Sliabh Mhacha Ré/ Mountain of the smooth plain
Start: Conor Pass ( moderate parking)
Finish: Annascaul ( Good Parking)
Duration: 7 hours/ 19km
Grade: Generally good underfoot.
Route: Park at the Conor pass car park. Cross the road and follow the obvious track for a short distance, turning eastwards onto higher, open ground, and heading upwards in a northeasterly direction. When you reach the fence, keep to the left and continue up the ascent. Climb east from the end of the fence wire and pick up a path to follow the horseshoe cliff edge round to a double stone shelter that overlooks Peddler’s Lake. Please take care at this point because the sheer drop on the left is very dangerous so watch your step.
You can admire the view of Dingle Bay to the south and further across the bay to Valentia Island and the Skellig Rocks. When the weather is clear, all 12 of the Kerry Munros can be seen with peaks of over 914m. Continue along the corrie edge to arrive at the summit of Slievanea.
Continue along the cliffs of the next corrie in a Northeastern direction and steadily climb to the summit of ‘Slievanea Northeast’. It will take approximately 1hour and 30 minutes for 3.5km at a 270m ascent. Looking over the ridge and down to the east, you will see ‘Loch a’Dúin’ and the ‘Coumanare Lakes’ nestling in the valleys below. Behind you stretches an abundance of upland grasses, sedges, sphagnum and other mosses.
Return now, down to the col ( the lowest point between two peaks) between the last two summits, heading for point 568m which is marked by a stone circle. Instead of going directly to ‘An Cnapán Mór’ it is worthwhile taking a detour to the southeast to take in ‘Croaghskearda’. This high spur offers magnificent views westward towards Dingle and eastwards to ‘Annascaul’ , ‘Inch’ and across to the ‘Iveragh Peninsula’.
Backtrack from the spur and follow the 600 contour eastwards, before rising to the summit of ‘An Cnapán Mór’ ( 3 hours 30 minutes, 8.5km, 370m ascent. Descend to the point 603m and continue to contour around the cliffs over ‘Loch Bhearna na Gaoithe’ which in English translates as ‘Windy Gap’.
From the Col at Q 535 049 ascend to point 609m which is closely followed by the summit of ‘Cnoc na Bánóige’ ( 5hours, 11.5km. 560m ascent). Follow the path on the wide ridge eastwards to point 563m, the eastwards again to point 593m, the top of ‘Cnoc Mhaoilionáin( Knockmulanae). From this vantage point ‘Beenoskee, the ‘Macha na Bó’ valley and Loch Scáil ( Annascaul Lake) can be seen. When you reach the grassy triangle, do not walk down the road to the village. Annascaul Walks have recently constructed a new wood and river walk, and a bridge over the river in Annascaul at the ‘South Pole Inn’. On reaching the grassy triangle turn left and follow an unsurfaced road to the old Annascaul River Bridge. Turn right into the woods here and follow the river path down to Annascaul.
Natural Beauty: From April to September bog cotton, wild orchids, butterwort, milkwort, tormentil and the yellow spikes of bog asphodel can all be found. The stumps of ancient pine trees can be seen protruding from the peat that preserved them for thousands of years. Lichens are common too. The ‘Dingle Peninsula’ has the largest concentration of choughs in northwest Europe. The chough is a rare member of the crow family with a distinctive red bill and red legs. They favour coastal sites and it is possible that you’ll hear their call and notice their acrobatic flight around the top of the Windy Gap.
This route was taken from Mountaineering Ireland ‘Irish peaks – A celebration of Irelands Highest Peaks’. Contributed by Mary Ward and William Howe, Annascaul Walks.