Climbing over the shoulder of Mount Brandon dominates today’s walk. It’s a steep climb that’s sure to test Dingle Way-wearied legs, but a sense of achievement and stunning views along the peninsula provide plenty of reward.
Today’s walk will be a high point of your Dingle Way adventure. Literally and figuratively. You’ll have seen Mount Brandon many times and from many different angles since leaving Tralee, but from Ballydavid, it appears particularly imposing, soaring 952 metres above the eastern horizon to blot out the early morning sun. It’s towards this goliath you walk this morning.
You don’t have to pass over the summit of Mount Brandon. The path veers north to cross its shoulder (654 metres) along a route that, judging by the inscribed Ogham standing stone on the col, has been followed for millennia. As well as the highest point along the Dingle Way, this is also the most remote. If you’re lucky enough to have clear views, you’ll see Tralee in one direction and the Blaskets in the other; your entire journey condensed into a single panorama.
After a long descent through moorland and mountain-scape, the walk will have a taste of everything you’ve experienced so far; you’ll step across sandy Brandon Bay, navigate boreens through farmland and follow minor roads to Cloghane. This lively village is a great place to overnight.
I crossed the Mount Brandon col on a windy day with terrible visibility while many other walkers decided to skip the climb and arrange a taxi. I would say that though the path is faint, frequent waymarker posts with reflective strips make it easy to follow. If you have warm layers, waterproofs, and some hillwalking experience I would say it is a great climb; take it slow and enjoy the walk!
A large portion of the Dingle Way is on minor, low-traffic roads. Where there is no pavement, you should walk on the right side facing the oncoming traffic, except where the road bends right when you should cross over to the other side. Stay alert to vehicles around you and be prepared to step into the verge if necessary.
The trail is often rocky and uneven and can be slippery when wet. Wear appropriate footwear and take care with your foot placements, particularly at the end of the day when you may be tired. Walking poles can be useful on some of the steep ascents and descents.
The weather can change quickly. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing in your day-bag.
The path up to the Mount Brandon col is well signposted with frequent waymarker posts, some of which have reflective strips on, making it easy to navigate in even inclement weather and poor-visibility weather. Nonetheless, weather conditions can vary drastically so ensure you carry appropriate clothing and equipment. In addition to the route notes, ensure you pay close attention to the route notes and the app.
The total distance is based on reaching Cloghane after crossing Mount Brandon, if you avoid this part of the route by directly walking to Cloghane, the distance is reduced by 4km (2.5 mi).
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Points of Interest
Arraglen Ogham Stone
This upright sandstone gravemarker stands nearly two metres tall on the col of Mount Brandon. It is a welcome sight after the steep climb; it’s downhill from here! Based on the Archaic Irish inscription, it was placed here around AD 550-600.
Mount Brandon Plane Crashes
During World War II, four planes slammed into the slopes of Mount Brandon. In one German plane crash in 1940, all six pilots miraculously survived. As a neutral country, Ireland neither returned them to Germany or sent them to England; instead, they stayed in Ireland to study at university, take jobs in Cloghane and even marry Irish women. You will also pass the memorial to six Polish pilots who weren’t so lucky; their plane came down in poor visibility in 1943 close to what is now the Dingle Way, and no-one survived. You can also find artefacts from these plane crashes in O’Connor’s pub in Cloghane.
Food and Drink
There are several pubs and cafés throughout today’s walk. Please bear in mind that any cafes, restaurants and shops may be closed when you visit so it is advised to bring enough snacks and water for the duration of your journey. Your accommodation may be able to arrange a packed lunch.
There is a pub after 4.5 kilometres. There are two pubs in Brandon, after 20 kilometres. Cloghane, where you finish has a pub, a café and a small village store.
Bring appropriate footwear, preferably walking boots with good grip and ankle support.
Bring waterproof jacket and trousers, even where the weather forecast makes this appear unnecessary.
Walking poles may be useful on some of the steep ascents and descents.
Food for the duration of the hike two litres of water is recommended.
A powerbank and phone cable may be useful if you are navigating using your phone. Phone batteries are less effective in cold weather.