Mount Brandon sits on the northern edge of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. The summit offers a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Blasket Islands to the west, North Kerry and County Clare to the north, Slieve Mish to the east, and to the south - McGillycuddy Reeks, Iveragh Peninsula, and the Skellig Rocks. Because it is on the edge of the Atlantic coast, clear days are scarce. There are high winds and low clouds and an icy mist cover the mountain at times. Despite conditions, the mountain is open to potential climbers all year round.
St. Brendan & the Apostles of Ireland
The second highest mountain in Ireland is named after St. Brendan (Breanainn) the Navigator, who, according to legend, lived on or near the summit for a time. A 6th century beehive cell was found near the summit, fuelling the theory. Brendan supposedly set sail for America in 535 AD (from Brandon Creek) via Greenland and Iceland in a hide covered ship. Brendan lived in Ireland but visited Wales, Scotland, and France. The trip to America took seven years and the shipload of monks had to contend with faith-testing trials along the way. Scholars consider the legend to be a Christian appropriation of the Celtic tales of the Otherworld -- a Tir na nOg, or land of eternal youth, located on an island far out at sea, inhabited by gods and voyaged to only by warrior heroes such as Cúchulainn and Bran.
Climbing Mount Brandon
There are several routes to the top of the mountain, two of which are heavily travelled. Mount Brandon is located in the middle of the Brandon Group, which runs north to south for 10 km (6.2 mi) across Dingle Peninsula. The group includes the peaks of Barr an Ghearain at 840 m (2,760 ft.), Binn Fhaiche at 822 m (2,697 ft.); Mar an Tiompan at 763 m (2,503 ft.), and Piaras Mor at 748 m (2,454 ft.). The interesting shape of Mount Brandon is attributed to the work of glaciers during the Ice Age, which gouged out a series of corries on the eastern flank. The western slope, which remained untouched by the glaciers, looks different from the eastern slope as it presents a smooth and almost unbroken grassy slope. The summit of Mount Brandon is round and smooth because it was a nunatuk as compared to Barr an Ghearain, which is almost alpine in appearance. Mt. Brandon is the highest Irish peak outside the mcGillycuddy Reeks. The small village of Brandon lies at the foot of the mountain on the north side.
Because of its connection to St Brendan the Navigator, Mt. Brandon is quite popular with Irish Catholic pilgrims. One pilgrimage trail, known as Cosan na Naomk, is marked by small white crosses as it ascends the mountain and at the end of the trail, the peak is topped by a large metal cross. In 1997, the Heritage Council set up the Pilgrim Path Project to develop walking routes along the medieval pilgrimage paths. The 18 km (11 mi) trail was constructed between Ventry Strand, where the path begins, and the grotto at Ballybrock at the foot of Mount Brandon, where it ends for the safety of participants. The traditional route was changed to end at Ballybrock because the standards required by the Irish Sports Council for National Waymarked Trails in Ireland deemed it necessary for safety reasons. The starting point at Ventry is the spot where pilgrims would have arrived by boat and come ashore in order to make the medieval pilgrimage. The trail passes the famous Gallarus Oratory and the Kilmalkedar monastic site.
From Tralee, take the east route and follow the signposts for Cloglane. The first turn on the left takes you to An Fhaiche car park. From the west, cross Connor Pass heading for Dingle then take the route north toward Feohanagh.
The road to the car park is posted.