To the south of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in County Kerry are a jumble of mountains which include some of the highest in Ireland but are well neglected as they are generally hard to get to and involve a car journey via narrow lanes.
The Mullaghanattin Horseshoe appealed to me and this was a walk that didn’t disappoint on my recent visit to Ireland. There is limited parking at the start point which is at a road junction. Donning boots I am bitten by horse flies – one of the main problems on this trip to Ireland. First of all I have to back track along the road I had just driven and one thing that has concerned me is that at the last farm several Jack Russell dogs had come out barking at the car as I drove through. I am now about to face these dogs on foot. I have my walking pole at the ready as I march silently through the farm and indeed the dogs came out barking but thankfully seem quite harmless. Nearby, there are several caged dogs which might have caused more of an issue. In the process I seem to have set all the dogs off barking along the valley. I press on to a point where I intend to take a good track into the hills which leads some way up to gain the eastern end of the ridge. Nearing the track, a four by four turns up and heads very slowly up along the track into the hills. I am now concerned that I might be turned back by a farmer as the laws of access in Ireland are quite vague as some farmers welcome walkers whilst others certainly don’t want you on their land. As I ascend the track, the four by four is ascending slowly away ahead of me only to park where the track ends. Over the next mile I think about how I will enter into conversation with the farmers and think it best not to mention anything about whether it alright to walk here. Instead I opt to talk about the weather in a friendly manner and ask them the best way to gain the ridge. This ploy works a dream and happily I am soon on my way to the south eastern end of the ridge.
This is trackless countryside as I head generally northwest along the very undulating ridge and following a fence line much of the way. I reach a secondary summit at 594 metres before making a steep ascent onto the eastern end of the ridge leading up to Mullaghanattin. This part of the walk gives some very rewarding walking with the rocky summit curving away ahead of me. It doesn’t take long to get to the impressive 773 metre summit which is crowned with a trig point and what a view there is. It is virtually cloudless with the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks prominent to the northeast and countless peaks around me. It is quite windy on the top so I chose a spot just to the south to have my picnic lunch in the bright sunshine.
I have several peaks to cross ahead of me for the afternoon leg of the walk. It is initially a fairly steep grassy descent to a col before climbing steeply to Beann North Top. The col is punctured by quite a rocky gully on the north side which you are on before you realise that it lies on your path. I skirt to the left before winding up the steep slope. Beyond, Beann North Top, a high level broad ridge leads up to Beann at 752 metres. Beann provides some easy high level ridge walking along the line of a fence with the highest point about midway along.
After a stop to take a few photographs I descend veering south to another col before ascending to Beann South Top. From here I have from past reports about this walk not to descend southeast as there had been disputes with a farmer but instead to head south to reach a track where I can turn east to get down to the valley.
I set off south over increasingly rough countryside and follow the line of a fence for some distance. In places smooth sloping rock brakes the surface but this is at quite an incline to walk down. Lower down, tussocky grass is a bit of an issue but I can see my intended track ahead of me even though it takes awhile to get to it and involves crossing a couple of fences. Indeed the track does lead down to the valley but the route doesn’t agree to what is shown on the map. Within a large but fairly rough field I opt to cross it rather than following the track on a winding route which initially goes uphill again and hence cutting off a big corner. Lower down, I have to pass through a field of cattle not knowing if there is a bull in the field. The law on cattle is probably different in Ireland. After scaling a couple of gates close to but out of site of farms, I am relieved to join a lane which leads back to the car to complete a superb day in the mountains.