Statistics: 11.2 miles, ascent 2770′, descent 2643′, 4 1/2 hours.
In the morning we were faced with a big decision about the day’s hike, since the skies were very dark and threatening and the wind was howling. The morning’s planned climb over Mount Brandon had been named as one of the highlights of the entire Dingle Way. Jimmy said that climbing that mountain in these conditions would be very dangerous. One couple at the B&B decided not to hike deciding to take a taxi to Cloghane. Another couple changed their plans and took a ride down the road about 4 miles to an alternate path over the mountain. Jimmy gave us a new route over the southern flank of Mt. Brandon where he thought we would be much safer. We took his advice, loaded up with lunch sacks full of his delicious scones and were off. To get to the base of the mountain, we walked 4 miles on the road and then turned up a trail ascending the side of the mountain. We hiked in a heavy mist and could see very little of our surroundings, but we made it to the top!
Just as we descended on the far side of the mountain, the low clouds lifted a bit, but a gale force wind hit us in powerful gusts. We quickly realized that we could hear the gusts before we felt them and this provided a moment to prepare for each one. We had to scramble to stay on our feet. Sarah was knocked down once and I was literally pushed by the wind down the hill, running to stay upright. We were so thankful that we heeded Jimmy’s warning. We were able to now make out An Loch Geal below us. The strong wind could be seen as it whipped up waves on that lake.
Finally reaching the valley floor as the wind continued, we had a long, straight road ahead to reach our B&B at the village of Cloghane. Whenever we heard the wind approaching, we hung on the road’s fence posts.
Even the birds prepared for the wind.
As we neared the end of the walk, we overtook another group that turned out to be our hiking friends, Geoff, Kathy and Darby, who had walked the same route. After passing them, we noticed that the terrain changed from wild moorland to a more peaceful, pastoral scene.
Heading for Cloghane, we arrived at Brandon Bay.
Cloghane was a small village, vividly colored as were many other rural Irish villages. Walking into town we noticed the main street was lined with cars parked in both directions. As we learned, someone in the village had died and everyone from miles around was attending the funeral. Not one business was open. We could not find a place for lunch, but were fortunate that one person had remained at our B&B, O’Connor’s Pub and Guest House . The place had lots of old world atmosphere; the rooms were very comfortable and attractive. We were told that if the owner was in the mood, we could expect him to share some of his well-known stories after dinner.
We had dinner with our “on the trail” friends, Geoff, Kathy and Darby who also stayed the night at O’Connor’s. After dinner and to our delight, the owner, Mr. O’Doud (who mentioned his mother was an O’Connor), regaled us with stories of four plane crashes on Mt. Brandon during WWII. One crash involved a military plane that went down carrying letters from Allied POWs. The townspeople recovered the letters and delivered them as intended. Everyone enjoyed a delightful evening of music and storytelling!