- Created: August 28, 2012
- Updated: December 12, 2017
- Distance13.08 km
- Time0 s
- Speed0.0 km/h
- Min altitude175 m
- Peak922 m
- Climb825 m
- Descent826 m
Steeped in Irish Mythology and Pagan History, the most scenic walking route to the summit of Mount Brandon (952m or 3.123 feet), Irelands 9th highest mountain is the from Faha near Cloghane Village. Located on the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry in the south West of Ireland this walk is only 40mins from Tralee and one of the best and fascinating mountain walks along the Wild Atlantic Way. This is a moderate to strenuous but extremely rewarding 8.5km (4 hour) trail which starts from the car park near the Faha Grotto, a popular starting point with space for roughly 10 cars. See our walking route map and profile of Mount Brandon at the bottom of the page and don't forget to take this scenic walking route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
In Irish, Brandon mountain is known as Cnoc Bréanainn which translates as Brendan’s Hill referring to St. Brendan the Navigator born near Tralee in 484 AD and who some say was the first European to discover America nearly 1,000 years before Columbus. In fact, it is said that Christopher Columbus relied on the St. Brendan story as part of his argument that it was possible to travel to Asia by crossing the Atlantic. However, with the much earlier pagan legend of Bran, a god of regeneration in Irish Mythology, it is disputed whether the mountain took its name from Bran or Saint Brendan the Navigator. The Voyage of Bran from early Irish Mythology was first written down in the late 7th century to early 8th century and the poem shares similar themes and elements with the much later Voyage of Saint Brendan from the early to mid 10th century with the first preserved written version of the legend being Dutch, dating from the 12th century and called Des Reis van Sint Brandaen.
Early Christians in Ireland readily adopted and fused Pagan Gods with Christian Saints, such as St Brigit who seamlessly evolved from an earlier pagan goddess Bríg or Brigid, a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and daughter of the Dagda who was a goddess of spring growth, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft. Worshipping the sun and weather in Ireland, there was no "first man and woman" Adam and Eve style mythology in Ireland, just wave after wave of invasion stories and legends.
Mount Brandon itself is also the end of a early ancient pagan trail celebrating the pagan Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasadh. The festival takes its name from the Irish god Lugh, one of the gods of the Tuatha De Danann, giving us Lughnasadh in Ireland and is the origin of the modern celebration of Halloween. In Kerry, the nearest Sunday to Lughnasa was known as Domhnach Chrom Dubh or Crom Dubh's Sunday, a local pagan figure who was eventually converted to Christianity by St. Brendan and this is celebrated on the last Sunday of July with a pilgrimage to the summit of Brandon Mountain. This ancient pagan trail from the east is now a Christian pilgrimage trail but the main Pilgrim Path is known as Cosán na Naomh and approaches Mount Brandon from the west on a longer more gentle slope. Other great ancient Pagan Trails and modern Christian Pilgrim Paths and pilgrimage trails located on mountain tops along the west of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way include:
- Mount Brandon Western Pilgrim Trail, Cosán na Naomh or Saints Road in Kerry
- Sliabh League Ancient Pilgrim Trail in Donegal
- Croagh Patrick Pilgrim Trail in Mayo
- Knocknadobar Mountain Pilgrim Trail on the Ring Kerry
- Drung Hill Pilgrim Trail on the Ring of Kerry
- Caherconree Mountain and Fort, near Tralee in Kerry
Passing the Grotto, follow the obvious and well worn path with a gradual gain in height along the slopes of the Faha ridge for the first half an hour. Take the lower path leading you around into the valley under the Faha ridge until the lakes known as the Paternoster or Coumaknock Loughs come into view. This is a stunning glaciated valley full of lakes, waterfalls and impressive towering. The shear cliff face in front of you, may look intimidating but as you reach the base, a winding path to the Col above appears which is very manageable so take your time. Once your out of the valley on onto the Col, turn left and take the final short easy walk to the summit. On a clear day there are stunning 360 views from the summit. However Brandon is notorious for lingering cloud!!!! so fingers crossed and good planning. You can return along the same route or alternatively via the Slieveglass Valley as shown below.
The route map below shows the ascent and return along the same route but there are many other route options to the summit and other walks on the Brandon Range including:
- Walk along the entire Brandon Mountain Range
- Mount Brandon and Slieveglass Loop Walk
- Mount Brandon and Sás Creek Walk
- Mount Brandon Ridge Walk Loop via Pilgrimage Path and Mullach Bhéal
- Sás Creek Long Loop Walk
- Pilgrim Path to Mount Brandon
Excluding the peaks of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks Mountains near Killarney, Co. Kerry, Mount Brandon is the highest mountain in Ireland. Another interesting fact is that during WW2 between 1940 and 1943 4 planes crashed on the Brandon Range with 3 crashing in the Owennafeana / Slieveglass Valley and on Faha Ridge itself. If you are in the rocky area of the valley, keep an eye out for plane wreckage in between rocks because it's everywhere if you look. If none is found, you can always find the ruins of an old cottage where a section of a plane’s fuselage can be seen or alternatively call into the pub in Cloghane to see more wreckage.
Of the 54 on boards these planes, 24 survived. The greatest loss of life came from a civilian Sunderland BOAC Flying Boat en route from West Africa to Foynes Flying Boat Base in Limerick which planned to circle Kerry Head before landing. It crashed on the lower slopes of Mount Brandon in the Owennafeana/Slieveglass Valley. Ten of the twenty five on board were killed. A plaque, commemorating those killed can be seen on the wall of O'Connor's Bar and Guest House, Cloghane, Co. Kerry. The list of crashes include:
- 20th August 1940 a German Luftwaffe plane known as a Focke Wulf 200 ''Condor'' crash landed on Faha Ridge above Cloghane. The crew of six survived and were the first aircrew from Germany to land in Ireland during the war years and were happily imprisoned for the entire war. Imprisoned in the Curragh Internment Camp is a loose term as it is a well-known fact that the internees were allowed sign out to attend horse racing at the Curragh, to attend public dances and to visit the German Embassy. While visiting the German Embassy two German internees met their future Irish wives.
- 28th July 1943 and again on the 22nd August, 1943, two Sunderland flying boats hit the slopes of Mount Brandon killing 18 of the 36 on board the 2 planes.
- 20th December 1943 an RAF Vickers Wellington XVI with a Polish crew of 6 crashes with all 6 killed.
Use our Map of Ireland and Sat Nav tool to get directions to the start point of this walk and use our map and GPS info on our Free ActiveME App to find and follow the walking route and keep on track in conjunction with proper map and compass navigation techniques.
Weather in Ireland and especially on mountains is nothing but unpredictable so be sure to check the weather, as the top of Brandon can disappear into the clouds in seconds with visibility down to near nothing. The Met Eireann 5-Day Forecast is very handy and is unusually accurate in the short term!!! If the weather is bad, don't ever be afraid to cancel your mountain walk for something lower like the great beach walk nearby. There are plenty of other routes to suit beginners to advanced walkers in the area, so please find a route that is right for you or your group. Plan your walk by checking the weather, sunrise and sunset times and our hiking checklist on our website here. Please remember that you are only as fast as the slowest member of your group!