Mount Brandon in Ireland is one of my favourite travel memories. This was not a feat we attempted with children and I don’t recommend taking your kids until they are pre-teens. Even then, they have to be up for a challenge. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and will be on the Dingle Peninsula, you will see the group of mountains in the Unnamed Range (sometimes referred to as the Brandon Group). Mount Brandon is the tallest of these and in fact, is the ninth tallest mountain in all of Ireland. If you get any enjoyment out of hiking and climbing, you’ll want to consider tackling Mount Brandon.
Some Quick-Facts About The Mountain:
- At 3123 ft, it is the tallest mountain outside of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
- Two main hiking routes available.
- Stone remnants of what is believed to be the Oratory of Saint Brendan are found at the peak
- Named for Saint Brendan
- Site of yearly pilgrimage by Irish Catholics
- Many aircraft accidents here during WWII
The Saints Road Pilgrimage Path
I have no experience with the Faha route, so from hereon out, I will be referencing the Saints Road. This is the route that we climbed. It begins at the Baile Breac carpark just outside of Dingle. When you arrive, you will know you are in the right place if you see a large shrine near the end of the carpark. As you head towards the top you will notice small white posts marking your path, as well as a number of large crosses surrounded by stone piles. The way is well marked and easy to follow. As you climb, chances are you won’t be bombarded with other hikers. The mountain is generally not high in traffic, and even on days that are more full, everyone climbs at their own pace and tend to become very spread out.
I can only speak from personal experience, which I will describe. General internet consensus seems to rate the mountain in the “moderate to difficult” range.
The difficulty you experience will be based on your own fitness level and climbing ability. Eric is fit. I was calling him The Terminator because he seemed to experience no difficulty, loss of breath or exhaustion. He classed this climb as “moderate”. (this may have been in part because he got so many breaks while waiting for me to catch up haha).
I am less fit. I found the climb to be extremely difficult. After half an hour Eric was asking me if I wanted to quit (but I’m too stubborn for that). The steep incline the whole way is what made it so exhausting. That being said, if I can do it, I’m pretty sure almost anyone (without medical concerns) willing to put in time and effort can also do it!
What You Will Experience
- Approximately a 4 hour climb round trip
- Estimated 3.8 km hike up (elevation rise of 2,563 ft, using the Map My Run program)
- Steep paths 90% of the way (no walls/rock face climb)
- Combination of grassy and rocky terrain
- Strong winds at the peak
- No protection from the elements (no trees etc)
What You Will See
- Painted sheep climbing and grazing nearby
- Birds eye view of the town of Dingle and Dingle Harbour
- While climbing, see the Atlantic ocean in two directions (3 from the top!)
- Even on sunny days, chances are you will climb through a layer of cloud
- Incredible views of surrounding mountain range
- Man-built stone walls all the way to some of the peaks (an incredible feat!)
- Stone remains of Saint Brendan’s Oratory.
What You Should Bring
- Most importantly, good hiking boots
- Small, comfortable backpack for:
- Lots of water
- Jacket (hot days can still be quite chilly at the peak)
- Camera (you will definitely want pictures of the view)
- Snack or packed lunch
- Small first aid kit (bandages for blisters or cuts if you fall on the rocks)
- Aside from this list, try and pack light. Take only essentials. You want to be comfortable.
Below photo album: Finding Mount Brandon
Click photos to enlarge
Finding Mount Brandon:
Mount Brandon is on the Dingle Peninsula, just a 15 minute drive West from the town of Dingle. From Dingle, follow the harbour road west through the first roundabout and continue following the R459. Eventually on your right, you will see a minor road with a sign for Mount Brandon, which leads you to Baile Breac carpark. This is the beginning of The Saints Road route. I climbed using this route.
Mount Brandon can also be reached from the town of Cloghane. This is the Faha route. From town follow Church road to the northwest and take your first left after passing Mount Brandon Lodge (road name is unmarked, which is common in Ireland). At a T-intersection take a left. At the end of this road you will find the Faha carpark. Try looking at your turns on Google streetview to help you get comfortable with your route.
All things considered, Mount Brandon is an amazing, FREE activity that will leave its impressive imprint on your travel memories. Add this to your list of must-do hikes. If you are a beginner, the challenge will leave you feeling accomplished and capable. You will walk away from this experience with memories you will never lose and a huge feeling of satisfaction.
Let us know your thoughts in comments! Have you been to Mount Brandon? Is it on your list? We want to hear from you!
Thinking of taking your kids to Ireland? Read our 10 Benefits of Traveling with Kids
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