Cuas to Cloghane, 4th April 2008

The students are up and about, preparing to return to their university. The boys are tall, raw-boned individuals who look undergraduate age, but the girls are tiny waif-like lasses and don’t look old enough to be away from home.

Last evening the landlord promised me a clear day, and he’s delivered it, for which I’m most grateful. A walk over a mountain is to be welcomed if there’s a view to be had. In other conditions it’s just a job that has to be done.

Western end of Brandon Mountain from An Bothar pub

The scattered houses and farms of Cuas are quiet on this mild, still morning. The sense of being on the very edge of human habitation is palpable. Although at first the sea isn’t visible, the view back towards Ballyferriter includes the dramatic wave-like crests of the Three Sisters, and I’m a mere half-mile from where St Brendan the Navigator is said to have set sail on journeys that may have reached North America.

The Three Sisters and Sybil Head from Cuas

The road winds between farms and cottages, gently rising to give a first glimpse back to Smerwick Harbour. Ahead, the tarmac ends at a car park, with the dark dome of Masatiompan – doesn’t that look like a misprint? – a massive aid to navigation.

Smerwick Harbour in the distance

The end of the road, with Masatiompan just right of centre

The rough hillside suits me better than the hard road, and I’m happy plodding up the steady ascent, looking back frequently at the view which eventually reaches to Dunmore Head and the Blaskets. The Way follows the course of a military road, started by the English but never finished.

Looking down the military road towards Smerwick Harbour and the Blaskets

The last retrospective panorama…

At last, the path turns round the shoulder of Brandon Mountain and leads to a col, with Masatompian to the left. A glance behind shows mist beginning to form, and as the gradient eases a sly wind chills the sweat on my torso.

…before the mist steals the show

Suddenly I’m at the summit of the pass. An ogham stone stands guard, and far away below me the Castlegregory sand spit separates the bays of Brandon and Tralee.

The view from the highest point on the Dingle Way – Brandon Bay & Tralee Bay

Instantly I know the journey is about to end. There’s no way I’ll trudge along all that sand when there are mountains and cliffs and coves waiting for me further south. This has been a good walk but not a great one: to deserve the latter billing, the Dingle Way would need a dramatic start and a matching finish, rather than fizzling out in anticlimax. Content inside myself, I descend the wet, steep and loose slope and skip my way to the Land Rover track that leads to tarmac at Brandon village.

Having decided I won’t walk back to Tralee, there remains the question of how far I shall have to walk. Cloghane seems a likely spot, and I arrive there at two o’clock. The woman in the shop tells me that, as today is Friday, there will be a bus at three o’clock. On any other day I’d have to make other arrangements.

Brandon Mountain from the north, with the dome of Masatompian to the right

Very happy with this state of affairs, I amble along the street where I’m greeted by a voice from a cherry-picker at roof level. It’s the Eircom engineer who I met at Slea Head. He’s ready for a gossip, and I’ve got nothing to do except wait for the bus.

“Don’t worry if it doesn’t come,” he says. “I’ll be finished here in half an hour, and I can take you to Tralee.”

What a hero! It pays to form acquaintanceships.

The bus arrives. I’m the only passenger. The driver has no intention of being late into Tralee, and we fairly race along. When I dismount he asks me if I’m Scottish.

“No, I’m English. From the north of England. Yorkshire. But sometimes when I’m abroad people say I sound like Sean Connery. Can you believe that?”

He looks at me blankly and asks, “Who’s Sean Connery?”

Irish Training Centre for “Double 0” Agents (Licensed to Kill)


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