Coomcallee is Waterville’s stunning backdrop

Coomcallee is the iconic mountain that towers over Lough Currane behind quaint Waterville. Ever since moving down to this area I’ve been wanting to check it out. And, since the last time I posted about a hike on my blog dates back to October, it was about time. Coommcallee is part of the Dunkerron mountain range, and its north side links up to other iconic Kerry mountains such as Knocknagantee, Finnararagh and eventually Mullaghanattin, via uninterrupted uplands void of signs of human habitation.

Lough Currane from Coomcallee
Lough Currane from Coomcallee

I more or less followed a route I found on mountainviews.ie that loops via An Bhinn Láir, Slievenashaska, Coomnahorna, Coomcallee and lastly An Bheann Mhór (Coomcallee’s western top). It takes in the stunning remote landscape of the upper lands between these hills with its massive boulders, countless lakes and peat hags. You can download a GPX file of my hike here.

The little footbridge between Loughs Namona and Cloonaghlin.
The little footbridge between Loughs Namona and Cloonaghlin.

I started off at from a little road near Lough Iskanamacteery and headed north towards An Bhinn Láir via the narrow strip of land between the lakes Namona and Cloonaghlin, where a cool little stepping stone/bridge construction help cross a stream. The mountain An Bhinn Láir sits between Cloonaghlin and Derriana Loughs, and from there you have free access to the Dunkerron range’s rough tableland. The eastern side of Cloonaghlin Lough stood out particularly as a stunning yet odd valley filled with rocks protruding out of the ground, squeezed in between tall hills on three sides.

The odd landscape east of Cloonaghlin
The odd landscape east of Cloonaghlin

The February sun did its best today and the views are truly unreal from these hills. It was quite a hazy day already but the recent dry weather meant most of Kerry’s hill farmers were busy trying to burn the gorse of the hillsides. This is a controversial practice for many reasons, but completely legal until the first of March, after which it is no longer permitted as to allow wildlife to nest and breed. I counted as many as 25 plumes of smoke at one time, adding to the haze. I am aware of the necessity for hill farmers of controlling and destroying unwanted vegetation. Plus, without it for me as a hill walker things would certainly become more difficult in places. I am also informed that EU regulations call for smaller flock sizes than before thus exacerbating the need for the burning of gorse, as there isn’t enough grazing being done. And still, I wonder about the sustainability of this behaviour in a time of global warming and loss of biodiversity.

A hazy day in the Dunkerrons
A hazy day in the Dunkerrons

All in all this was a very demanding but also very satisfying hike through an area where the scars of the ice-age seem fresher than elsewhere. The tableland of the Dunkerrons make for a stunning setting of remoteness and there is lots more here for me to discover. To be continued!

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