Monthly Archives: January 2015

Beamsley Beacon and Round Hill 18.01.15

Strangely enough, despite having lived in Otley for almost two years, I had never climbed Beamsley Beacon or Round Hill, even though I must have been able to see the latter almost every day.  Indeed, Round Hill must be as close to home as Ilkley Moor, yet I have walked on Ilkley Moor countless times.  Keen to remedy this omission, and looking forward to seeing the renowned views from Beamsley Beacon at last, we planned a route that would take us up to it from Bolton Abbey, along the ridge to Round Hill, and down to Ilkley for the bus home.  Although fairly modest in terms of distance (around 10 miles), we thought it would be enough for a short January day, particularly as we were expecting to find snow underfoot.  The weather forecast promised a largely bright and sunny day, but that turned out to be somewhat overly-optimistic…

Alighting from the bus at Bolton Abbey, we made our way across the river (using the bridge rather than the submerged stepping stones), and up the bridleway to Storiths.  Just as we reached the higher level path on the eastern side of the river, the snow began to fall, which did at least provide an atmospheric view down to the priory.

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Looking down to Bolton Priory and the Wharfe from the high-level path on the eastern side of the river

Undaunted, we made our way to Storiths and followed a pleasant field path across to the A59, before dropping down to Deerstones and ascending towards Beamsley Beacon from there.  Despite the snow, the paths were surprisingly easy to follow.

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Snow-covered pastures near Storiths

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Looking up to Beamsley Beacon from near Ling Chapel Farm

On beginning the climb along the ridge to the beacon, we were very quickly enveloped in mist, but as the ridge line is fairly rocky, it wasn’t hard to follow.  It didn’t take long at all to reach the trig point, but there was no view – in fact by this time we were in near whiteout conditions.

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Heading along the ridge

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At the trig point with the beacon site behind

Beyond Beamsley Beacon, I had my doubts as to whether or not we should continue, as visibility was very poor.  However, the path was just about visible as a depression in the snow, and my compass bearings confirmed that this was taking us towards Round Hill, so we decided to give it a go.  It was actually very atmospheric and enjoyable, and proof (if any were needed) that you don’t need to go to the Lakes or the Highlands to find challenging navigation (although the consequences of getting lost in a whiteout there would of course be much more serious.)

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The onward path to Round Hill

Shortly after passing the trig point, we reached the actual summit of Beamsley Beacon (1312 ft), which is named ‘The Old Pike’ on the map, but doesn’t seem to be marked on the ground in any way.  Beyond here, the terrain became much more featureless, with only the occasional boundary stone to act as a marker, including one set into a natural boulder, named by the OS as the ‘Grey Stone.’  Shortly after this, we reached the wall running across the top of Round Hill.

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The wall near the summit of Round Hill

The summit of Round Hill (1342 ft) came as something of a disappointment really, as it is marked only by a very small cairn and is really only a slightly higher mound on a moorland plateau.  It’s certainly much less distinctive than Beamsley Beacon, even though the latter is only a subsidiary top of Round Hill.  I can’t say what it is like as a viewpoint, as we could only see mist and snow.

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On the summit of Round Hill

The descent from Round Hill was pretty straightforward, initially following a wall, before joining a shooting track and then a lane down into the town.  On the way down, we passed through Middleton Woods, which it would be good to explore on another occasion.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable walk, despite the weather.  Although we were disappointed not to have seen the views from Beamsley Beacon, the day was made memorable by the winter conditions and interesting navigation.  I will now have to go back and do this walk on a day of bright sunshine a blue skies!

All photos by Georgina Collins.

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Middleton Fell 31.08.14

The last day of August saw me finally getting around to Middleton Fell.  I’ve been meaning to climb it for years, but somehow never yet managed it.  You could be forgiven for never having heard of Middleton Fell.  It features on few walkers’ radars, which I suspect is largely attributable to two factors – firstly, its failure (by two feet!) to reach 2000 feet, and secondly, its failure (by a similar margin, as it happens) to gain inclusion in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – the boundary wall runs right next to the summit trig!  Happily, this omission, which is due to the fact that the same wall also forms the boundary between Yorkshire and Westmorland, may be rectified later this year.

It was a perfect walking morning when I left Barbon – warm (but not too warm), a gentle breeze blowing, and good visibility.  The first section of the route, through the fields, is none too obvious (a foretaste of things to come on the return route), but once above the intake wall, navigation couldn’t be simpler.  The initial stages of the ascent are very steep, but with fine retrospective views (unfortunately marred, though not ruined, by a recently-built wind farm) towards the Lakeland fells.

Fine retrospective views; Hutton Roof Crags on the horizon

Fine retrospective views; Hutton Roof Crags on the horizon

As I climbed, I noticed that the rock was not the millstone grit typically found in the higher parts of the Dales, but appeared to be more slate-like, like the Howgills immediately to the north.  Indeed, the whole character of the fell is more akin to the Howgills than the rest of the Dales.  On reaching Eskholme Pike, the gradient eases considerably, and a reasonable path develops.  This leads in time to Middleton Fell’s only subsidiary top, Castle Knott (1765 ft).

North along the ridge from Castle Knott's summit cairn

North along the ridge from Castle Knott’s summit cairn

Casterton Fell from Castle Knott

Casterton Fell from Castle Knott

The col below Castle Knott is rather boggy, but as there had been little rain recently, was not too difficult to negotiate.  The slopes beyond, which lead up to the summit of the fell, had a patchy covering of heather in full bloom, which made a pleasing contrast to the uniformly grassy nature of Castle Knott.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I reached the summit, which is also known as Calf Top (1998 ft).  This is an excellent viewpoint, with the Howgills, Dentdale, and the Lakeland fells being particularly well seen.  In fact, the Lake District is sufficiently close that it is possible to pick out individual fells: I managed to identify Black Combe, Great Gable, the Langdale Pikes, Ill Bell and several others.

The Howgills from the summit trig

The Howgills from the summit trig

They don't really show up very well at all in this picture, but there is a superb view to the Lakeland fells from the summit

They don’t really show up very well at all in this picture, but there is a superb view to the Lakeland fells from the summit

Around a mile beyond the summit, a stile to the right allows access to Combe Scar, which is a particularly fine viewpoint for Dentdale.  From here, I heard a pair of buzzards calling to one another, and watched as they were chased by crows.  Unfortunately, they were too far away to photograph.

Upper Dentdale from Combe Scar

Upper Dentdale from Combe Scar

Lower Dentdale and the Howgills from Combe Scar

Lower Dentdale and the Howgills from Combe Scar

Returning to the ridge path via a second stile, I continued westwards, accompanied all the way by little flocks of wheatear, as indeed I had been for much of the day.  The main path starts to descend after a mile or so, but I stayed with the ridge as far as the trig point on Holme Knott.

More Lakeland views on the ridge to Holme Knott

More Lakeland views on the ridge to Holme Knott

Here a met a couple of gents who had walked up from Sedbergh, bringing the total number of other walkers met to five!  Proof if any were needed that it is possible to escape the crowds, even on sunny Sundays in August.  From here I dropped straight down to Middleton, passing Fellside farm en route.  A narrow strip of Access Land continues right down to the A683, and at one point the route passes through a lovely area of devil’s-bit scabious, where a red admiral posed beautifully for me, though not for long enough for me to photograph it!

Wildflower meadow seen in descent

Wildflower meadow seen in descent

I had hoped that it might be possible to follow the old railway line back to Barbon.  This is the old Clapham to Low Gill route, which briefly formed part of the Midland Railway’s main line to Scotland, prior to the construction of the Settle to Carlisle line.  However, there was no sign that access is available, and I was instead left to follow a succession of field paths, which though pleasant enough, certainly don’t compare to the heights above.  They are obviously not very well-used either, and although they are perfectly passable, it is necessary to refer to the map constantly.  Incidentally, at Low Wood Farm, there is an information board giving details of a permissive path up on to the fell via Brow Gill.  What a shame this isn’t marked on the map.

Castle Knott, seen from the field path near Ullathorns

Castle Knott, seen from the field path near Ullathorns

Millhouse Beck, the prettiest point on the return route

Millhouse Beck, the prettiest point on the return route

I eventually arrived back at Barbon around seven hours after I had left, and having enjoyed the walk immensely.  Middleton Fell richly deserves to be better known, and certainly merits inclusion in the National Park.  If I had to pick out the highlight of the walk, I would say without hesitation that it is the views, particularly towards the Lake District.

Spaunton Moor 27.08.14

Having a week off work towards the end of August, we decided to take the opportunity of a fine sunny day for a leisurely walk on the North York Moors, the main purpose of which was to enjoy the wide expanses of heather in full bloom, for which the area is famed at this time of year.  Leaving Hutton-le-Hole, a beautiful village on the very edge of the moor, we headed up across Hutton Ridge, being treated to sweeping views of swathes of purple and pink, as well as more distant panoramas towards the Hambleton Hills.

The heather in full bloom (photo by Georgina Collins)

The heather in full bloom (photo by Georgina Collins)

A succession of moorland paths and shooting tracks led us in time to the Rosedale road, and from here we struck off across the open moorland towards Ana Cross.  En route to the cross, we encountered the first of only two boggy sections on the whole walk, but there was no real difficulty, and it was certainly preferable to the alternative road walk.

Beyond the cross, further pleasant paths lead down towards Rosedale, and stunning views of this beautiful valley open up as you descend.

Looking towards the head of Rosedale

Looking towards the head of Rosedale

We’d actually used this path a couple of years previously, during a walk along the old railway line that encircles the head of Rosedale, and it was a pleasure to renew acquaintance with the area.  This time though, our route took us away from the valley, and along a bridleway skirting the bottom of the moor.  Along the way, we saw a sadly dead small copper lying in the middle of the path, with a chunk missing from its wing.  Whether this was a cause or consequence of its demise, I couldn’t say.

The deceased small copper

The deceased small copper

The path also passes the site of an Elizabethan glass furnace, which was excavated in 1960s, and the remains of which we later saw in the Ryedale Folk Museum.

Shortly before the bridleway joins the road to Lastingham, a path heads rightwards, up across a shoulder of the moor.  This path crosses a couple of attractive becks, although another short boggy section is encountered.  This has been repaired in the past, but the flagstones have themselves sunk several inches into the bog now!  The path eventually re-joins the road to Hutton-le-Hole, but an escape can be made onto a field path to avoid the final half mile or so.

Tranmire Beck

Tranmire Beck

Hole Beck

Hole Beck

All in all, a very enjoyable and tranquil walk; we certainly saw it at its best.

Derwent Island 15-17.08.14

Having always loved islands, I was thrilled when I discovered that the weekend task on the National Trust’s Borrowdale estate that I had organised for the West Yorkshire National Trust Volunteers, was to consist of rhododendron bashing on Derwent Island.  This is the largest of the islands in Derwentwater, and although it is owned by the National Trust, is tenanted and is therefore only open to the public on five days per year.  We were to be even more fortunate in that we would be working on days when the island was not open to the public, and would therefore have it to ourselves (apart from the tenants).  I was also eager to try out Castlerigg Farm campsite, and made plans to make this my base for the weekend.

Leaving Yorkshire in pouring rain, I was more than a little apprehensive, and rather sceptical about the Met Office’s promise that the sun would be shining on Keswick.  I need not have worried.  As I approached the Lakes, the weather rapidly improved, and I was able to admire the glorious views from the site while pitching my tent.  I think many people must have been put off by poor weather elsewhere in the country (or the poor forecast for Saturday night – more on that later), as the site was less than half full, and remained so for the whole weekend.

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Skiddaw, seen from the campsite

Saturday morning dawned dry, though overcast.  After a very welcome breakfast in the on-site café, we made our way down to the lake, where the tenant collected us in a boat from their private landing stage.

Derwent Island from the slipway

Derwent Island from the slipway

On landing on the island, we were given a guided tour by the National Trust ranger.  As would be expected, the views are stunning, and the island gives a unique perspective to Catbells and the Newlands fells in particular.

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The view down Derwentwater and Borrowdale

Catbells and the Newlands fells from the terrace

Catbells and the Newlands fells from the terrace

After our tour, we set about clearing and burning rhododendron with gusto.  For those who don’t know, rhododendron ponticum is now a controlled plant, as it is non-native and highly invasive, having originally been introduced by the Victorians, along with several other undesirable species, including Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed.  It supports few insect species, and consequently few bird species, and grows so densely that little else can grow in areas where it is present.  It is therefore now regarded as something of a pest.

After lunch, we were given a guided tour of the show rooms of the house by the present tenants, an unexpected treat.  It is certainly well worth a visit for anybody who happens to be in the area at the time of the open days.

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Photo by Stuart Dalby

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Photo by Stuart Dalby

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Photo by Stuart Dalby

As we were leaving the island, the rain, which had held off for much of the day, finally started to fall in earnest.  This set the tone for the rest of the evening.  It was indeed a wild and windy night on the campsite, and in spite of the exertions of the day, I struggled to get more than a few hours’ sleep.  It was almost a relief when the time came to take the tent down, although the night had been strangely exhilarating, even if it had occasioned me some anxiety!  The rain continued on and off for much of the morning, although it was broken up with periods of warm sunshine too.

By lunchtime on Sunday, we had almost cleared all but a few yards of the rhododendron that we had been tasked with removing.  Unfortunately, despite much coaxing, the fire was struggling to get going, largely due to the dampness of the material.  We therefore had to leave the task unfinished.  Nevertheless, it was impossible to be disappointed after having such privileged access to the island.  I was certainly very pleased when the ranger told me that we would be returning to Derwent Island next year!

A Week in Connemara

After having spent a superb week in Kerry (see ‘A Week in County Kerry’), our expectations for Connemara were high.  We were not to be disappointed, despite the fact that Georgina’s back injury from our Mangerton outing prevented us from doing any serious walking in the Twelve Bens.  Thankfully, it didn’t prevent us enjoying some very varied and hugely enjoyable outings into the foothills of the range, and the coastline and islands of the area.

Connemara National Park seemed a logical starting place for our first day, particularly since Diamond Hill (1450 ft), which stands in the centre of the park, is renowned as a stunning viewpoint for the area.  Having a full day to spend, we had ample time to explore all of the trails laid out in the park, though the ascent of Diamond Hill was undoubtedly the highlight.  A circular path has been constructed up and over the mountain, and it is obviously very popular.  On reaching the summit, it was not hard to see why, the views being superb in all directions.  The wild and rugged nature of the Connemara landscape is very well seen, with the quartzite rock of Twelve Bens glittering beautifully in the sunlight.

The coast and Tully Mountain (right) from the slopes of Diamond Hill

The coast and Tully Mountain (right) from the slopes of Diamond Hill

Being island lovers, we were keen to make the trip over to the Aran Islands, and made the largest of these, Inishmore, our destination for the second day.  The day was bright and sunny; perfect conditions for enjoying the fabulous limestone scenery.  Although like Connemara, the islands are part of County Galway, their geological affinity is with the Burren and Cliffs of Moher of County Clare, being largely covered with limestone pavement and mile upon mile of gleaming dry stone walls.  The island is too large to walk the entire coastline in one day, so we made a loop of the central parts, using sections of the Inishmore Way.  The highlight of the route is undoubtedly Dun Aonghasa, a hill fort perched spectacularly atop undercut cliffs.  In fact, we spent rather too long here, and only made it back to the ferry with minutes to spare!  It is possible to traverse the entire southern coastline of the island, a walk of about 15 miles, and this will definitely feature in the itinerary for a future visit to the islands.

Typical Inishmore scenery - limestone pavement and dry stone walls.  Dun Aonghasa is on the left hrizon.

Typical Inishmore scenery – limestone pavement and dry stone walls. Dun Aonghasa is on the left hrizon.

A work colleague had told us that Dogs Bay near Roundstone, should not be missed, and so we planned a route that would take us over the rugged little hill of Errisbeg (984 ft), with a return loop around the Gorteen peninsular, on the western side of which Dogs Bay lies.  The view from the summit of Errisbeg is very extensive, with the lochan-dappled expanse of Roundstone Bog, backed by the white-flecked Twelve Bens being particularly impressive.

Roundstone Bog with the Twelve Bens behind

Roundstone Bog with the Twelve Bens behind

The Gorteen Peninsular, seen from the summit of Errisbeg

The Gorteen Peninsular, seen from the summit of Errisbeg

Dogs Bay was every bit as good as we were promised, with a beach of gleaming white sand – apparently of very rare composition, being formed almost completely from the shells of single-celled foraminifera – and it was even warm enough for paddling!

Paddling in Dogs Bay

Paddling in Dogs Bay

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Errisbeg seen behind Gorteen Bay

Tully Mountain (1168 ft) formed the objective for our penultimate walk.  This is another isolated coastal peak, offering superb views both out to sea and inland to the Twelve Bens.  The ascent of the west ridge passes a series of intriguing stone turf stacks, and offers excellent retrospective views.  The ridge itself is a pleasing succession of knolls and the occasional lochan, but unfortunately the mist descended shortly before we reached the summit trig, and so we were denied a view from there.

For our final day, we decided to head out to Inishbofin, as the weather forecast suggested that low cloud would shroud the hills of the mainland for much of the day.  We chose well, as the island was bathed in warm sunshine, which allowed us stunning views across a wide sweep of the mainland, with Croagh Patrick standing out to the north east.  The only drawback is that the morning ferry doesn’t leave until 11.30, and so you really only have half a day on the island.  Leaving the village, we first made for Port Island, a tidal islet, on which stands the fascinating ruin of a Cromwellian barracks, which made a perfect lunch spot.

Looking back to Port Island and Cromwell's barracks

Looking back to Port Island and Cromwell’s barracks

Leaving the barracks behind, I continued along the rugged coastline, which despite never being more than a mile from the village or the road, feels truly remote.  Passing the stunning Uaimh na bhFiach, home to a noisy seabird colony, I briefly left the coastline and headed up to the summit of Knock (266 ft), which gives a bird’s eye view of the whole island as well as superb panoramas of neighbouring islands and the mountains of the mainland.

The wild coastline of Inishbofin, with the Twelve Bens and Mweelrea in the background

The wild coastline of Inishbofin, with the Twelve Bens and Mweelrea in the background

Returning to the coastline, I continued past Wrack Cove to Dumhach Beach, a gorgeous expanse of white sand.

Dumhach Beach

Dumhach Beach

Here I had to leave the coastline to return to the village via the quiet lanes.  Just above the beach stands a ruined chapel, built by St Colman, who left Lindisfarne for a new life here, after he disagreed with the church about the dating of Easter, following the Synod of Whitby.  He was obviously a man of excellent taste, at least in terms of choosing places to live!

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All too soon I was back in the village to await the return ferry.  Nevertheless, any sadness that our holiday was at an end was more than compensated for by the beauty and peace that we had experienced on this magical island.

A week in County Kerry

After our arrival in Killarney was heralded by incessant rain, things rapidly improved for our first morning.  The mountains that had been invisible the previous night provided beautiful views from our B&B, and being without transport for the day, we resolved to walk from the town along the Kerry Way and into the National Park.  Our route took us along the shores of Lough Leane, and after a lunch break at Muckross House, we decided to climb Torc Mountain for its stunning views across the lakes and the National Park.The previous night’s rain had certainly made Torc Waterfall an impressive sight.

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Torc Waterfall

Above the waterfall, the Kerry Way rapidly heads into much wilder country, with the slopes of Mangerton looming large to the east.  Near the head of the Old Kenmare Road, a well-made footpath heads up to the summit of Torc Mountain (1755ft), a stunning viewpoint.

View towards the Upper Lake

View towards the Upper Lake

View of Lough Leane and Muckross Lake

View of Lough Leane and Muckross Lake

View to the east

View to the east

Having a hire car from our second day, we were keen to explore more of Kerry, and so decided to make a trip to Valentia Island for a walk around Bray Head (the end of the Irish Coast to Coast Walk), and a possible trip out to the World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael.  Unfortunately, we were later to discover that the boats out to Skellig Michael hadn’t started running, and in any case, it was probably too windy.  Nevertheless, we did have some magnificent views of the Skelligs.

Skellig Michael (right) and Little Skellig (left)

Skellig Michael (right) and Little Skellig (left)

A National Looped Walk has recently been created around Bray Head, and this certainly made navigation easy.  In fact, it made navigation a little too easy, as we ended up returning to the start somewhat earlier than intended, missing out some of the coastline that we had originally intended to traverse.  Nevertheless, it is a magnificent walk, with stunning views throughout.

The north coast of Valentia, Dingle peninsula to the left

The north coast of Valentia, Dingle peninsula to the left

Vie back to the mainland from the path across the top of the headland

View back to the mainland from the path across the top of the headland

The following day saw us return to the mountains, for an ascent of Mangerton (2753ft), the western slopes of which form the eastern edge of Killarney National Park.  The initial ascent was a little dull perhaps, but quick and easy, and the surroundings rapidly become more interesting as height is gained.

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Lunch stop at the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Just as things were becoming exciting, the mist and rain descended, and our traverse around the rim of the corrie was largely without a view.  For this reason, we decided not to visit the actual summit of the mountain, as it stands in a Kinder-esque world of peat hags and groughs, around half a mile from the path on the corrie edge.

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The closest we came to the summit – the weather had deteriorated somewhat!

Fortunately, these conditions didn’t last long, and cleared in time to give the anticipated spectacular views down into the Horses Glen with its string of paternoster lakes.

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Looking back to the Devil’s Punch Bowl (left), with Lough Leane in the background

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Peering down into the Horses Glen, with Stoompa to the right

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Ascending the rugged slopes of Stoompa

The final summit of the horseshoe is Stoompa (2313ft).  Our descent route took us across heathery ground to the outflow of Lough Garagarry, where guidebooks had assured us a footbridge crossed the Owgariff River.  However, it appears that floods have washed this away, and we found the river too wide and swift to cross in safety, especially after Georgina slipped and hurt her back during one abortive attempt.  We were therefore forced to follow it down to a farm track marked on the map, which then necessitated a four mile road walk back to the start of the walk.

Of course, we couldn’t have visited Kerry without making a trip out to the stunning Dingle Peninsula.  As Georgina’s back injury ruled out an ascent of Mount Brandon, our initial choice, we decided on the more modest plan of a trip out to The Great Blasket.  In this too, we were to be thwarted, the weather being foul until into the afternoon, and there being no sign of any boats making the voyage.  After a visit to the fascinating heritage centre, we followed the Siuloid na Cille National Looped Walk, which though only short, gives superb views of the Blaskets and of Dingle’s northern coastline.

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The Great Blasket

 

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Choughs along the coastal path

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The Three Sisters and Dingle’s northern coastline

Our final day in Killarney saw us making the trip up the Gap of Dunloe (on foot of course!)  Although the road through the Gap is surfaced, motor vehicles are actively discouraged, and you are likely to meet far more walkers and jaunting cars (horse-drawn carts).  The scenery is wild and rugged throughout, and very reminiscent of a Highland glen.

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Gap of Dunloe

A superb continuation from the top of the pass would take in Purple Mountain, which would allow a full circuit to be made.  However, we returned via the outward route, allowing us time to explore the oak and yew woodlands of the National Park, which are thought to be the most extensive in western Europe.

100_0262  All photographs by Georgina Collins.