Driving Directions to Trail Head: From Kenmare, take the N71 towards Glengarriff for 14.5 km/9 miles. Park just beyond Molly Gallivan’s Visitor Centre on the right.
From Glengarriff, take the N71 towards Kenmare for 14.5 km/9 miles. Park just before Molly Gallivan’s Visitor Centre on the left.
Duration: 4-5 hours
Distance: 12km looped
Terrain: Laneways, Cross Country, Hill side
Difficulty: Hard, footing can be soft on hill surface.
Safety Tips: Bring suitable hiking boots, raingear, water, snack and fully-charged mobile phone. Please be aware of daylight hours and duration of journey. Mountains prone to foggy conditions.
Emergency: In the event of an accident, getting lost, or caught up in fog cloud dial 112 or 999.
Important: This walk is developed by the local community and the kind permission of the land owners. Please stay on marked route and use stile as provided. If for some reason you need to use gates please make sure you close and secure them afterwards. No dogs allowed and please do not litter.
Please Note: Follow the purple markings on the yellow walking poles. Information board available near parking.
PDF Download: Cailleach Beara Loop Walk
From the trail head follow the purple arrows through the gate at the left of the information board. Please note the blue and green arrows are for the shorter looped walks.
As your walk begins through part of Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Farm, take note of the following points of interest:
About 7000 years ago Ireland was thickly forested across most of the entire country; even highland areas were forested. During the Neolithic Age, the first farmers began to clear the trees and establish farms and settlements. As the Climate became wetter, the soil of these treeless areas became more acidic. Heathers, rushes, and other plants grew in this soil, but their debris did not completely decompose in waterlogged areas and a layer of peat began to build up. This is how peat bogs were formed. In the spring, the wet peat is cut from the bog and laid on the ground to dry out. It is then stacked into stooks so the wind and sun can dry it completely ready for burning. Turf provides good firing and distinctive aroma.
This house ruin is the remains of a typical family dwelling of the early 1800’s. Cottages like this were home to as many as twelve family members who lived in extreme poverty as they tried to make a living from their few acres of land. Potatoes were the staple diet of the time, along with pork from the pig and eggs from the fowl.
Neolithic Stone Row
A Stone Row consists of two or more standing stones and is manually arranged in a straight line. They are generally orientated in a north-east/south-west direction and are sometimes found to align with sunrise or sun-set positions on the summer and winter solstice.
Here a stone row, dating from the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC), form an ancient sun calendar and may also have been a place of ritual. See information sign for more details.
Take Note: Before you go over the green stile, have a look at the beautiful Caha Mountains to the west and also the tunnels which go through the mountain on the N71. Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Farm ends here. Carry on over the green stile going right, descending down the hillside which brings you to the main road. As you descend, you have a wonderful view of the Sheen Valley.
Take care crossing the mainroad. Turn left at the main road and then immediately right follow the purple marker which descends along a farm roadway. You will reach an iron bridge over Esk Stream. The Esk stream is a tributary which joins the Sheen River.
The Iron Bridge
This bridge was built many years ago for local children so they could cross the river to and from school.
Cross the bridge, turn right and follow the laneway which joins a surfaced roadway. All three looped walks turn right here. At this point, the loops joins with the Beara Way – a long distance walking route around the Beara Peninsula, and marked with the familiar yellow arrows and walking man. Continue along this road, turning left at the second Y-junction,following the purple markers.
Continue along this roadway until you reach a gate and stile on your right. Continue over the stile, and keep walking to the top of the ridge.
(A) The Old Bridle Path to Glengarriff
This pathway was once the main road or ‘bridal path’ from Kenmare to Glengarriff, West Cork. This was used mainly by horse and cart saddle back.Follow the pathway up the mountain using the provided stile on the way. Roughly three quartersup your climb, you will come across a Mass Rock (This is marked with a white pole).
(B) Mass Rock “The Altoir”
This rock was used as an altar for the celebrating of mass during penal times when the Catholic religion was outlawed in Ireland from here you have a wonderful view of the Sheen Valley.
Continue along the pathway towards the summit, just before the top, take note of the markers to turn right off the pathway. This is where the walk and The Beara Way splits.
Continue following the marking poles up the mountain side. To your right, you will have a magnificent view of South Kerry, including the Macgillicuddy Reeks with its highest peak,Carrantuohill(the highest mountain in Ireland).
To the left, you have a view out over West Cork, including Bantry Bay, Glengarriff Harbour also Whiddy and Garnish Island. You’re also looking down on part of the N71 main road that links West Cork and South Kerry; this road was built in the 1830s to replace the Old Bridle Path.
If you turn around, and look back to the summit of the nearby mountain, you will see the remains of a Stone Cairn dating from the late Stone Age to Early Bronze age. The mountain is called Barra Buí,named after the ancient goddess, Cailleach Beara or CailleachBuí,whom the Beara Peninsula is named after.
Follow the markings which run close to the fence continue until you come to a stile leading over this fence, which takes you off the main walk, about 100 metres to a very unique Bronze Age Copper Mine.
(C) Bronze Age Copper Mine(2500-1500 B.C.)
Here on the south side of the Esk Mountain, this very unique copper mine which is roughly 5 meters wide, 10 meters deep and divides into 2 smaller shafts at the rear. To extract the copper ore, the miners lit a fire against the rock’s surface; this expanded and loosened the rock. A stone cobbled hammer was then used to break the fractured stone; the copper ore was then smelted with tin to produce bronze. This is one of a small number of Bronze Age copper mines to be found in North Western Europe and probably one of the oldest.
This area is part of The Ewe Nature Reserve and is open courtesy of The Ewe Experience Gardens.
Please stay within the fence – for your own safety and to preserve this unique monument.
Returning back to the loop, turn left over the stile. Continue to follow the markers close to the fence.
At Pole 22, to the right catch a small glimpse of Kenmare Bay; and Bantry Bay to the left.
As you continue to descend down the mountainside Barley Lake is visible to the left. Nestled in the Caha Mountains,this lake was formed during the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. To theright you can see the N71 going across and its 4 hand-cut tunnels.
After Pole 34, please take caution as you descend down the rocks– use the support poles and climb down slowly.
To the left, by the roadway, go to the white marker. Here, you have good view of one of the tunnels.
These tunnels were hand-cut in the 1830s during the construction of the road. This gave much needed employment to many local people at a time of great poverty and hardship. This tunnel is 200 metres long, and is the longest of the four. It also marks the boundary between counties Cork and Kerry. These tunnels were widened during the upgrading of the route during the 1930’s, once again providing much needed employment to the area.
From the white marker, continue down the valley. At pole 35, there is a good view of one of the key walls, which was constructed to support the road.
Continue down into the Esk Valley, following the markers until we come to the next stile. In front of you, are the ruins of a cottage and field systems used for farming. Again, another fine example of living conditions during famine times. (See page X)The outline of the potato ridges or ‘lazy beds’ as they are called, are visible in some of the fields here.
Continue along the pathway through the valley. This area was once famous for its peat or ‘turf’ bogs. These bogs stretchingalong the valley,have been used for hundreds of years by local people for the harvesting of peat, locally known as ‘turf’ for fire fuel. During World War II,when coal was very scarce, over 100 local peoplewere employed by the government in these bogs for the export of peat to the citiesand to powersteam trains.
Continue to follow the markers, going over two stiles. After second stile,turn rightalong a minor road for 300 metres. Here the walk joins the Blue (FionnMacCool) Loop. Continue left along the road, passing some ancient field systems (marked with a white pole).
(E) Field system & Peat Bog
To your left, there is a fine example of an ancient field system.The field system dates back thousands of years, constructed by the first farming settlers in the valley.
Due to climate changeabout 4-5000 years ago, peat lands began to grow, eventually concealing the walls and field systems.When this bog was cut out by the local farmer, the field system was exposed.
Follow the road for 500m to cross Esk Stream at a concrete bridge and onward for another 500m to a T-junction with the main road. Turn right, being aware of traffic for the last 200m back to the starting point at Molly Gallivan’s Cottage.