Ventry walk is steeped in history

VENTRY/ST COLMAN’S WALK, CO KERRY

FROM the Post Office, cross the R559 to a lane leading down to the sea. We reach Ventry Strand, legendary scene of the longest-lasting battle and mightiest victory of the Fianna, via a concrete walkway on our right. To the left is the Cliff of the Women, where legend says, the womenfolk of the Fianna warriors resided during the conflict.

At low tide, the beach is vast. In summer, we will find burnet and cinnabar moths in the dunes, banded snails, dune pansies and purple sea bindweed. In winter, Ringed plover, sanderlings and dunlin run along the tide line. Ventry harbour hosts a regatta, with currach races.

As the marram ends, we leave the beach via a cutting in the dunes. The sandy path becomes a narrow lane leading up to the church with the pub of the late Kerry footballer Paidi Ó Sé opposite. We set off up the long, straight road towards the mountains — the rounded bulk of Mount Eagle, ahead to the left, and the pyramid of Cruach Mhárthain to the right.

At a four-cross-roads, we turn right along a bog road, with stands of reed mace and sedge in the wet fields alongside.

Pausing at a bend in the straight road, we enjoy spectacular views across Ventry Harbour to the huge, blue hills of the Ring of Kerry. Now, for perhaps half a kilometre, we walk down an unbroken fuchsia lane.

At the junction, with a cluster of holiday cottages opposite, we turn left onto a larger road, ascending gently and come to a stone inscribed “Árd an Caisleáin” and a sign directing us left to Rathanane Castle. Although our route goes right, down the minor road opposite, the short diversion to see the castle ruins, across the fields, is worthwhile.

Seen from the lane, the ruin is stark, grey and roofless. Within the site itself, we appreciate the castle’s true dimensions, built, as it was, on a more ancient double-walled ring fort.

Returning to the main road, we cross it to take the bohreen opposite marked by a wooden Pilgrim’s Route waymark, the yellow symbol of the Celtic Cross and a wayfaring saint. We now have breathtaking views of the sea, the big Iveragh mountains and the high cliffs at the end of the peninsula, albeit seen over the sprawling caravan park on Ventry Strand.

Nine miles beyond Iveragh’s tip is Little Skellig, with the second largest gannet colony in these islands, and Skellig Michael, once the remote redoubt of saints and scholars. A Pilgrim’s Route post indicates a field below us on the right in which the outline of a large monastic settlement is still clearly seen. Here, in the settlement of Kilcolman is the site of St Colman’s grave, and a stone carved with two Coptic crosses and an ogham inscription saying “Pray for Colmán the Pilgrim”. Pilgrims following the Way of the Saints, Cosán na Naomh to the summit of Mount Brandon would have rested here.

In a wayside hamlet, a path ascending between the houses on the left continues the Pilgrim’s Route and Dingle Way, crossing the peninsula. We stay on the road, now going downhill, the Skelligs straight ahead of us.

Now, a sign carved in stone, “Mám an Óraigh” — the place of the springs — and then a quarry. Inside the gate, a track leads uphill to an impressive wedge tomb known locally as “The Munsterman’s Bed”. It may be necessary to seek landowners’ permission to visit.

As we catch sight of the caravan park and the beach, a waymark on our right directs us down a narrow track and, after passing through the ruins of a farmhouse, we reach a small road. Turning left, we walk down to the main road and about 100m further on reach the Post Office where we began.

Start point

Start point: Join the N86 from Tralee going west and at Dingle town continue west to Ventry on the R559. As we reach the town, we park near the Post Office, where we start the walk.

Time: 2 hrs 30 mins (7 km). Ventry strand and back roads, with a short stretch of field path. Sea shore and hills, legendary sites and medieval history and pre-history.

Difficulty:

Map: OS Sheet 70

*For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

Club news

Slievebloom Walking

www.slievebloomwalks.ie

Jan 13: Knockbarron Woods, Grade C, 5km, 2-3hrs, meet Kinnity Community Centre, 11am.

Jan 13: Glenlahan, Grade A, 12km, 4hrs, meet Clonaslee Community Centre, 11am. Walks are open to visitors — €5 per adult (accompanied children are free). Join our club and enjoy walks every Sunday throughout the year. Annual membership €20 adult, €30 for an entire family.

Galtee Walking Club, Tipperary www.galteewalkingclub.ie

Jan 13: Galtees, Grade A, meet King’s Yard near Wailstown, Kilbeheny, 10am.

Jan 13: Millennium Stone, Preparation for Winter Walking Festival Saturday B, Walk (2), meet Aherlow House Hotel, 10am.

Jan 13: Ballinacourty Loop, Preparation for Winter Walking Festival Saturday C Walk, meet Aherlow House Hotel, 11am New members welcome. First two walks free of charge with no obligation. Annual membership €40 adult, €30 student, €10 under 18s.

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