Kissed by the clouds under Hungry Hill, one more valley and another, a treat for the feet and a humongous ice-cream.
Leaving Hungry Hill Lodge early on a damp morning, I dodge the spray from the trucks thundering along the main road before turning up a quiet lane at Reen Bridge. The route is not on the map on my GPS so I decide to trust the waymarkers but worry because I have heard that closures are possible ahead. I climb slowly up until the ridge comes into sight with light cloud rolling down it.
Once over a ladder stile, waymarker posts point steeply up towards the ridge. The ground is boggy and deep drains have been dug across my path, their steep sides slippery with oily black peat oozing water. The posts are so few and far between that it’s difficult to spot the next one. I slither and squelch diagonally up the steep hillside until a sharp turn brings me onto a track by old turf (peat) diggings at 300 metres and I can see down the coast and over to Bere Island. On my right Hungry Hill looms another 300 metres above me, its top capped with cloud and its jagged folds of grey rock sweeping down in waves.
Clouds calve from the summit and drift down to briefly enshroud me before dissolving into damp air. It is eerily beautiful but I am grateful for the track that is easy to follow through the mist. After the track ends, the path crosses an area of treacherous, slippery-smooth rock streaked with water and then hugs the 250 metre contour skirting around Hungry Hill before dropping down to the shore of Park Lough where gulls are bathing amongst the water lilies.
Entering into Comnagapple Glen, I pass beneath huge rocky outcrops towering like portals into another world; a lone sheep standing sentry under a mountain ash tree and cloud swirling down concealing the head of the valley beyond. The Rosmackowen River cascades past and I sit above it on a comfortable rock to eat lunch.
From here, Castletownbere is always in clear sight below but the route is capricious, turning away again and again to head around yet another valley. I am hot and weary and the diversions are dispiriting. I cool my feet in a deep pool on the Owgarriff River which revives me before the next detour.
At last, a small wedge tomb on an outcrop at Cloontreem marks the start of the last descent down a stony track to the old Aghakista Bridge and “Florry Kelly’s Mill” then Brandyhall Bridge and along the main road past the cranes, masts and wharves of Dinish Island and Castletownbere fishing port into the town. I buy an ice-cream in the supermarket. I must be looking desperate because I am given a humongous cone that is delicious but is almost too big to finish – almost.
Herself meets me and we stay in Allihies before returning to Castletownbere for the next section of the route tomorrow.
13 miles (21km) in about 6 hours.
Total ascent/descent: 2553 ft (778 metres)