Knockboy, Co. Cork
Located in the Shehy Mountains near Glengarriff and Kenmare, Knockboy straddles the border between Cork and Kerry. Standing at 706 meters it forms the highest point in Co. Cork…and the 30th highest point in Kerry.
This was the last mountain I needed to climb in order to visit the highest point in each county in Ireland during 2010. My friend Ross and I took just under 2hrs to summit and return to our parking spot at the Priest’s Leap.
Having left Lucan at 720 we made great progress down the M8, reaching the Jack Lynch tunnel just two hours later. From here we took the ring road and proceeded to drive (carefully – you’ll understand) through Beal na mBlath before arriving at the climb to Priest’s Leap.
These last few kilometers of the drive have been described as hair-raising due to the narrowness of the steep road and the unprotected drops that claw at your wheels. We certainly found it interesting as the view frequently featured only car bonnet and sky while we first-geared over undulations in the road, wondering what direction the path would take when we saw it next.
Still, I reckoned that if the Google Streetview car could make it up the hill then we could, so we drove on and soon enough we were parking in the small space at the Priest’s Leap, getting dressed in a delightful wind-blown drizzle while admiring the panoramic wall of cloud enveloping the spot. With grim determination/ resignation we crossed the road and started along a fence that leads in the right direction, which in this case was straight into the gloom.
After a twenty minute passage up grassy terrain we reached the top of the fence. From here we checked the map, reckoning that we were following the course of the county border, and headed in the rough direction of Loughboy having estimated how long it should take to reach it. With no visibility I was starting to wonder if we were on the right course but we had only been walking a short while so we pressed on, passing over spot height 561 at which point I said to Ross ‘There should be a lake around here soon’ and low and behold it emerged out of the mist, aurally at first as we could here the small wavelets lapping against its southern shore before we could see it. Bang on dot com.
From here we made our way around the foot of the lake, picking up another fence at a point where the lake edge veers off to the south-east. Paralleling this fence in a generally straight direction turned out to be the correct approach, and after 40 minutes or so of gradual height gain and increasing wind we hopped over the fence to arrive at the trig pillar.
The wind was howling here, and the hill disappeared steeply into the oncoming cloud so there was not much point in hanging about. I had planned to walk on to the north towards Caoinkeen for a look over the cliff edge down to Akinteen, but this was not the day for that kind of carry on.
I produced some wooden garden ornaments and teddy bears from the Little Lifetime foundation, to symbolise my own daughter and all the other little babies who have died around Ireland. These I nestled into the small summit cairn, while close by the wooden windmill immediately began to whirl in the wind.
So this was the culmination of a year of driving around the country and tramping up its hills. I had now stood on the highest point in each county in Ireland. Knockboy proved to be something of an anticlimax though, the complete lack of an allegedly brilliant view didn’t help, nor did the contrast with the wonder of Carauntoohil which I had been up just two weeks before.
As a result there was no great emotional moment to be had. I wasn’t going to force it but I thought something would happen. I felt neither joy at achieving the task nor sadness at the thought that I was lying on the sodden ground sticking teddy bears for a missed child into a nook in a cairn. We just got there, did our thing and turned around. As we left I took a glance back to see the windmill was already starting to disintegrate. It wasn’t designed for a 30 knot breeze I guess. That’s ok though, nothing lasts forever and I know I was there. Perhaps she does too.
[Now that two weeks or so have passed I can confirm that I'm delighted to have completed the task, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was made all the more special by the number of friends and family who came with me, and of course would not have been possible at all without the support of my wife who minded the kids on the 30 or so days that I took off to go walking! Not to mention all the people who sponsored me, contributing more that 2,500 euro towards Little Lifetime. ]
Once out of the breeze we stopped briefly in a hollow to discover that hot ribena with port is a fine drink that we really should have been consuming on the previous 25 mountains. This was a gross oversight that we won’t be making again!
We got back to the car and headed down towards Bonane for Kenmare. This side of the road seemed much less like a rollercoaster than the other, but maybe that’s just because we were descending. Naturally the clouds parted within seconds of our getting into the car, to reveal a limited vision of where we were. The countryside seems rugged and remote, and brought home to me how much of West Cork and Kerry I have yet to explore.
Our luck with the weather was repeated in fine style as we consumed a truly average lunch in Kenmare, featuring the nation’s worst bowl of chowder. After this pause we pushed on, enjoying the views on the drive over Moll’s Gap to Killarney before striking out for home, tired but satisfied with our day and discussing plans to return to the area for further exploration.
Resources for Knockboy
Bring map sheet 85. You’ll be lost without it.
Read reports on Knockboy and surrounding mountains on mountainviews.ie
Here’s a longer walk in the area that takes in Knockboy, as described in the Irish Times.
If you are prepared to make a 750 km round trip for a bad bowl of chowder then look no further than The Horseshoe in Kenmare. The beef pie, in fairness, is not bad.