Mount Brandon, the ninth highest peak in Ireland, is located on the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry. The mountain gets it’s name from Saint Brendan who is believed to have climbed the mountain in order to view the ‘unknown Continent’ (America). Mount Brandon is at the centre of a high mountain ridge known as the Brandon Group. Mount Brandon got it’s rocky formation from ice age glaciers. On the North side of the mountain lies the small rural village of Brandon.
The mountain is popular with walkers who visit the area year round. Catholic pilgrims also walk here every Good Friday each year, following the route marked with small white crosses known as ‘The Saints Road’ (Cosán na Naomh) to the large metal cross at the mountain’s peak.
The origin of The Saints Road as a route for pilgrimage pre-dates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and historian Máire Mac Néill has argued that it’s origins were in a pagan festival of the Irish sun god Lug Lámh Fada (Lug of The Long Reach).
Brandon Creek is the site St Brendan allegedly departed on his voyage to America (see details further down this page). Here a river runs to the small bay, still used by fishermen to this day.
Mount Brandon Walks
If you intend to hike the Brandon Mountains, remember to prepare for any weather, pack warm clothes, wear good hiking boots, bring rain gear and snacks. You can attend organised walks with Annascaul Walking Club, or Dingle Walking Club, or perhaps as part of a Dingle Peninsula walking tour.
If you opt to go hiking alone, please be sure to inform someone of where you are going, what route you intend to take and when you expect to return. It will also be prudent to bring additional gear such as a survival bag and survival blanket, plenty of water, signalling glow-sticks, and hat, scarf, gloves. There have been fatalities on Brandon so these precautions should be taken seriously!
As mentioned the views can be stunning, and who knows, maybe on a clear day you’ll be able to spy Brendan’s ‘Unknown Continent’.
St. Brendan’s Voyage
St Brendan, the Patron Saint of the Kerry Diocese, was born in 484 A.D. to a ruling class known as the Altraige people, and lived in the area of Tralee Bay. His cult was to become important to the Christian tradition of Corca Dhuibhne (Dingle Peninsula) and his story, The Voyage Of Saint Brendan, became a Medieval tale of wonder that is still told to this very day.
St Brendan is believed to have spent forty days on Mount Brandon praying, fasting and preparing for a journey that would see him sail from Brandon Creek in 535 A.D. with his fourteen monks, and eventually reach his destination in Newfoundland seven years later. His motivation for this daring journey was to bring the Gospel to the ‘unknown Continent’ to the West (America).
Brendan’s epic journey earned him a place in the imaginations of many peoples and nations. His famous voyage was re-created by traveller and writer Tim Severin in the 1970’s. He too set out on his adventure from Caus a’ Bhodaigh (Brandon Creek) in a replica of the type of boat that Brendan is thought to have used himself. Like Brendan and his fourteen monks, Severn had many adventures along the way before reaching his final destination in Newfoundland.
“Legend has it that St. Brendan, a man of God, pushed back the boundaries of knowledge and explored new worlds. Brendan discovered a new world which offered a second change to mankind. Fourteen centuries later, Brendan was followed by millions of his sons and daughters. They sought the opportunity to live free from hunger and repression. As we sail into the unknown waters of the future, we will follow Brendan’s mast and go forth with faith and courage towards new horizons together”. ~ Ronald Regan, President of the United States of America, on his visit to Ireland, 1984.
Below are photos of a monument that commemorates The Voyage Of St Brendan, located near Brandon Creek at the foot of Mount Brandon.