Purple Mountain is the peak in Co Kerry that you’ve heard whispers about but never actually climbed. Well, this is the year, or perhaps the weekend to rectify that.

The Kingdom of Kerry is the mountain capital of Ireland, claiming almost all of our highest peaks, and Purple Mountain, though not as tall as the beast that is Carrauntoohil, has an abundance of charm that makes it a big attraction to the avid hillwalker.

Purple Mountain gets its name from the colour of the sandstone rock, which emits a purple hue under certain light. At 830 metres or 2723 ft it still represents a bit of a challenge to climb. An Sliabh Corca has twin summits Tomies to the north and Shehy to the east which are connected by a narrow ridge.

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Kerry is so picturesque that literally everywhere you look is postcard worthy and Purple Mountain is no exception. To the north lies the beautiful Lough Leane, to the south the Black Valley and to the west, the iconic glacial valley the Gap of Dunloe. But best of all are the views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. The best way to experience the highest mountains in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, Cather and Beenkeragh is by standing on a mountain yourself.

The most popular way of traversing Purple Mountain is from north to south for the easiest ascent and the best views. Perch yourself on the summit ridge and dine on sandwiches and biscuits and a flask of tea and bask in the plethora of stunning views.

10 of the highest mountains to climb in Ireland

Essential Information:

Walking Route: Purple Mountain and Tomies Mountain

Map: OSI Adventure Series – Macgillycuddy’s Reeks 1:25000/OS Discovery Series Map No 78.

Start/finish: Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the Black Valley end of the Gap of Dunloe

Time: 6 hours

Distance: 16 km

Suitability: moderate to challenging. A knowledge of mountain navigation is required.

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  • Start at Kate Kearney’s Cottage GR(V 88.09 88.78) and proceed in a southerly direction, passing by Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake and Black Lough.
  • Coming out of the Gap, you reach you will reach the waypoint at Head of Gap GR(V 87.15 83.71).
  • The next waypoint is Lough Glas GR (V87.75 84.46), where you will keep to the left-hand side of stream as you move up to the Lough.
  • You then need to turn in an easterly direction and then back in a northerly direction to pick up a path which takes you to the first peak at 793m GR(V 88.37 85.05).
  • On the path up to the first peak there will be another track which crosses your path. Follow this to your right to climb up to the coll between the first peak and Purple Mountain GR(V 88.67 85.20).
  • After you’ve had your fill of the summit, go to lower peak at 757m bearing 50degree GR(V89.45 85.83). And walk along the ridge to Tomies mountain.
  • From there, you will head to a lower peak Tomies Rock at 568m GR( V 89.13 87.45). And on down to a bearing of 336 degrees to a small mound at GR(V  88.69 88.38).
  • Proceed due north and down along the ridge walking along the side of a fence and finally down to a pathway. Turn left here and then turn right further down the path and pass through a tubular gate.
  • This path leads to another gate on the side of the main road. Turn left on the main road for Kate Kearney’s Cottage.

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By Orla O'Muiri

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