In the summer of 2010 my family and I traveled to Ireland to spend some quality time together away from our hectic lives. On a meandering tour of the western coast I insisted on one departure from our strict itinerary. My sister and I were in a pub just outside Ireland’s westernmost point, the storm-swept Dingle Peninsula, working through thick pints of Guinness when we learned that we were walking distance from Ireland’s westernmost peak (the tallest outside of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, a range way to the north). Mount Brandon, named for Saint Brendan (Bréanainn) the Navigator, is a local treasure few tourists might know to visit.
So after buying wool hats and scarves, my sister and I set out across a farmer’s pasture on the one path that led up the mountain. It was worn deep into the earth by centuries of foot traffic. Sour sheep eyed us from the hills above and below.
As we climbed on, the air thinned and the wind stiffened. Rocks turned into boulders and boulders into cliffs. Around a bend we plunged into an icy mist. Here was the Ireland of legends! Fierce greens met deep blacks as mountain grass ran into high altitude lakes. I could hear mournful pipes in my head. Still a few inimical sheep clung to the slopes.