St Brendan the Navigator ~ Naomh Breandán

St Brendan the Navigator (Naomh Breandán) is an important figure in the folklore of the Dingle Peninsula, having given his name to Mount Brandon, Brandon Creek and the village of Brandon. He is the patron saint of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kerry and of St Brendan's Church, Cloghane. He is known as the "navigator" for the legendary journey he made by boat which some have claimed was an account of an early discovery of the North American continent. Unfortunately, like many  Celtic "saints", there is considerable doubt over his true identity, whether his life story is a merger of several lives and legends, or indeed if he existed at all. 

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 Brandon Creek  Brandon Village  Mount Brandon

Biography

According to medieval accounts, Brendan was born about 484 CE near what is now Fenit in North Kerry. Supposedly ordained by St Erc, Bishop of Ardfert, who has associations with the Dingle Peninsula, and educated by St Ita. He appears to have founded a number of monasteries, although the naming of an oratory and of St Brendan's House near Kilmalkedar seem to date from as much as a thousand years after his death. He founded what became Clonfert Cathedral and is also known as "Brendan of Clonfert". He died in modern County Galway in about 577 CE. It is possible that the Galway Brendan was a different person to the Kerry one.

Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis

Brendan's principle cliam to fame is his legendary voyage in search of the Garden of Eden. The "Voyage of St Brendan" appeared around 900 CE and there are at least 125 Latin manuscripts scattered around Europe giving versions of the story. Brendan is supposed to have built a currach or naomhóg type boat, and with 14 monks to have made an epic voyage with a number of exciting events along the way before his return. Seafaring tales like this, known as immrama were popular in the Middle Ages, with their heroes making long sea journeys and visiting otherworldly places. St Brendan's Navigatio borrowed heavily from the Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of Máel Dúin, both pre-Christian stories perhaps themselves based on ancient Greek myths.

Brandon Creek

At some point a tradition emerged that St Brendan had started his legendary journey from Brandon Creek on the Dingle Peninsula. In 1976-77 British Explorer Tim Severin constructed and sailed aboat from the creek to Newfoundland via the Hebrides and Iceland. Severin theorised that some of these locations might have inspired the unlikely locations such as the "Island of Sheep" or the "Paradise of Birds" found in the Navigatio. There have been claims made that Brendan might have discovered North America before Columbus or the "Vikings".

Although there seems no truth whatsoever in the story, the legend persists as a colourful story: a sculpture of St Brendan in a boat by Cliodna Cussen now decorates the spot.

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Walking & Hiking On The Dingle Peninsula

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Dingle Peninsula Tourism has compiled a collection of looped and linear walking routes.

This has been published as a printed booklet available from our members. Details are also available from the links below:

Siúlóid Chuas na nEighe

Clochar, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.

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This is a cliff top walk of under two miles which begins and finishes at the car park above Clochar Beach about eight miles west of Dingle. It takes in spectacular sea views and the surrounding countryside and headlands. The walk is flat and has three or four stiles.

DESCRIPTION (EveryTrail.com)

MAP (PDF format)

Lúb na Cille

Start: Blasket Centre car park

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Spectacular way-marked coastal 5 kilometre walk in Dún Chaoin.
This is one of Ireland's National Looped Walks.


DESCRIPTION (DiscoverIreland.ie)
MAP (PDF format) (Fáilte Ireland)

Slí na Sláinte

Location: Dingle Town

207dinglesign Slí na Sláinte means 'path to health'. Developed by the Irish Heart Foundation - the national heart and stroke charity - it's the outgoing way to make walking far more enjoyable. You'll find Slí na Sláinte walking routes all over Ireland.

Dingle's Slí na Sláinte is 3.3 kilometres long, starting at the roundabout on entering the town from Tralee.


DESCRIPTION AND MAP (Irish Heart Foundation)

 

Siúlóid Cholmáin

Location: Ventry

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Looped walk on bothareens and beach.
Historical sites include Colman’s Oratory and Rathinane Castle.


DESCRIPTION (PDF Format)
MAP (PDF format)

Glanteenasig Wood - River Trail

Location: Glanteenasig Wood, between Camp and Castlegregory

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Glanteenasig is a 450 hectare state owned woodland abounding with streams, lakes, waterfalls and dramatic cliffs.

DESCRIPTION AND MAP (CoillteOutdoors.ie)

Siúlóid a' tSáis - Sauce Creek Walking Trail

Start and Finish: Cé Bhréainainn/Brandon Village

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A four to five hour walk in bogland and hills in the vicinity of Sauce Creek/An Sás.

DESCRIPTION (PDF format: copyright Comharchumann Forbartha an Leith Triúigh)
MAP (PDF format)

Coumduff Loop Walk, Annascaul

Start and Finish: The Old Bridge, Annascaul Village

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A one and a half hour gentle stroll around the lanes of Annascaul visiting the birthplace of sculptor Jerome O'Connor and burial place of polar explorer, Tom Crean. The walk can be extended to visit Annacaul Lake.

DESCRIPTION (PDF format)
MAP (PDF format)

Slí na Dúnta, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh

Start and Finish: Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh

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An 8.5 kilometre heritage walk around the lanes and beaches near Ballyferriter.

DESCRIPTION (PDF format) (westkerrymuseum.com)
MAP (PDF format) (westkerrymuseum.com)

Slí an Mháimín, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh

Start and Finish: Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh

Caisleán Ráthanánain/Rahinanne Castle. (Copyright Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne)
An 8.5 kilometre heritage walk on minor roads circling the hills near Ballyferriter. A number of archaeolgical sites, including early Christian sites and a medieval tower house lie on the route.
DESCRIPTION (PDF format) (westkerrymuseum.com)
MAP (PDF format) (westkerrymuseum.com)

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The Dingle Way ~ Slí Chorca Dhuibhne

The Dingle Way near MinardThe Dingle Way (Slí Chorca Dhuibhne) is a 153km circular walking trail. The walk begins in Tralee, overlooking Tralee Bay, and then swings southwest across the peninsula from Camp to look down on Dingle Bay while you ramble inland to Annascaul, and then on to Dingle Town. From Dingle the route continues west around Slea Head to Dunquin, with magnificent views of the Blasket Islands to the west and beautiful coastal cliffs to the north. Then the trail turns back along the north coast of the peninsula, past Smerwick Harbour, and continues on below the massive Brandon Mountain, Ireland's second highest peak and named for St. Brendan the Voyager. A high pass will bring you to the village of Cloghane, east of Brandon, and then the route continues along coastal beaches to Castlegregory and the Maharees, ultimately ending back in Tralee.

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The Irish Trails website details the route. For convenience they have divided the Way into 13 sections, each representing a half days walking. Detailed maps (in PDF format) can be downloaded: 

Dingle Way - Overview Map
Map 1 Tralee to Derrymore
Map 2 Derrymore to Knockbrack
Map 3 Knockbrack to Inch and Annascaul
Map 4 Annascaul to Lispole/Lios Póil
Map 5 Lispole to An Daingean/Dingle
Map 6 An Daingean/Dingle to Cill Mhic an Domhnaigh
Map 7 Cill Mhic an Domhnaigh to Dún Chaoin and Baile an Fheirtéaraigh
Map 8 Baile an Fheirtéaraigh to Feohanagh
Map 9 Feohanagh to Más an Tiompáin
Map 10 Más an Tiompáin to Cé Bréanainn
Map 11 Cé Bréanainn to Stradbally
Map 12 Stradbally to Castlegregory
Map 13 Castlegregory to Camp

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Travel Information

Read our guide about

Transport on the Dingle Peninsula