After coming across the bridge that connects Portmagee with Valentia, turning right will lead you down to the western end of the island where the Skelligs rocks will come into view and if the weather is good, you can watch the fishing boats and tour boats coming in and out of the Portmagee channel. There will be road signs indicating Bray Head carpark and this is a great spot to pull in, have a picnic and take photos out to the famous rocks. If time, weather and fitness allow, then don’t miss the opportunity to walk Bray Head.
There is an information board for the Bray Head Looped walk at the carpark and while the whole looped walk is great, this may be an option if you are well prepared with boots and have an appetite for a good stretch. If you have little people with you and just your runners, then maybe a walk up & down the pathway may be the better option for you.
As you leave the supervised car park (2€), to begin the walk climb over the stile and it is a case of straight up the pathway in front of you. More than likely there will be other people coming back down or joining with you so they may give you an indication of what it is like at the top and/or how long it takes but I have gone up with families and small children and it usually takes about 30 mins-1 hour, depending on abilities, photo stops etc…! it is about 2km long and climbs to about 210m, so it is a stretch, but a very manageable one at that! As you climb, the views out across the water towards the Skelligs are really beautiful, and then you turn around and its a case of ‘…wow!!!!!….” hopefully the weather will be as good for you as the days I have walked it because with the sun shining down, the views back to Cahirciveen and the mountains are just incredible.
Closer to the top, you will have unequaled views across to the Kerry Cliffs which are between Portmagee and the Coomanaspic Pass.
As you approach the headland you will see the signal tower which is believed to have been built in 1815 and served as a lookout for naval personnel right up until the 1920’s. Below this, you will also see “EIRE” laid out in stones to advise passing aircraft of their location in WW2.
I have been to the top of Bray Head in the best weather possible where families had rugs laid out and were snoozing, sunbathing, snacking and taking lots of photos of the Skelligs down below. I have also been up when it was windy down at the carpark, but nothing too remarkable and by the time we reached the signal tower, we were digging our heels in and hoping to hold a grip to the ground underneath us. You could say that this is the Wild Atlantic Way living up to its name, but also a reminder of the unbelievable power of nature. It was on this day that the looped walk had been closed off and it was just possible to walk the path up and down, and I have no doubt, that there are days when the walk is closed off altogether such is the ferocity of the winds in this area.
If the weather is in your favour and you would like to complete the loop, then let me warn you from my own nerve wracking experience (!) that the climb from the signal tower to the very top of the headland is steep and under no circumstances veer off the path as you are already close enough to the cliffs without going any further! That being said, once you make it to the crest, the walk back down is very enjoyable with a gentle sloping walk through heathers and other colourful Kerry wild flowers. You will have vast views over towards Geokaun cliffs, the Dingle penninsula and the Blasket islands.
A walk up Bray head is a highlight when I visit Kerry. You are away from the crowds and tour buses, you’re out in the fresh Kerry air and you are being gifted a bounty of scenery that is so unique to this area!
You can read more about my beloved Valentia below!