Carrauntoohil (or Carrauntoohill) (// KARR-ən-TOO-əl; Irish: Corrán Tuathail [ˌkɔɾˠaːn̪ˠ ˈt̪ˠuːhəlʲ], meaning "Tuathal's sickle") is the highest mountain on the island of Ireland at 1,038.6 metres (3,407 ft). Located in County Kerry, Carrauntoohil is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, Ireland's highest mountain range. Carrauntoohil is composed mainly of sandstone, whose glaciation produced features around the mountain such as The Eagle's Nest corrie, and deep gullys and sharp aretes in its east and northeastern faces, that are popular with rock and winter climbers.
Carrauntoohil's east face (l), and north-east face (r, in shadow), as seen from the Hag's Glen.
|Elevation||1,038.6 metres (3,407 feet) |
|Prominence||1,038.6 m (3,407 ft) |
|Listing||Country high point, County top (Kerry), P600, Marilyn, Furth, Hewitt, Arderin, Simm, Vandeleur-Lynam|
|Native name||Corrán Tuathail(Irish)|
|English translation||Tuathal's sickle|
|Location||County Kerry, Ireland|
|Parent range||MacGillycuddy's Reeks|
|Topo map||OSI Discovery 78|
|Age of rock||Devonian|
|Mountain type||Purple sandstone & siltstone, (Ballinskelligs Sandstone Formation)|
|Easiest route||Devil's Ladder (via Hag's Glen)|
As Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil is popular with mountain walkers, who most commonly use the Devil's Ladder route to ascend; however, Carrauntoohil is also climbed as part of larger mountain walking routes in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks range, including the 15-kilometre Coomloughra Horseshoe, or the full 26-kilometre MacGillycuddy's Reeks Ridge Walk of the entire mountain range. Carrauntoohil, and most of the range, is held in private ownership and is not part of any national park; however, reasonable access is granted to the public for recreational use.
Carrauntoohil is composed of sandstone particles of various sizes which are collectively known as Old Red Sandstone. Old Red Sandstone has a purple–reddish colour (stained green in places), and has virtually no fossils. Carrauntoohil was subject to significant glaciation the result of which are deep fracturing of the rock, and the surrounding of Carrauntoohil by U-shaped valleys, sharp arêtes, and deep corries.
Carrauntoohil is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, and has three major ridges. A narrow rocky ridge, or arête, to the north, known as the Beenkeragh Ridge, summits The Bones (Na Cnámha), and leads to Ireland's second-highest peak, Beenkeragh (Binn Chaorach) at 1,008 m (3,307 ft). The ridge westward, called the Caher Ridge, also an arête, leads to Ireland's third-highest peak, Caher at 1,000 m (3,300 ft). A third and much wider, but unnamed, south-easterly ridge, or spur, leads down to a col where sits the top of the Devil's Ladder (a classic access route for Carrauntoohil from the Hag's Glen), but then rises back up to Cnoc na Toinne 845 m (2,772 ft), from which the long easterly ridge section of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks is accessed.
Carrauntoohil overlooks three U-shaped valleys, each with their own lakes. To the east is Hag's Glen (Com Caillí, "hollow of the Cailleach"), to the west is Coomloughra (Com Luachra, "hollow of the rushes") and to the south is Curragh More (Currach Mór, "great marsh").
Carrauntoohil has a deep corrie, known as the Eagle's Nest, at its north-east face, which is accessed from the Hag's Glen, and rises up through three levels. At the top, the third level, is Lough Cummeenoughter, Ireland's highest lake. The Eagle's Nest gives views of the gullies on Carrauntoohil's north-east face: Curved Gully, Central Gully, and Brother O'Shea's Gully. Sometimes the term Eagle's Nest is used to refer to the small stone Mountain Rescue Hut that sits on the first level of the corrie, where the Heavenly Gates descent gully meets the Eagle's Nest corrie.
Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland on all classification scales. It is the 133rd–highest mountain, and 4th most prominent mountain, in Britain and Ireland, on the Simms classification. Carrauntoohil is regarded by the Scottish Mountaineering Club ("SMC") as one of 34 Furths, which is a mountain above 3,000 ft (914 m) in elevation, and meets the other SMC criteria for a Munro (e.g. "sufficient separation"), but which is outside of (or furth) Scotland; which is why Carrauntoohil is referred to as one of the 13 Irish Munros.
Carrauntoohil's larger prominence qualifies it to meet the P600 classification and the Britain and Ireland Marilyn classification. Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in the MountainViews Online Database, 100 Highest Irish Mountains.
A wooden cross was erected on the summit, a privately owned commonage, in the 1950s by the local community. In 1976 it was replaced by a 5 m (16 feet) steel cross. In 2014, the cross was cut down by unknown persons in protest against the Catholic Church, but it was re-erected shortly after.
Because of the dangers of the steep north-east and east faces of Carrauntoohil, Kerry Mountain Rescue ("KMR") have placed danger signs on the summit, and particularly above the Howling Ridge sector (the ridge between the north-east and east faces), whose initial section can be mistaken for a hill-walkers descent route. 
Carrauntoohil is the most common and official spelling of the name, being the only version in use by Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Placenames Database of Ireland, and by Irish academic Paul Tempan, compiler of the Irish Hill and Mountain Names database (2010). Carrauntoohill has also been used in the past, for example Irish historian Patrick Weston Joyce. Other less common spelling variations have included Carrantoohil, Carrantouhil, Carrauntouhil and Carrantuohill; all of which are anglicisations of the Irish placename.
Paul Tempan's Irish Hill and Mountain Names database notes that "its name is shrouded in uncertainty", and that "Unlike some lesser peaks, such as Mangerton or Croagh Patrick, it is not mentioned in any surviving early Irish texts". The official Irish name is Corrán Tuathail, which Tempan notes is interpreted as "Tuathal's sickle", Tuathal being a male first name. Patrick Weston Joyce previously interpreted it as "inverted sickle". However, one of the earliest written accounts of the mountain, by Isaac Weld in 1812, calls it Gheraun-Tuel, and Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) calls it 'Garran Tual'; suggesting the first element was géarán ("fang")—which is found in the names of other Kerry mountains—and that the earlier name may have been Géarán Tuathail ("Tuathal's fang").
Climber and author Jim Ryan noted in his 2006 book, Carrauntoohil and MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, that the actual mountain of Carrauntoohil, including most of the Hag's Glen, is in private ownership. The freehold is owned by four families: Donal Doona, John O'Shea, John B. Doona, and James Sullivan. Their great-grandfathers bought the land from the Irish Land Commission, "paying the sum of eleven shillings and two cents (70 cents in today's money), twice a year for many decades". Ryan's book commended the owners for providing access over the years, despite damage to their farms.
A State-sponsored report into access for the range in December 2013 titled MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Development Assessment (also called the Mountain Access Project, or MAP), mapped the complex network of land titles. Unlike many other national mountain ranges, the MacGillycuddy's Reeks are not part of a national park or a trust structure, and are instead completely privately owned.
The ownership situation has raised concerns in light of the material rise in visitors to Carrauntoohil (and the range in general), and the erosion and lack of infrastructure that other State-owned sites have been able to address. In 2019 the Irish Times reported that the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum, a cross-body group of landowners, commercial users and public access and walking groups set up in 2014 with the aim of "protecting, managing and sustainably developing the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, while halting and reversing the obvious and worsening path erosion", had achieved some success laying down new pathways in the Hag's Glen approach to Carrauntoohil; however, the IT still wondered, "Should the Kerry reeks be a national park?".
Separate statistics do not exist for visitors or ascensions of the standalone peak of Carrauntoohil, however, it was recorded that over 125,000 access the range in 2017, and 140,000 accessed the range in 2018; the majority of which are related to Carrauntoohil.
The straightforward route is via the Devil's Ladder,[a] which starts at Cronin's Yard ( ) in the north-east, moves into the Hag's Glen, continues along between Lough Gouragh and Lough Calee, until the Devil's Ladder, a worn path from the glen to the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne 845 m (2,772 ft) is visible. No special climbing equipment is needed, but caution is advised as the Devil's Ladder has become unstable with overuse; alternatives to the ladder include the Bothar na Gige Zig Zag track (the north-east spur of Cnoc na Toinne 845 m (2,772 ft)). The full route back to Cronin's Yard is 12–kilometres and takes 4–5 hours. Other popular, but more serious, routes to Carrauntoohil from the Hag's Glen are via the Hag's Tooth Ridge up to Beenkeragh, and then across the Beenkeragh Ridge to Carrauntoohil; or via the Eagle's Nest route to Lough Cummeenoughter, Ireland's highest lake, and up to the summit via Brother O'Shea's Gully or Curved Gully.
Instead of descending via the Devil's Ladder, some climbers use a route known as the Heavenly Gates, which starts above the col of the Devil's Ladder but takes a small stone path that cuts across the east-face of Carrauntoohil, through a narrow gap, known as the Heavenly Gates (see photo), and then heads diagonally down a deep gully to the base of the first level of Eagle's Nest corrie, where the Mountain Rescue Hut is situated. This route, however, is hazardous, difficult to find as it is not marked, and particularly dangerous in poor visibility; it has been the source of several serious accidents on Carrauntoohil.
A strenuous undertaking is the 15–kilometre Coomloughra Horseshoe, which takes 6–8 hours and is described as "one of Ireland’s classic ridge walks". It starts from the north-west up the Hydro-Track ( ), and is usually done clockwise, first climbing Skregmore 848 m (2,782 ft), and then to Beenkeragh 1,008 m (3,307 ft), across the famous Beenkeragh Ridge, at the centre of which is The Bones 956 m (3,136 ft), and on to the summit of Carrauntoohil itself. The horseshoe is completed by continuing to Caher 1,000 m (3,300 ft), Caher West Top 973 m (3,192 ft), and descending to the starting point.
Accidents on the mountain have been attributed to bad weather, late departures combined with darkness on the way down and falling rocks in eroded areas.
Rock and winter climbingEdit
Although the Reeks are not particularly known for their advanced rock climbing (e.g. unlike Ailladie in Clare, or Fair Head in Antrim), the east face of Carrauntoohil, looking into the Hag's Glen, and the north-east face, looking into Brothers O'Shea's Gully, have a number of multi-pitch, mixed route, rock climbing routes. The most well-known is the 450 m Howling Ridge (grade V–Diff) which starts at the base of the Heavenly Gates, and takes the arete between Carrauntoohil's east and north-east faces. The same faces are used for winter snow and ice climbing, conditions permitting, and 7 routes of Grade V are marked amongst almost 80 in total.
- Lists of mountains in Ireland
- Lists of long-distance trails in the Republic of Ireland
- List of Irish counties by highest point
- List of mountains of the British Isles by height
- List of P600 mountains in the British Isles
- List of Furth mountains in the British Isles
- List of highest points of European countries
- List of countries by highest point
- MountainViews (Simon Stewart) (2013). A Guide to Ireland's Mountain Summits: The Vandeleur-Lynams & the Arderins. Collins Books. ISBN 978-1-84889-164-7.
- Ryan, Jim (2006). Carrauntoohil and MacGillycuddy's Reeks: A Walking Guide to Ireland's Highest Mountains. Collins Press. ISBN 978-1905172337.
- It is not clear whether the term Devil's Ladder is linked to the Irish proverb: "Go ndeine an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn." (May the devil make a ladder of your backbone [and] pluck apples in the garden of hell).
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- "Ireland's Top 10 Most Spectacular Peaks". Ordnance Survey Ireland. 20 March 2018.
1. Carrauntoohil Height: 1,038m
- "Carrauntoohil [Corran Tuathail]". HillBaggingUK Database of British and Irish Hills. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
Height=1038.6m / 3407ft
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- Dillion, Paddy (1993). The Mountains of Ireland: A Guide to Walking the Summits. Cicerone. ISBN 978-1852841102.
- John O'Dwyer (20 June 2009). "Our Nation's Finest Mountain Route". Irish Times.
There are a few candidates for this honour; Dingle’s Brandon Ridge, Connemara’s Glencoaghan Horseshoe and Mayo’s Mweelrea Circuit immediately spring to mind. But nearly all hillwalkers now agree that one route stands out above even such splendour. Kerry’s Coomloughra Horseshoe is virtually impossible to match in an Irish context, as it takes in our three highest summits and offers an adrenalin–filled crossing of a memorable mountain ridge, great long-range coastal views and a bird’s-eye panorama over some of Killarney’s renowned lakes and fells.
- John G O'Dwyer (22 June 2020). "Should the Kerry reeks be a national park?". Irish Times. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
- "MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Development Assessment" (PDF). South Kerry Development Partnership. December 2013.
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- Helen Fairborn (30 June 2018). "Fancy a swim in Ireland's highest lake, halfway up Carrauntoohil?". Irish Times.
Located at an elevation of 707m, Lough Cummeenoughter in Co Kerry is a unique swimming spot. Not only is this the highest lake in Ireland, it’s also one of the most dramatic. Nestled at the base of a natural amphitheatre with the country’s two tallest peaks towering on either side, Irish swimming doesn’t come any wilder than this. The lake itself is surprisingly hospitable; it has a sandy bed and becomes deep quickly enough to dive into.
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The list of peaks of 3000ft or more within the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland outside (furth) of Scotland. There are currently 34 Furths.
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Hillwalkers ignoring a sign warning them to stay away from potentially dangerous paths near the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain are putting themselves in serious danger. The Kerry Mountain Rescue Team (KMRT) is concerned about a rising number of accidents and rescues on the northern and eastern sides of Carrantuohill. The warning sign, with a skull and crossbones, is on the summit of the mountain.
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He praised landowners Donal Doona, John O’Shea, John B Doona, James Sullivan and Michael O’Sullivan for allowing public access to their lands on and around Carrauntoohil and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks over the years. “They are amongst the most welcoming people in the country,” he said. He met the men, their families and recorded their history and association with the lands for the book.
- Donal Hickey (31 July 2013). "Dogs banned from Carrauntoohil". Irish Examiner.
Carrantuohill is actually owned by private landowners and some people don’t realise that. The owners mainly earn their livelihoods from the land through farming.
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Go ndeine an diabhal dréimire de cnámh do dhroma ag piocadh úll i ngairdín Ifrinn / May the devil make a ladder of your backbone [and] pluck apples in the garden of hell.
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- "Man dies in fall on Reeks". The Kerryman. 30 July 2016.
Gardaí in Killarney said the man was alone when the accident happened at a section known as the Heavenly Gates. [..] Mr Wallace also said the area where the man fell is not normally frequented by walkers as it is a very steep rock face, adding the number of recorded incidents in the past 10 to 15 years at this section tended to be of a serious nature.
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