Once your heart calms down, there is a profound silence and peace at the top

Kieron Corcoran

KGC Cycles

Oisin’s Pass and Coast Road Cruise

Escape into the highlands of Kerry and savour the silence on Ballaghasheen Pass, the highest road climb in the Reeks District.

Start your journey on the Glencar road from Killorglin. The first 12km is a steady climb through wild bogs that takes you straight into the mountains. Rock-strewn fields, from glacial times, signal the summit where a short descent leads you past the haunting Lough Aoose. Here you can switch to cruise mode as pace takes over and you descend rapidly through Glencar under a lush canopy of trees before heading for the majestic climb into the Ballaghasheen Pass. The route here covers 6.5km at a four per cent gradient, with some ramps reaching 20 per cent – this really is one of the most dramatic climbs in Ireland.

The lower part of the climb starts with burning legs as you tackle the foothills of Upper Glencar. You will lose yourself in a landscape that resembles the Mongolian Steppes with sweeping golden brown and rust-coloured bog as far as the eye can see. In spring and early summer, you might find a farmer cutting turf beside the road, under a fresh blue sky.

Soon the narrow road rises up as you start the final 2km of this testing climb. You’ll battle gravity and fight to keep the pedals turning. It is said that Oisín, the son of the greatest hunter warrior in Irish mythology Fionn MacCumhaill, returned here after spending 300 years in Tír Na nÓg – the Irish name for the otherworld.

With an average gradient of eight per cent and ramps of 20 per cent, Oisin’s blessing is hard earned. Once your heart calms down, there is a profound silence and peace at the top. The Kingdom of Kerry stretches out below with The McGillicuddy Reeks and Bridia Valley behind you, and Cahersiveen and the end of the Iveragh Peninsula ahead of you.

There follows a very fast 2km descent towards Cahersiveen that demands concentration. The remaining 20km are swift with smooth pedaling and only a small drag up by a wind farm to slow the pace. Cahersiveen beckons and hot food, coffee, and desserts are well deserved.

After coffee, cycle back on the N70 Ring of Kerry road for Killorglin. The legs, having rested over food, are slow to awaken, but once cresting Dooneen the speed increases as the gentle descent and a potential prevailing south westerly wind combine. Enjoy the effortless speed on an ocean road for the next 10km and take in the expanse of the Atlantic, as it stretches across the bay to the Dingle Peninsula. At Mountain stage a left onto a narrow road leads you up to the most spectacular views over Rossbeigh Beach and the Dingle Peninsula. A fast and steep descent brings you down to the golden beach and then onto Glenbeigh village.

From there it’s an easy 10km back to Killorglin. For full directions and a map of the route see komoot link here.

This is also a great route in reverse. The descent of Ballaghasheen down into Glencar, with the Reeks as a backdrop, is stunning.

5-6 hours
90 km
Route Map
Official Partner
KGC Cycles

Suggested Accommodation

Ard na Sidhe Country House

Ard na Sidhe Country House is a charming 18 bedroom hotel located on the shores of Caragh Lake in County Kerry, in the southwest of Ireland.  Built by Lady Gordon in 1913 in the Arts and Crafts style, its superb natural setting offers something truly special to the discerning visitor.

Ard na Sidhe Country House

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