There was a moment on the walk when I turned around and looked at the valley I was emerging out from. It was brown with dead ferns and black where gorse bushes had burned. Green in places with heather.
And I was completely alone. I couldn’t see any sign of human life, I was surrounded on all sides by hills and only hills. The wind blew through the valley. A stream surged at its base, towards the sea. But I couldn’t see the sea, I couldn’t see any houses, either, or any sign of human life. The mountains, the sky, the dead ferns and gorse, heather, a stream and me.
It was just me, in this huge valley surrounded by mountains. And I knew this was what I’d wanted, what I’d come down here for – to experience this isolation. To be completely and utterly alone, even for a short time. I sucked it in, feeling small and great.
There was heavy rain forecast in the afternoon, so I’d headed off early. The walk is called Siúlóid an tSáis (The Walk of Sauce – I know! More later).
Fog on the Connor Pass and I wondered if I’d get a walk in at all. But as I descended I could see the coastline suffused in sunlight, and I took heart.
A good pull up the mountain from the car park at Brandon Point (or Srón Bhroin in Irish, hee hee), then a descent over the stream and then another long slow climb. A lot of flowing water and casual water on the mountain from yesterdays’ tempest, so I had to meander around it, slow going. Sheep moved cautiously out of my way, and showers came down on me from Brandon but I realised that none of them would last and so I soldiered on.
The way is signposted so I couldn’t get lost, which was what I’d wanted, I’m not experienced at being alone up a mountain alone. The view back over The Magherees was stunning, the light on the water stunning and the sunlight on An Sás or Sauce Creek wholly beautiful.
I rose a mountain bird from some heather and it gave a sharp screech as it flew away low and swerving up the side of the mountain, good sized and fast, sharp wingtips, white underbelly. A snipe, maybe, but I wasn’t sure. Then I rose the same bird a few hundred metres on and the same screech and it was a snipe, I’m fairly sure. I rose a pipit further on and at one point near the top I saw a raven approach, languorously, through the gale. Straight out of mythology, the raven is.
It came close and I could see its beak was as black as its wings, so it definitely was a raven and not a rook and it went past me like I didn’t exist, up to the peak and I thought it might land but it just turned away over a crest and I lost it. It didn’t cry its guttural cry and was all the more present and imperious for that.
An Sás means ‘the noose trap’ and you can see why when you look at the sharp drop down to the ocean, the circular shape of the bay, the lack of any possible escape.
I didn’t see a single person on the mountain from start to finish. When the edges of Mount Brandon and Más an Tiompán and An Buaicín came into view I felt tiny in the presence of such vastness. Clouds hid the peaks of Brandon and Más an Tiompán but An Buaicín isn’t high enough to draw them down and it was beautiful when sunlit at the edge of the sea.
Rainbows, there were rainbows after every shower.
I rested and ate a banana at the high point and point of return, a place called Faill an tSáis at 482m and took shelter out of the wind. Views of Brandon Pier and Cloghane and the soft flat bay and beaches around it.
There had been turf cutting here once upon a time and a long straight bog road stretched out away from me, gilded in sunlight. It really was something up there.
The walk back to the car was uneventful, on old green roads and bog roads and then a back road and then the main(ish) road out to the point. Cars with older couples touristing, a father and young daughter on mid-term.
I sat into the car on the lee side and ate a sandwich I’d made and was thoroughly satisfied with myself, spent by the climb and touched by the mountain, elated by the great solitude up there.
I’d done it. I could go home again, now.