Cnoc na dTobar, a mountain on the Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s ancient sacred sites. To this very day pilgrims travel to this mountain to visit the holy well at its base, and to climb its slopes in contemplation.
Barb, a reader from Boston, recently returned from Ireland and on her trip she climbed to the top of this amazing mountain with camera in hand. The Kerry landscape did not disappoint, and I’m ever so grateful to her for sharing her photos with us today.
They clearly demonstrate that this spot is one of Ireland’s thin places.
So together let’s explore the history of this special mountain.
How To Pronounce Cnoc na dTobar:
Let’s first learn how to pronounce Cnoc na dTobar.
Phonetically it is pronounced kin-ook nah dhub-ber
Here’s a quick sound file to listen to the pronunciation.
Play to listen to pronunciation of Cnoc na dTobar
What Does The Name Mean?
The name literally means the hill of the well or wells.
Now, I’m not quite certain if the name refers to one or more wells. ‘Tobar’ is the Irish word for well. However, tobar is singular. However, if it was the hill of just one well it should be Cnoc an Tobar, and if there are multiple wells, it should be Cnoc na dTobair. An Irish language scholar will have to sort this one out for me. My rusty Irish is definitely not up to the task.
Anyway, there definitely is at least one holy well to be found at the base of the mountain. It’s dedicated to St. Fursa, who walked these mountains way back in the sixth century.
The well waters are known for their healing mineral properties, and locally are recommended for curing eye problems.
Where Is Cnoc na dTobar?
It lies a few miles from the town of Cahersiveen in the south west of County Kerry, often called the Skellig region on the Iveragh Peninsula.
The walk is aligned with the famous Skellig Rocks, which have become ever more famous after Luke Skywalker landed his space ship there.
As climbers gradually ascend the mountainside the magnificent vista of Skellig Michael and Skellig Beg comes into sight.
The trail is well marked, and if agile and healthy, people of all ages can at least make it part of the way.
Your soul may be cleansed of all your sins as you huff and puff your way up to the top of the mountain, but it is the magnificent landscape on a clear day, that will make your soul sing.
With spectacular views of the Kerry mountains, Dingle Bay, and Valentia Island, the Kerry coastline spans out before you. On a good day you can even see as far as West Cork.
A Mountain with a Sacred Past:
Pagan pilgrims and medieval Christians flocked to this site for centuries.
In the days before St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish, the native Celts often assembled on this mountain to celebrate some of their seasonal feasts. Lughnasa, their harvest festival, was often marked on this very mountain. Here they would light fires, sing, dance and have a good old shindig when August came.
As the Celts adopted Christianity this mountain remained an important pilgrimage site. In 1885 Canon Brosnan, the parish priest of Cahersiveen, instructed fourteen crosses be built to mark the Stations of the Cross along the ancient trail on the mountain.
Croagh Patrick is the most famous of Ireland’s mountainous Pilgrim Paths, but Mount Brandon and Cnoc na dTobar in County Kerry were just as significant in days gone by.
Ireland is home to twelve official Pilgrim Paths. You can read all about them on this Pilgrim Path website.
More Information For Anyone Planning To Climb Cnoc na dTobar:
If Fido likes to walk with you, leave him at home. No dogs are allowed to do the Stations of the Cross on this holy trail.
Dress for changing weather, which means wear layers you can peel off if the sun shines, and put back on if the heavens open. You never know when it might start to rain on an Irish mountain side.
And there’s no need to park your car at the side of the road. There’s a car park at the foot of the mountain, right where the trail begins.
For more information, you can contact The Old Barracks Heritage Centre in Cahersiveen.
Thanks for Sharing Your Photos:
Many thanks to Barb for giving me permission to publish her photos here. Many readers dream of taking a trip to Ireland, but some must be content to be armchair travelers. These photos will mean the world to those who love Ireland , but may never get there. Thanks so much for your generosity, Barb.
And, for all the armchair travelers out there, here’s a little video also featuring Barb’s photos.
If you would like to submit your photos for publishing on this website, check out our photo submission form here.
Happy mountain trails to all who decide to undertake this Pilgrim Trail.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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