Cnoc na dTobar (Angliced as Knocknadobar, from the Irish for hill of the wells) is one of the westernmost mountains on the Iveragh peninsula and forms a major backdrop to the town of Cahersiveen. Its summit cross can be seen from the town centre and beyond. The mountain is an important tourist attraction for the area as it’s home to an ancient Pilgrim Path that is still very popular to this day, marked by 14 separate crosses along the way depicting the ‘Stations of the Cross’. The Cnoc na dTobar Pilgrim Path is now well signposted from Cahersiveen and even if, like myself, you’re not into Flying Spaghetti monsters or indeed other omnipotent beings, it offers a stunning walk with fantastic scenery.
The mountain (and its large flat summit) was an important spiritual site in pre-Christian Ireland, especially as a place for celebrating the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasadh, with fires, song and dance. At the foot of the mountain you’ll find St Fursey’s Well, named after a sixth-century saint (allegedly the water has eye-healing properties). In 1885 the Caherciveen parish priest, Canon Timothy Brosnan ordered the Stations of the Cross to be built. He ran a church on the slopes of Knocknadobar and every winter its roof would get blown off. One winter the roof stayed in place and the next Thanksgiving, the Canon wanted to show his gratitude. The big cross on the top is still called “Canon’s Cross”.
It’s an easy enough walk that has recently seen major restorations and signposting put in place. Whilst there are sheep roaming the slopes of the mountain, I did not encounter any of the “if you bring your dog we will rape your dog and kill your family”-signs often seen on the Beara peninsula and Carrauntoohil, and Apache (kept on a lead) was able come along no bother. The way is marked by lots of little white posts, so many in fact, that at times the overload of them makes it a bit confusing. The way up via all the Stations of the Cross is not the easiest or quickest way to the summit, not unlikely this is on purpose to give unfortunate members of the God squad some extra penance.
Soon it becomes clear why this has been such a popular place throughout time. The views are tremendous. To the West there’s Valentia Island, which looks rather puny from this height, and the iconic Skellig Islands. Dingle Town can be seen clearly to the North as can the Blasket Islands, the Slieve Mish mountains and in fact most of the Dingle peninsula. Eastwards it’s the mountains of the Iveragh peninsula that dominate the view, with the MacGillyCuddy’s Reeks poking up just behind Teermoyle and Coomacarrea Mountains. Finally to the South it’s Cahersiveen and the River Fertha estuary in the foreground, against Dursey Island in the distance, which today was only faintly visible.