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MacGillycuddy's Reeks
Irish: Na Cruacha Dubha
MacGuillycuddy's Reeks.jpg
Highest point
Peak Carrauntoohil
Elevation 1,038.6 m (3,407 ft)
Length 19 km (12 mi) East–West
English translation the black stacks
Language of name Irish
MacGillycuddy's Reeks is located in island of Ireland
MacGillycuddy's Reeks
MacGillycuddy's Reeks
Location in island of Ireland
Location County Kerry
Country Ireland
Provinces of Ireland Munster
Topo map OSI Discovery 78
Age of rock Devonian
Mountain type Purple sandstone & siltstone

MacGillycuddy's Reeks (Irish: Na Cruacha Dubha, meaning the black stacks) is a sandstone and siltstone mountain range in the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Stretching 19 kilometres (12 miles), from the Gap of Dunloe in the east, to Glencar in the west, the Reeks is Ireland's highest mountain range, and includes most of the highest peaks and sharpest ridges in Ireland, and the only peaks on the island over 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) in height.

Near the centre of the range is Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain at 1,038.6 metres (3,407 ft). The range was heavily glaciated which carved out deep corries (e.g. the Eagle's Nest), U-shaped valleys (e.g. Lough Coomloughra), and sharp arêtes and ridges (e.g. the Beenkeragh Ridge).

The range, part of the Reeks District, is a popular destination for mountain walking and climbing and includes some of Ireland's most regarded walking routes such as the 15–kilometre Coomloughra Horseshoe, and the 26-kilometre MacGillycuddy's Reeks Ridge Walk that traverses the full range; it is estimated that over 140,000 people visit the range each year. The entire range is in private ownership; however, reasonable access is given for recreational use.


MacGillycuddy's Reeks are composed of sandstone particles of various sizes which are collectively known as the Old Red Sandstone. The rocks date from the Upper Devonian period (310–450 million years ago) when Ireland was in a hot equatorial setting. During this 60 million year period, Ireland was the site of a major basin, known as the Munster basin, and the counties of Cork and Kerry were effectively a large alluvial floodplain. Chemical oxidation stained the material with a purple–reddish colour (and green in places from chlorination), still visible today. There are virtually no fossils in Old Red Sandstone. The composition of Old Red Sandstone is variable and contains quartz stones, mudstones, siltstones, and sandstone particles (boulders of conglomerate rock containing quartz pebbles are visible throughout the range). The Reeks were also subject to significant glaciation which led to fracturing of the rock, and resulted in deep corries (e.g. the Eagle's Nest), U-shaped valleys (e.g. Lough Coomloughra), and sharp arêtes and ridges (e.g. the Beenkeragh Ridge).


Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Lough Callee and Cnoc na Péiste (Knocknapeasta) - - 1434579
View from Carrauntoohil of the eastern section of the Reeks showing (l-to-r) Cruach Mhor, The Big Gun, Cnoc na Peiste and Maolan Bui; including Maolan Bui's large narrow north-west spur, The Bone.

MacGillycuddy's Reeks are variously described as consisting of two main sections, containing all ten of the Reeks that are above 3,000 ft:

  1. Eastern Reeks, a high ridge connecting (west to east), Cnoc an Chuillinn, Maolán Buí, Cnoc na Péiste, The Big Gun, and Cruach Mhór; and
  2. Coomloughra Reeks, a horseshoe around Lough Coomloughra that connects, Caher (West Top), Caher, Carrauntoohil, The Bones, and Beenkeragh.

The Eastern Reeks meet the Coomloughea Reeks at the col of the Devil's Ladder, a popular ascent route for Carrauntoohil.

MacGillycuddy's Reeks contains the three peaks in Ireland which are over 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) in height, namely: Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain at 1,038.6 m (3,407 ft), followed by Beenkeragh at 1,008 m (3,307 ft) and Caher at 1,000 m (3,300 ft).

The range contains eleven of the fourteen peaks in Ireland that are over 3,000 ft (910 m) in height, and meet the Vandeleur-Lynam classification of a mountain—peaks with a prominence over 15 m (49 ft). All but one of these eleven 3,000 ft peaks, namely Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top, are amongst the list of thirteen Irish Furths—peaks which meet the Scottish Mountaineering Club's criteria for a Munro, and they are therefore also known as Irish Munros.

There are 29 peaks in the range above 100 m (330 ft) in height. The range contains 14 Irish Hewitts (height above 2,000 ft and prominence above 30 metres), and 16 Irish Arderins (height above 500 metres and prominence above 30 metres). The range is also known for its sharp aretes, including The Bones arete, more famously known as the Beenkeragh Ridge, and The Big Gun arete.

A feature of the range is the modest topographic prominence, or "drop" between many of its peaks. Only two of the eleven Reeks over 3,000 ft meet the Marilyn classification of a mountain (a prominence above 150 metres), namely Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Péiste. The only Reek that meets the P600 classification (a prominence above 600 metres), is Carrauntoohil itself. The combination of high peaks and low prominence, means the ridges between the peaks are at a sustained height (e.g. why the prominence is so modest), which has contributed to the popularity of ridge walking in the Reeks, particularly, the Coomloughra Horseshoe, and the MacGillycuddy's Reeks Ridge Walk, and the term, "Ireland's highest mountain range".


The entire range is held in private ownership, both in individually owned freehold parcels in the lower reaches and in commonly owned, open upland zones (‘commonage’). 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.

The private ownership has led to issues around the upkeep of popular paths in the Reeks, most particularly the erosion of the Devil's Ladder path, which is used to summit Carrauntoohil; and various car-parks and bridges used by climbers. The 2013 MAP report noted the importance of safety in light of the increasing climbers and walkers to the Reeks. The MAP report stated that Kerry Mountain Rescue ("KMR") logged 17 fatalities on the Reeks between 1966 and 2000, or about one every second year, but since 2000, KMR had been logging approximately 2 fatalities per annum.

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 Irish Times still wondered, "Should the Kerry reeks be a national park?".


The Eagle's Nest (Carrauntoohil, Kerry)
Looking into the deep Eagle's Nest corrie from the Hag's Glen. The Nest is surrounded by Carrauntoohil (left), The Bones (back, centre), and Beenkeragh (right); Knockbrinea is at the far right. The Hag's Tooth is visible at the entrance to the corrie, as is the Hag's Tooth Ridge up to the summit of Beenkeragh.

The name of the range is Irish: Cruacha Dubha Mhic Giolla Mo Chuda, which is shortened in the Irish form to Irish: Na Cruacha Dubha, meaning "The Black Stacks". However, in the English form, the name is translated as "MacGillycuddy's Reeks" (the translation used in Gasaitéar na hÉireann). The English name is sometimes incorrectly written as "The MacGillycuddy's Reeks", "MacGillycuddy Reeks", or "Macgillycuddy's Reeks".

The MacGillycuddy (Irish: Mhic Giolla Mo Chuda) were a sept, or branch, of the O'Sullivan Moore clan. The MacGillycuddy is recorded as being one of a smaller number of Gaelic chieftains whose lands were returned post the Cromwellian confiscations, which explains why the name survives to this day. The MacGillycuddy family tomb is at Kilgobnet (Kerry), between the mountains and Killorglin. The clan chief, McGillycuddy of the Reeks, owned land in this part of Munster until the end of the 20th century. The word reek is a Hiberno-English version of the English word rick, meaning a stack.



Jim Ryan's 2006 book on the Reeks, Carrauntoohil and MacGillycuddy's Reeks: A Walking Guide to Ireland's Highest Mountains, stated that there were 25,000 annual visitors to the Reeks. The 2013 MAP report quoted Ryan's figures, which were cited in the MAP's Terms of Reference, but stated that: "The Reeks are accessed by at least 25,000 recreational users per annum. It is highly likely that the numbers are a factor of 4 times higher based on observation of the year-round level of usage – but data is required to ascertain the visitor numbers." It was estimated that 125,000 visitors entered the range in 2017 from footfall at three main access points, and that 140,000 entered in 2018 by recording footfall at four main access points.

Hill walking

Coomloughra Lough (MacGillycuddy's Reeks)
The Coomloughra Horseshoe around the Lough Coomloughra, with Caher East Top and Caher West Top on the right, Carrauntoohil back left, and the Beenkeragh Ridge on the far left.

The most common reason for visiting the Reeks is to climb Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. The popular route starts from Cronin's Yard (V837873) and enters the Hag's Glen to climb the Devil's Ladder (the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Toinne), from which the summit is accessed. A more challenging route is via the Hag's Tooth Ridge which circles the Eagle's Nest, and takes in Beenkeragh, and the Beenkeragh Ridge.

MacGillycuddy's Reeks is particularly regarded for the quality of its ridge walking routes, with the 6–8 hour 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) Coomloughra Horseshoe, that circles Lough Coomloughra, considered "one of Ireland’s classic ridge walks", which takes in all three of Ireland's 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) peaks, namely, Carrauntoohil, Beenkeragh, and Caher (East Top and West Top), as well as the famous Beenkeragh Ridge.

The most challenging route is the full MacGillycuddy's Reeks Ridge Walk, a 12- to 14-hour, 26-kilometre (16 mi) traverse of the entire range. The route normally starts at the eastern end from Kate Kearney's Cottage in the Gap of Dunloe. The route takes in Stickeen Mountain (440 metres (1,440 ft)) and Cnoc an Bhráca (731 metres (2,398 ft)) before reaching the ridge proper at Cruach Mhór (932 metres (3,058 ft)). From there it continues along the narrow arete of The Big Gun (939 metres (3,081 ft)) to Cnoc na Péiste (988 metres (3,241 ft)), and continuing along the chain of Maolán Buí (923 metres (3,028 ft)), Cnoc an Chuillinn (958 metres (3,143 ft)), Cnoc na Toinne (845 metres (2,772 ft)) to the summit of Carrauntoohil (1,038 metres (3,406 ft)).

From Carrauntoohil, a number of variations are possible, the main one being a detour to Beenkeragh (1,008 metres (3,307 ft)) before returning along the same route to get to Caher (1,000 metres (3,300 ft)) and then on to Caher West Top (975 metres (3,199 ft)) before descending to the Hydro-Track (V772871) car park near Lough Acoose, Glencar.

An alternative variation is to continue from Beenkeragh on the northern side of the Coomloughra Horseshoe to the peaks or Skregmore (848 metres (2,782 ft)) and Cnoc Íochtair (747 metres (2,451 ft)) before descending to the Hydro-Track car park.

Rock and winter climbing

Eagle's Nest (Lough Cummeenoughter) in Carrauntoohil in winter
Carruntoohil's northeastern corrie (Eagle's Nest), a winter climbing area.

MacGillycuddy's Reeks are not especially known for their rock-climbing routes, unlike Ailladie in Clare or Fair Head in Antrim. The 450 metres (1,480 ft) rock climbing grade Very Difficult (V-Diff), Howling Ridge up the central arete between the east and north-east faces of Carrauntoohil is notable. The north-east face of Carrauntoohil (e.g. the Eagle's Nest area), is better known for its winter climbing, conditions permitting, offering 80 routes with 7 up to winter Grade V.

List of peaks

The following is a download from the MountainViews Online Database, which lists 29 identifiable Reeks with an elevation, or height, above 100 metres (330 ft).

     Furth (or Irish Munro): Height over 3,000 feet (914 m), and on the SMC Furth list.      Marilyn: Any height, and prominence over 150 metres (492 ft).

Peaks of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks (MountainViews Online Database, October 2018)
Name Height
OSI Grid
1 1 Carrauntoohil 1,039 1,039 3,407 3,407 78 V804844
2 8 Beenkeragh 1,008 91 3,308 298 78 V801852
3 5 Caher 1,000 100 3,281 327 78 V793839
4 2 Cnoc na Péiste 988 253 3,241 830 78 V836842
5 25 Caher West Top 973 24 3,194 79 78 V790840
6 20 Maolán Buí 973 38 3,192 125 78 V832838
7 15 Cnoc an Chuillinn 958 53 3,143 174 78 V823833
8 21 The Bones 957 37 3,138 122 78 V801847
9 12 The Big Gun 939 74 3,081 243 78 V840845
10 22 Cruach Mhór 932 34 3,058 112 78 V841848
11 28 Cnoc an Chuillinn East Top 926 21 3,038 69 78 V828834
12 23 Knockbrinnea (W) 854 29 2,802 95 78 V807858
13 26 Stumpa Bharr na hAbhann 852 23 2,796 76 78 V797858
14 16 Skregmore 848 50 2,781 164 78 V792860
15 27 Knockbrinnea (E) 847 22 2,779 72 78 V810857
16 9 Cnoc na Toinne 845 80 2,772 262 78 V811833
17 19 Cnoc Íochtair 746 44 2,448 144 78 V785860
18 7 Cnoc an Bhráca 731 96 2,398 315 78 V858854
19 14 Cnoc na dTarbh 655 60 2,149 197 78 V862850
20 29 Hag's Tooth 650 15 2,133 49 78 V809850
21 17 Brassel Mountain 575 50 1,886 164 78 V830823
22 10 Screig Bheag 573 78 1,880 256 78 V787874
23 6 Binn Bhán 460 96 1,508 315 78 V756828
24 24 Binn Dubh 452 27 1,483 89 78 V749829
25 11 Binn Dhearg 450 76 1,475 249 78 V762820
26 18 Struicín 440 45 1,444 148 78 V866882
27 13 Cnoc Breac 425 70 1,394 230 78 V757868
28 3 Knocknabrone Hill 353 188 1,158 617 78 V801881
29 4 Gortnagan 298 122 978 400 78 V721885
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