Mount Gabriel, Schull

Mount Gabriel (Cnoc Osta) has such a distinctive summit with its two Radar Domes at its summit, that it is easily recognizable from many locations within West Cork. On our travels, we have seen it from so many different vantage points (from day trips to Ballyrisode Beach to travelling back from Skibbereen towards Ballydehob) that it has become an easily definable landmark from which to get our bearings. And yet, despite knowing it as a landmark quite well, we had never yet gone up to the top.

Children looking at the radar dome on mount gabriel near schull
Radar Dome on Mount Gabriel, Schull

So, earlier this year, just before the lockdown became a real thing and before the children were all sent home from school, we took a drive to Schull on a lovely weekend to find a way up to the top of Mount Gabriel.

We had read of many different routes up the side of the mountain and people always say that there is no right or wrong way to get up to the summit and that it can be accessed from all sides. But as we were unable to find a specific start of a path leading up the side of the mountain, we decided to find the road provided and maintained by the Irish Aviation Authority and follow that up instead. Just to be safe. I know I was erring on the side of caution, but Mount Gabriel was extensively mined for copper at one stage and I didn’t want to flirt with the possibility of one of us falling down a forgotten mineshaft on a Sunday afternoon.

Leaving Schull via the South Terrace Road (with the primary school on our left) we drove around the skirt of the mountain – hugging it by taking left turns wherever one presented itself (there were 3 altogether) until we came to the road that has a ‘cul de sac’ sign as well as a sign showing the start of the road maintained by the Irish Aviation Authority. We parked the car on the verge there and this is the point at which we started our walk. As the road is tarred all the way to the top, it makes for a smooth walk and it will suit young walkers who might struggle with a more rugged or uneven route.

irish aviation authority signboard at road leading up to mount gabriel
Access Road to Mount Gabriel owned by the Irish Aviation Authority

The first thing that struck us was the stillness. The day was so quiet we could hear the crash of very distant waves and with each corner we turned up the windy road, the vista opened up more and more for us. Eventually we could see Roaring Water Bay, Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay.

kids walking the road up to mount gabriel in west cork
The road to the top is smooth and tarred and around each bend, the view opens out more and more


The nature on the walk was wonderful and we watched a bird of prey hovering for its dinner. There were lots of sheep with their newly born lambs to admire along the way and the sound of trickling water was so clear and clean, some were tempted to drink from it – possibly not the most advisable thing to do, but it did those who did absolutely no harm at all.

Child looking at sheep and lamb on mountain walk near schull
Admiring the Spring Lambs on Mount Gabriel

The two Radar Domes at the top are bizarre structures to see up close. They are fenced off but you can still get close enough to get an idea of their size. They were built in the late 1970s as a part of the European air traffic control system and are still run and maintained by the Irish Aviation Authority today. The Irish National Liberation Army blew up one of the domes in 1982 as they believed it was a NATO installation which would have indicated a violation of Irish Neutrality. RTE still have the video clip in their archives for anyone wanting to watch the newscast of the day.

Child standing on rock near radar dome on mount gabriel
Radar Dome on Mount Gabriel

Mount Gabriel is 407m high and from the trig beacon you have a beautiful panorama of the entire Schull Harbour, Long Island Bay, Roaring Water Bay and all the little islands in there known as Carbery’s Hundred Isles. In the distance, you can even see the Macgillycuddy reeks of County Kerry.

child balancing on trig beacon at mount gabriel
On top of the world. The trig beacon on Mount Gabriel is at 407m making it one of the highest points in West Cork.

The Fastnet Rock can be seen on a clear day which according to mythology is linked with Mount Gabriel. On the Duchas.ie website it claims that the devil once flew so low over Mount Gabriel that he clipped his wing against a rock. He got so angry that he took a bite out of the rock and then dropped it as he was flying over the sea. The rock was so large that a part of it stayed above the water and that is the part that the Lighthouse is now built on.

We all enjoyed the walk so much and I cannot believe it took us so long to ever visit it, but now that we have done it, it is one I would love to do again as on a clear day, it is near impossible to beat the incredible scope of the view.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.