Dunmore Loop: A walk you can bank on
This trail, along river banks and rich woodlands, has plenty of diversity
Dunmore Loop Walk, Co Laois
Arriving into Durrow, Co Laois, it is immediately obvious that something is afoot. Uniformly clad in outdoor attire and boots, a large group are standing expectantly around the centre of this compelling 17th century village that recovered much of its stay-awhile charm when traffic was redirected recently to the M8 motorway.
Clearly I am in the right place for my mission is to join Mid-Tipp Hillwalkers on one of their renowned Friday walks, which, for almost 10 years, have provided a gentle introduction to some of the finest walks in the south midlands.
Today it’s the Dunmore Loop, and things seem immediately promising as, almost 50 strong, we head up a sylvan bower towards Durrow Castle.
Swinging right we stray down a delightful country lane before joining the tranquil banks of the Erkina River. A convenient footbridge then leads to a rapid scene-change as we meander through bluebell rich, Knockanoran Woodlands before a green lane and a minor road transports us to a stone stile into the delightful natural woods of Dunmore Demesne.
Senses now overwhelmed by the sights and smells of summer, we ramble along a dappled avenue of intertwining beech trees while awash with the sounds of carefree chatter.
Time constraints force some abbreviation of the route through Dunmore Demesne, but the almost infinite variety of the walk continued as we soon join the banks of a most renowned Irish river and continue by the sweep of this waterway until we re-encounter the River Erkina as it empties into the Nore.
Crossing another footbridge at this meeting of bright waters signals another abrupt scene-change as the River Nore now corkscrews south through the fertile, well watered farmlands of Laois. There is invariably something soothing about following a meandering river and soon the cares of the 21st century seem far away.
Then our curiosity is captured by the great lonesome chimneys of an eerie ruin. This is Knockatrina house, built by the Flower family in the 19th century. The Flowers also laid out the village of Durrow, and continued to own it until well into the 20th century, when financial difficulties forced abandonment of their Irish estates.
Leaving the waterside we tag a timber fence before entering yet another ecosystem – a wet forest or fen which is characterised, we are told here, by a rich diversity of vegetation. Reaching the N77, some of the group return directly along the pleasant green verge to Durrow. Otherwise we must square our shoulders to tackle the only ascent of the day on an enclosed green lane. An effort shared is, of course, an effort halved, and in what seems no time we are descending towards the backdrop of a glorious honey-hued sunset to join a quiet byroad at Clonageera.
In the hush of gathering twilight we swing right and return to Durrow, with all agreeing the Dunmore Loop is one of the finest and most diverse low-level outings we have encountered.
WALKS DUNMORE LOOP WALK, CO LAOIS Getting there From Portlaoise take the N8 south to Durrow. The trailhead is located on the village green.
Difficulty Easy, well-marked route with sound underfoot conditions throughout. No hard ascents or navigational difficulties.
Time 3.5 hours. Distance 16km
Map Discovery sheet 60