Gap in the Vee
GO WALK: JOHN G O'DWYERretraces a much-loved childhood ramble
WHAT WOULD YOU say if you had been rambling the hills for 25 years and then the editor of a new travel magazine requested you contribute some pieces on Ireland’s best walks? You’d say “money for jam” and jump at it, wouldn’t you? Well, it hasn’t turned out quite that way. In my unswerving journalistic quest for the truth, I have been soaked innumerable times, chased by cattle, dogs and more worryingly sheep, become benighted in forestry without a torch, walked into a few bogholes and once been reported for behaving suspiciously in a Waterford Valley.
Having survived without arrest, however, and enjoyed most of it, I was faced with the dilemma of marking the occasion of my 60th walking piece for Go. I decided to revisit my earliest upland experiences, which was crossing the Vee Gap of the Knockmealdown Mountains, a childhood-favourite on one of our always-long anticipated family outings to Mount Mellary Abbey and Clonea Strand.
To relive these earliest mountain memories, I started at the northern end of the Vee, and followed a stony track uphill through dense vegetation to reach a point where glaciation has re-engineered the mountainside to create brooding Bay Lough. This lake was always a source of maudlin fascination on my youthful outings for even in the high summer it is rare to see people bathing. I vividly remember spine-tingling tales of a witch, Petticoat Loose, who reputedly drowned here.
The story went that a ghostly hand would rise from her resting place in the depths to ensnare swimmers daring to enter this lonesome curl of water. Much later, I learned, Petticoat Loose was not, in fact, a witch, but a local woman named Mary Hannigan, whose crime was, in all probability, merely that of being different in misogynistic times.Now I continued upwards on a broad track following a pre-Famine road.
Here, I always found it easy, in boyhood imagination, to visualise the 19th-century long cars and sweating horses of Charles Bianconi toiling upward to the head of the gap. Bianconi was a penniless Italian emigrant who, in the style of Michael O’Leary, rose spectacularly to create Ireland’s first low-cost transportation system.
Crossing the R668 brought back memories of sunny family picnics hereabouts as I began footing it strenuously uphill by an earthen bank and then trended right to the lowest point of the ridge.
Tagging a rough wall southeast for a few hundred metres, I swung sharply left and descended a broad grassy gully. This became stony as it entered the glen at a point where, the now disappeared Lough Moylan, is still shown on Ordinance Survey maps.
Next, I took a rocky track running northwards on the left of the Glenmoylan stream to exit the valley and descend to a pretty footbridge.
Here I encountered signs for the Tipperary Heritage and East Munster Ways.
Following these left over open, heathery ground before entering a forest by a stile, I then traversed a wide forest roadway, until at the end of a long straight stretch, the arrows pointed left. Immediately afterwards, I parted company with the East Munster Way by pursuing the waymarkers for the Tipperary Heritage Way until the path went sharply left.
Instead I went straight ahead, piling onto a much narrower green trail through luxuriant rhododendron shrubs that in summer are a riot of purple flowering shrubs. Soon after, I emerged onto the R668 at a picturesque bridge beside my parking place.
Start point:Walk begins from the parking place (S027 113) beside the first hairpin bend beyond Clogheen on the R668
Time:About 3.5 hours
Suitability:Moderately challenging outing for walkers with adequate fitness and navigation skills
Map:OSI Discovery Series, sheet 74