Glories of the Galtee peaks
The Ice Road to Lough Curra
My offering this week comes from Co Tipperary’s, Aherlow House Hotel. Arriving, tired and mud spattered at this former hunting lodge, I have just blundered with unerring accuracy into a large and – as my luck would have it – extremely stylish country wedding. Immediately hoping not to be identified by one side, as the embarrassing black sheep relative the other side have so far not plucked up the courage to mention, I have taken refuge – unobtrusively, I hope – in a large armchair. From this seclusion zone, I can now tell you about today’s walk, which began under promising mackerel skies from nearby Clydagh Bridge.
Feeling happily in sync with my surroundings, I followed the directional arrows south on a sympathetic woodland path to reach a T-junction beside a ruin known as Saunders Lodge. Going left, I soon after traversed a gravel shortcut through Drumleagh Wood that conveniently reduced my access walk by almost a kilometre. Recently constructed by the local Mountain Meitheal volunteers, this path is another example of how this group undertakes projects to protect, conserve and allow continuing access to the uplands of Ireland.
Swinging left and later right again at a finger post sign for Lough Curra, I gained open moorland. Here with the glories of the great Galtee peaks towering above, I followed a line of posts to the top of a grassy knoll. Just beyond, my walk coalesced with a path known as the Ice Road. Once the artery for the extraction of ice blocks from Lough Curra that were then used as a coolant in the ice houses of local estates, the ice road now serves as a walker friendly access path leading to Curra’s shore.
At the lakeside I tarried awhile to absorb the wild beauty and almost deafening stillness afforded by the highest body of water in the Galtees. Then I continued uphill on a broad grassy ramp that provided the only feasible ascent route in the brooding cliffs at the back of the lake. Emerging onto the Galty Ridge, I found myself standing beside a drystone wall.
An impressive structure built in the late 19th century to divide the landholdings of the Galtee Castle and Massey Dawson estates, the Galty Wall runs 3,500m along the ridge top. High mountain structures such as this always set me wondering about the builders. Did they clamber up each day from the valley, irrespective of weather? What protective clothing did they have? How much were they paid? I guess, we’ll never know for sure, but one thing is certain, these teak-tough individuals created a minimalist but enduring structure that, for well over a century, has survived the harshest winter gales. Now I ambled west in step with the wall until we parted company where it swung left. My route proceeded north instead on the broad Knocknanuss spur as it descended towards Glencushnabinna. Eventually, a faint track led right to the knoll encountered earlier. From here a line of poles took me into Drumleagh Wood where a meandering trail through insanely colourful autumnal woodlands led me pleasantly back to my startpoint.
Getting there: From Lisvernane village, in Aherlow, head east along the R663. Go right and then left at a T-junction to reach Clydagh Bridge. Just beyond the bridge, go right and park at a forest entrance.
Suitability: Reasonably challenging walk requiring good fitness and reaching considerable altitude.
Map: OSI Discovery Series sheet 74.
Time: About 3.5 hours.