Go walk: Glenshelane Woodland, Co Waterford

A walk under dappled leaves can be cool


Glenshelane Woodland, Waterford

Suitability: Easy/moderate. Boots are advisable for full Red Route.
Map: Ordnance Survey: Discovery Series, sheets 74 & 81. Coillte map is much more useful: coillteoutdoors.ie
Start and finish: Glenshelane Wood car park. Grid reference: 118 994
Time: Grotto Route: 2 hours. Red Route plus Grotto Route: 4 hours
Distance: Short route: 5km. Long route: 10km, ascent: 100m







The high temperatures and humidity kept me off the mountains in July and sent me scurrying for the cool stippled shade of woodland which is how I came upon the delightful Glenshelane Wood in Co Waterford.

I am not a great lover of conifers and this spot has its quota of spruce and fir, scots pine, cedar and larch but here they sit comfortably with a munificent diversity of broadleaves such as beech, ash, silver birch, oak, chestnut and alder. The undergrowth is not merely a “ferny forest floor” but a densely packed blend of bilberry, whitethorn, holly, foxgloves, bramble and woodrush. And along the bottom of this arboreal gorge flows the Glenshelane River; no mere babbling brook this, but a waterway capable of transferring great volumes of run-off from the Knockmealdown Mountains.

I found that a combination of two of the trails to be the most satisfactory in experiencing the best of the woodlands. The main track runs northward from the car park.

There are intriguing glimpses of the river through the vegetation and one or two places where you can get close. Keep heading north as far as the second footbridge which is located just downstream from the confluence of the Glenshelane and Glenfallia rivers. Cross here and continue towards the scout campsite and the start of the “Mellary Bridge grotto” walk. Now the trail runs right beside the Glenfallia River and while this is a relatively short walk, it will take you sometime as you will be guaranteed to linger at several spots along the way. The route shortly passes under the arch of a bridge constructed of limestone blocks. Water seeping between the blocks has created fringes of small stalactites.

A couple of hundred metres on you will come to a spot on the river described as a waterfall on the map. It would be more accurately classified as rapids and it is an astonishing spot where during times of flood over the millennia, the attrition from the torrents of water have moulded the large boulders into spectacularly smooth and rounded shapes. It could be designated as a natural sculpture garden located in an outstanding water feature.

Further on the trail ends at a pergola of all things and if you are curious turn left on to a rough road down to Mellary Bridge beside which there is a rather unusual grotto marking a spot where an “apparition” occurred in 1985. As you return you have the option of taking in the upper part of the Red Route but hiking boots are essential as the track is stony.

As I retraced my steps I noticed numerous little trails leading into the undergrowth which reminded me of a little-known addendum to old laws on rights of way which gave a “Right to Cavort” on either side. Sadly, as I had no one to cavort with, I made it back in quick time in order to indulge in some comfort eating in Cappoquin.