Go Walk: The Nore Valley, Kilkenny

A captivating and worthy way to celebrate my century of walks for the ‘Irish Times’

The Nore Valley: from bucolic Bennettsbridge to the beating heart of  medieval Kilkenny city

The Nore Valley: from bucolic Bennettsbridge to the beating heart of medieval Kilkenny city

 

Go Walk: The Nore Valley, Kilkenny

Start: The six-arched bridge in Bennettsbridge on the main N700 between Kilkenny and Thomastown.
Suitability: Easy, 11km outing following the Nore and a minor road near Kilkenny. Trail not hugely subject to flooding but can become impassable in wet weather near Bennettsbridge. Boots are the most suitable footwear.
Walking Time: 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here, people and place have co-existed harmoniously for centuries as the rich, verdant landscape bequeathed the necessities for untroubled living. Rolling countryside, stay-awhile villages, prosperous farms, wooded hillsides and unhurried rivers combine to make Kilkenny a mountain- and coastline-free county of, otherwise, huge variety. And the city, which was founded in 1207, has rarely had a dull moment since, with Normans, planters, Jacobites and latterly tourists coming in landslides to sample its riches. And now I have arrived to celebrate my 100th walk for the Irish Times with a long promised treat – tagging the meandering Nore Valley Walk upstream from Bennettsbridge to the beating heart of the medieval city.

From the elegantly slender arches of the eponymous 18th-century bridge, I footed it upstream on a well-developed trail with the first ice of winter crunching satisfyingly beneath my boots. A wettish area that clearly forms part of the Nore flood plain was followed by the hum of traffic, where the M9 Motorway crossed above the river. Then, I was away from it all as the unique silence of the waterside enveloped me. Woodlands filled with the honeyed hues of late autumn now clothed the riverside as the Nore plunged busily southwards on its eternal ocean bound journey.

Near Maddocktown, a gorge is formed by the rock faces from which Kilkenny’s famous black marble was once hewn. Here, the waters tumbled tumultuously over long abandoned weirs. Then, in crepuscular November light, I came upon the spookily Gothic silhouette of some abandoned mill buildings and chanced upon a local rambler heading downstream. Inevitably, we chatted. He told me that the river was once the great powerhouse of Kilkenny’s 18th-century industrial strength, with grain, paper and woollen mills festooning its banks, before adding with a sly wink that, of course, there was also a distillery. He comes this way regularly and in summer the path is thick with visitors from across the world. This puts me in mind of how our rivers have become modern playground for recreation, while prior to the industrial revolution they were busy transport highways and the only true source of power for industry.

Approaching Kilkenny, the Nore ox-bowed eccentrically left and, soon after, an access problem forced the trail to abandon the riverbank. The narrow Sion Road isn’t really suitable for walkers, but the diversion is short and soon I was back at the waterside.

Afternoon strollers thickened around me as I passed beneath the road that semi-circles Kilkenny and immediately crossed a newly constructed footbridge that takes me to the opposite river bank. Now, it was plain sailing as the Nore conveyed me elegantly into the medieval heart of the marble City.

From beneath the stout walls of the great Butler Castle, I climbed a few steps into the castle grounds where I sat and reflected that the Nore Valley Walk was a captivating and worthy way to celebrate my century of walks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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