Go Walk: Western Knockmeladowns, Co Tipperary
Rise to the challenge: The Western Knockmealdowns are captivating
Western Knockmeladowns, Co Tipperary
Start: Begin from the parking place beneath Virgin Mary statue at the highest point of the Vee Gap, on the R668.
When Robert Lloyd Praeger encountered the Knockmealdown Mountains on his famous exploration of Ireland’s landscape, he wasn’t impressed. “Nothing except this single row of summits – no lakes or corries, deep glens or cliffs; very little bare rock”, he complained.
Clearly the great naturalist was incorrect here, for Bay Lough is a fine example of a corrie lake. Second, it was also a bit unfair since in every respect the Knockmealdowns form a noble and captivating range.
For a moderately challenging, but otherwise delightful walk in the western Knockmealdowns, start from the car park at the head of the Vee Gap (see panel). Follow the trail downhill, passing Bay Lough where alleged witch Petticoat Loose is reputed to lie in a watery grave. Next, gain the viewing point north of the lake and absorb fully the tranquil setting. In early summer the mountainside will be ablaze with purple rhododendrons in full flower.
Now it’s time to climb and the route is gently upwards, by a trail that was once virtually impassable. It has recently been made usable, however, by the industrious efforts of the local community group, KMP, which is doing much admirable work in the Knockmealdowns.
Follow this path through open heath land to reach a dry stone wall. Go left here and tag the wall until an intimidating ravine bars the way. Actually this obstacle is surprisingly easy to overcome and leads to an informal path that conveys you easily to the banks of your next hurdle – the Glounliagh river. This is best crossed upstream and just above a small waterfall.
Now it’s onwards and eventually upwards on a loose stony path to reach a mountain shoulder. Here, the hard work begins. Swing left and follow the broad trackless crest which is unhelpfully rough and heathery. It rises in a series of vexatious installments with some false summits until you eventually reach Knochshanahullion. This is crowned by a trig pillar and a large burial cairn while scattered around is a catastrophe of stone arrangements that are clearly of modern construction.
On a good day, enjoy the excellent views, especially those north to the Galtee Mountains and south to the Waterford coastline, then descend steeply in a southeasterly direction heading towards the corner of a fence. Follow this fence east but when it swings south, break away eastwards for point 630m. As you near this summit you should pick up a faint mountain track. The top, you will find, is adorned by a cairn and there are elegant vistas east to Sugarloaf Mountain and Knockmealdown Ridge.
Now continue east for a couple of hundred metres beside a fence. When another fence leads south, follow this and continue all the way on a gradual decline to join the Avondu section of the Blackwater Way at a three-fence intersection. Now descend a switchback track to join a pleasant trail with forestry on your right. This leads you back to your starting point at the head of the Vee Gap.