Go Walk:There’s a fine walk to the west of the Vee that’s been undervalued for too long, writes TONY DOHERTY
THE ONLY horse I ever rode was an old cart horse who, when I hopped on, took off on his usual route and no amount of pulling of reins would get him to alter course. When it comes to the Knockmealdowns I am that cart horse. Start me off in the Vee car park and I will plod steadily up to Sugarloaf and then across the ridge to Knockmealdown Mountain and onwards to Knockfallia.
In all the years it never occurred to me to explore the ridge to the west of the Vee which is rather peculiar. A recent resolution to go where this walker has not gone before led me to turn my back firmly on Sugarloaf and set out for Knockshanahullion (652m).
A narrow track leads uphill on the Tipperary side of the county boundary. At first it winds its way through thickets of rhododendron which cover the lower slopes. When you reach spot height 630m continue to follow the fence line to the next one which is at 551m. On the way you’ll drop down to a col which can be soggy after spells of rain. It’s a steep but short slog up to Knockshanahullion (Hill of the Old Holly). As you get higher the summit of Galteemore appears beyond your destination and gives the interesting optical illusion that it is just a short distance away.
The peak is topped by a large Bronze Age burial mound which looks like it has been considerably deconstructed and reconstructed by persons unknown in more recent times. A circular stone shelter has been constructed in the hollowed out centre of the cairn.
The profile of the Galtees was etched into the clear blue sky across the valley but the weak winter sun was unable to define the detail of the slopes. The range is now underscored by the straight white line of the M8. I also had a fine view of the main crest of the Knockmealdowns while the Comeraghs slowly dissolved into the thickening haze further east.
The next leg brings you southward to Knockclugga where you’ll pick up a bog road (part of the Avondhu Way) which leads you comfortably westward towards Crow Hill crossing a third class road as it does so. There is a car park here and as it is at an altitude of 450m it provides excellent access for a short winter walk on the ridge.
When you reach the flank of Crow Hill (517m) leave the way marked route and head for the summit from where a narrow track leads to Farbreaga (518m). It is marked by a succession of two-meter high cairns which presumably are the eponymous “False Men”. This westernmost peak of the Knockmealdowns is like a great headland surrounded by a sea of green as the Golden Vale sweeps around its foot to merge with the basin of the River Blackwater.
Looking down into the Araglin Valley you can see a great example of the influence of soil type on vegetation. The heather which covers the thin acid soils of the mountain side; the vivid green pastures of the alluvial flood plain; and the more subdued greens of the drier glacial soils on the opposite side.
Retrace your steps as far as Knockclugga and then continue eastwards along the Avondhu Way, which runs just above the coniferous plantations of the lower slopes on bog track and forest road, and has plenty of way markers to lead you directly back to the car park.
I shall have to abandon my blinkered ways as it is a shame to have ignored a fine walk for so long.
Route Western Knockmealdowns
MapOrdnance Survey Discovery Series, Sheet 74.
Start/finishThe car park at the highest point on the R668, Clogheen (Co Tipperary) to Lismore (Co Waterford) road.
Get thereLismore is on the N72. Clogheen is on the R665, Mitchelstown to Clonmel road.
TimeFive to six hours.
SuitabilityModerate route. Map, compass, warm clothing, boots and raingear essential.
Food/accommodationLismore, Cahir, Mitchelstown, Fermoy.