Walks: Taking a day out on Killusty
With a nation gone to ‘the Ploughing’, we head for the hills
Recently, I rang a hotel in Killarney seeking the reservations manager only to be told “Sorry, she’s gone to the Ploughing.” A son of the land, I immediately understood what “gone to the Ploughing” meant, but still wondered what an overseas caller would make of it. Later, I sought a businessman from Kilkenny, but was told “you can meet him down at the Ploughing”. Finally, when I rang a State body, I was informed: “Call back on Friday when they’re all back from Stradbally”.
The entire country had, it seemed, come down with a severe dose of ploughing match fever. Turning the sod is now, according to news reports, more popular than even the All-Ireland final. This provided me with a splendid excuse to down tools in sympathy with the nation and take the afternoon off.
Not caring for the teeming Stradbally crowds, I headed instead for the solitude of Killusty, which lies in the shadow of deeply mythological Slievenamon Mountain. Here an enclosed lane led me easily through a gate to open hillside. Immediately the route swung left to attain a serenely located, Millennium Cross before proceeding uphill on a stony path to Killusty Cross. Constructed 63 years ago, this edifice offered a splendid view over the vast tablecloth of the fertile Golden Vale. Then the path weaved its way placidly upwards before petering out as the moorland terrain levelled before rising sharply on Slievenamon’s delicate shoulder.
On the summit, a huge burial cairn is reputed to contain the entrance to the Celtic underworld. It is also believed to be Fionn MacCumhaill’s seat, from where he watched suitors for his hand in marriage race to the summit.
Slievenamon has a flattened top, and to appreciate the full vista it was necessary to circle the plateau. To the north and east lay the Blackstairs, the Slieve Blooms and Slievefelim Hills. To the west and south were the Galtees, Knockmealdowns and Comeraghs, to complete a compelling upland necklace.
I could now have retraced my steps, but hankering further exploration I descended the tourist path that runs roughly southwest and offers a great vista over the densely castellated Suir Valley. Here my eyes were drawn to ruined Kilcash Castle, once a great stronghold of the Butlers.
On reaching yet another cross (commemorating a modern-day pilgrimage), I proceeded right on an agreeable track by a stonewall, before traversing open mountainside. Crossing a stream to reach a forest edge, I soon after traversed a small ravine and swung right over another stream. Proceeding upwards on an undulating stony path that skirted forestry on my left, I circled the flanks of the mountain. Eventually I arrived back to join my route of ascent which led me back to my parking place.
GO WALK: KILLUSTY CO TIPPERARY
Startpoint: From Fethard village follow the R704. At a sharp right hand bend, go straight and then take the first right. Park your car, considerately, where a lane leads right and uphill.
Suitability: Route traverses featureless upland with some disagreeable heather so you need reasonable fitness. Navigation skills required in mist.
Time: There and back takes about 2.5 hours. The extended circuit takes additional 1.5 hours.
Map: OSi Discovery Series sheets 67 and 75 are required for the full walk.