Slieve Bloom's wooded valleys and leafy roads
GREAT DRIVES THE SLIEVE BLOOM MOUNTAINS:THE SLIEVE Bloom Mountains have been kind to this column in the past, providing two memorable drives in this series – the road from Clonaslee to Mountrath via “The Cut” and the wonderful “Glendine Gap”. There are few roads in the Slieve Blooms but I have long been aware that there was another road of great potential just waiting to be explored.
Mountrath was our starting point on this occasion and we left the town by the R423 almost immediately turning left onto the R440 road signposted for Kinnitty.
The road gradually rises and after about 8kms you will pass a road to the right signposted for Clonasleee and the Cut. Continuing along the R440 there are several side roads worth exploring if you have the time and the inclination. One of the most interesting is down into the valley of the Delour River which is signposted from the R440. This is a remote and lovely valley and is matched by another road that leaves the R440 to the southwest, a very short distance after the turn into the Delour valley. Both these roads are not tarmacadamed but provide no difficulty for cars.
Returning to the R440 the road takes us between a number of wonderfully named mountains: Wolftrap (487m); Knockachoora (467m); Spink (330m) and Stillbrook Hill (496m).
As the road heads northwest fine views across the many wooded valleys of the Slieve Bloom mountains open up. Several parking areas are provided from which to enjoy the views that, even on the dull, rain-swept day on which I was there, are memorable. What I always find remarkable about travelling in the Slieve Bloom mountains is how close they are to the busy M7 yet one meets few cars and these, one suspects, are locals and not tourists. This is truly an “undiscovered” landscape.
At Letter crossroads – actually not a crossroads but instead a junction of just three roads – the R440 swings left at the fork and starts to meander downhill along the valley of the Camcor River.
Once again there are wonderful views across the wooded valleys, this time of Glenregan and towards Carroll’s Hill and yet again parking places are provided from which to enjoy the views. From the picturesque Coneyburrow Bridge it is just a short drive into the small village of Kinnitty. Kinnitty (Ceann Eich – Eireach’s Head) is an unusually attractive village lying at the east of the mountains. It was laid out in the late 18th century and in its Church of Ireland church is an early Christian grave slab.
If you wish to extend your drive then leave Kinnitty on the R421 heading for Clonaslee. About 3.5kms along the road is a staggered junction signposted Kilcormac to the left. Take the right-hand turn signposted for Mountrath. This road will bring you back onto the R440 which it joins after about 5kms at Letter Crossroads, providing a second chance to view our exploration but this time from the opposite direction. I enjoyed this drive enormously. Something about the valleys and mountains of the Slieve Bloom Mountains makes you feel privilaged to be there. It’s a unique corner of Ireland quietly waiting to be discovered and to share its charms.