A walk in Waterford, from glorious coast through river valley

Walk for the Weekend: This Anne River valley loop takes in wildlife, coastline, a Norman castle and storm beaches

Annestown storm beach

Annestown storm beach

 

The coastal route from Tramore to Stradbally in Co Waterford is one of the great coastal drives in the country, passing as it does through a series of small bays with spectacular rock formations that have a complex geological history; as such it has been designated a Unesco Global Geopark and is part of a global network of such sites.

It would be wonderful if a coastal path connected these bays, but that is not possible, so the local communities have developed walking routes, so as well as inspecting the geology of each bay with the aid of information boards, you can stretch your legs on a series of circular walks that run inland around the river valleys that open on to the bays. I opted for the Anne river circuit.

Starting from Annestown Beach I headed east along the R675 for a few hundred metres, taking the first turn on to a tree-lined road that looked over the river meandering along the valley floor and across to the wooded western slopes backed by the outline of the Comeragh mountains. Continuing uphill, I turned left on to an attractive boreen, which gave views of the coastline.

Arriving back on to the road network, I headed down to the river. Expecting to have to continue my walk around the edge of the valley, I was delighted to discover that a walking trail runs along the bank of the river through a wildlife and nature park, with an abundance of flora and fauna to be viewed along the route. The hot weather appeared to have silenced the birds, but swans swam serenely unruffled by the heat.

Dunhill Castle
Dunhill Castle

The river is also noted for herons, kingfishers and otters, but I failed to catch a glimpse of the them. Through the groves of silver birch on my right I could see mysterious pools, which must be a haven for the protected wildlife of the area.

The end of the walkway is dominated by the impressive ruins of Dunhill Castle (Dún an Aill; the fort on the cliff). This was the seat of the De La Poer (Power) family from Norman to Cromwellian times. They were an obstreperous crowd, constantly attacking Waterford.

I came across a reference that the sea came right up to the castle originally, which would make sense, as attacking from the sea was quite the thing along this piratical coast. As sea levels have risen around the Irish coast since the Ice Age, I was puzzled as to why the sea would have retreated from the castle to the present shoreline. When I returned to the shore, the answer was obvious. Annestown beach consists of a high ridge of cobbles. These are known as storm beaches and are formed as great waves throw large stones high up on the shoreline blocking the mouth of an inlet.

I speculated that it could well have been formed by the tsunami from the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which altered the morphology of many inlets along the south coast.

Being in a geopark puts you in a geomorphological frame of mind.

ANNE RIVER VALLEY CIRCUIT
Annestown, Co Waterford

Map: the Anne River valley circuit
Map: the Anne River valley circuit

Map Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 82
Start and finish The car park at Annestown Beach, grid reference 500 987
How to get there Annestown is on the R675 coast road between Tramore and Dungarvan
Time Three hours
Distance 13.5km
Total ascent 250m
Suitability Easy. Wear walking boots and weather-appropriate clothing

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