A walk through a timeless Tipperary landcape

Walk for the Weekend: Eamonn a Chnoic Loop, Co Tipperary: An easy, captivating circuit that meanders through meadows and bridleways rich with the aromas of rural Ireland

Eamonn a Chnoic Loop, Co Tipperary.

Eamonn a Chnoic Loop, Co Tipperary.

 

Something in the air seems to breathe enterprise. First to create a technology training centre in rural Ireland, the people of Upperchurch went on to pilot a successful scheme allowing recreational walkers access to private farmland, while their latest endeavour is Ireland’s first community-based climbing wall.

Arriving to the village, the place is abuzz. It’s walking festival time and people have come to the little upland community from across Ireland. One fly languishes in the ointment, however: rain is bucketing down. Taking refuge in the local hall with fellow hikers, I find some are speculating on the likelihood of the walk being abandoned. Five minutes before the off, however, a clearance sweeps with startling alacrity over the Slieve Felim Hills and we are away.

The Eamonn a Chnoic Loop is our objective: an easy but captivating circuit that meanders through meadows and bridleways rich with the aromas of rural Ireland. It celebrates a 17th-century rapparee, remembered best for an Irish song he reputedly penned titled Cé hé sin amuigh. Alleged to have killed a tax gatherer who was seizing a poor woman’s cow, Eamonn went on to (you guessed it), rob the rich to help the poor. With a price on his head, he was later murdered by a local bounty hunter and villainous cousin named (gulp) O’Dwyer.

Timeless landscape

Our walk guide is local farmer Tom Ryan. He is not indelicate enough to mention past ancestral misdeeds, even though he has an intimate knowledge of the area, as the route traverses his land.

Instead, he leads us into a timeless landscape of small fields, luxuriant hedgerows and diverse habitats that have somehow survived the onslaught of globalisation. The sun breaks through as we reach a crest and go left along a tiny road to join a green lane leading by the flanks of Knockviltoge Hill. Here, a great vista opens up over the vividly emerald-green Upperchurch valley beneath.

Joining a bucolic laneway, we are told this was once the location of a hedge school. Common in Ireland when Catholic schools were banned, these basic establishments were important as the only avenue to education for families unable to send their offspring for tutoring abroad.

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Conveyed to a public road, we go left, before swinging right at a small haybarn. After tagging a green lane, the arrows lead us through a series of fields, in an area known locally as Mokeland.

After crossing a lane and then traversing several more fields and a couple of busy little brooks, we exit to a public road where the way is left. After 100m, the signs point to a laneway.

Now, it is plain trailing. We cross a stile and continue to reach Church Bog, which was once an invaluable source of winter fuel for the surrounding populace. Latterly, it has been developed by the local community as a wildlife habitat, venue for turf-cutting demonstrations and aerobic exercise area on a surrounding track.

It is but a short distance to Upperchurch and soon we are back at base, where everyone fetches up promptly in the community centre.

The attraction is a belt-busting portion of Kinane’s famous Irish stew, over which there is general agreement that a return is soon required to sample other walking opportunities among the evocative Slieve Felim Hills.

Start: From Thurles, Co Tipperary. Follow the R498 for 2km. At a junction for Limerick, take the R503 for 13km to Pendy’s crossroads where a finger sign points 500m to Upperchurch village.

Suitability: Unstrenuous outing, traversing minor roads, green lanes and small fields.

Distance: 8km

Time: two hours

upperchurch.ie

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