From the ridiculously wet to the sublime

 

The views from atop Moylussa are something special, writes TONY DOTHERTY


IN SOME COUNTIES the highest mountains have instant name recognition – Lugnaquillia, Carrauntoohil, Mweelrea. In others, however, the tallest peak can be overshadowed by a smaller but more flamboyant summit. Such is the case with Moylussa (532m), in Co Clare, where the more photogenic Mullaghmore gets all the attention. Even the Ordnance Survey people, who normally grace a county’s high point with a trigonometrical station, have in this instance placed it on nearby Cragnamurragh (526m).

Ballycuggaran Wood, which Coillte has developed as a forest park, provides the easiest access to the mountain. The wood is named after the O’Cuggarans, an important clan in the court of Brian Boru.

The entrance to the wood is on the R463, four kilometres north of Killaloe. There is a car park by the lakeside and in the forest itself. There are two walks within the wood, part of East Clare Way (yellow markers) and Crag Wood Walk (red markers).

Follow the red markers for about two and a half kilometres and you will come to a junction at which Crag Wood Walk goes right. Keep left here on East Clare Way for 500m, where it veers off downhill to the left while you keep on right. At the time I was there this junction had no waymarker.

The access point to the mountain is via a fire break about 300m farther on. The Coillte map shows a path going up the left-hand side of the stream, but it appeared to me that the path was on the right.

Fire breaks are often very wet, but this one holds the record in my book. Don’t even think of trying it without a stick to probe your way. Happily, I managed the first section without getting my boots wet. When I turned the corner at the top of the break I was taken aback to see a boggy ramp heading uphill for about 300m. There is a grand dry bank on the left, but, unfortunately, it is blocked half way up by trees, so you have to drop down on to the bog. Again, with a bit of judicious probing you’ll get through without difficulty. At the top of the ramp a stony path leads to the summit, which is a plateau with two spot heights of 532m.

I expected the view to be good, but it far exceeded my expectations. To the north the great expanse of Lough Derg stretched away into Shannon’s flood plain. Below lay the town of Killaloe, and I could glimpse stretches of the great river winding its way to its broad estuary.

To the south, to my astonishment, I could see the entire northern boundary of Munster’s Armorican fold mountains, from the Slieve Mish range on Dingle Peninsula all the way across to the Galty Mountains. In contrast with this sublime view, the summit is spoiled with the remains of a television relay station that was built to boost signals in the days before cable and satellite systems. Rusting corrugated sheeting and generators litter the ground.

Retrace your steps as far as the junction where Crag Wood Walk and East Clare Way diverge. Turn left here and follow the red markers. This track leads on to a third-class road that leads back to the car park. It is a diversion well worth taking, as it brings you through a landscape rich in oak, beech and ash, a remnant of the great woodland that once covered this area.

Start and finishCar park at grid reference 688 764.

How to get thereFollow the R463 northwards along the west shore of Lough Derg to the car park at Rinnaman Point.

TimeFour hours.

Distance12km.

Total ascent500m.

MapOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 58. You can download a map of Ballycuggaran Wood from coillteoutdoors.ie.

SuitabilityRoute is moderate. Compass, map and rain gear are essential.

Food and accommodationKillaloe.