Go Walk: Galbally, Co Limerick
Each exit from Galbally square is an important route
Galbally, Co Limerick
Map: Ordnance Survey. Discovery Series. Sheet 73 & 74
I have always been impressed by the speed with which the Normans sussed out nodal points which allowed them to control a wide area. Such is the case with Galbally (The Town of the Foreigners) in Co Limerick. Each exit from its large square is an important route way. The core of the village encapsulates aspects of our history. Its centre is dominated by a War of Independence memorial. The stables of the 19th century Bianconi coaches occupied the north side of the square, while on the south side was a Famine poor house. The 13th century graveyard has headstones with names of old English settlers such as Blackburn and Samson.
Take the northeast exit from the square which leads into the Glencliff gorge. This is a glacial overflow channel cut by melt-waters of the midlands ice sheet escaping southwards.
A short distance up the gorge a path on the left leads to Duntryleague Hill, 278m (Dun Tri Leach; The Fort of the Three Rocks). The path is narrow at the start but soon opens out into a typical forest track that winds its way up to the summit.
Look out for “Darby’s bed” near the top. This is a passage grave which is over 4,000 years old. These are a scarce enough feature in the south of the country, and this one is said to be the grave of Olill Olum, the first king of Munster. Back on the track, a large area of felling gives great views over the Ballyhoura and Galtee mountains; both massifs rising out of the rich pasture lands of the Golden Vale.
Back in the square the southeast exit leads to Moor Abbey, a 15th century Franciscan monastery. The main walls of the church still stand.
A short distance down the road a stile leads on to the Ballyhoura/Moor Abbey walk. You are now on the floor of the famous Glen of Aherlow. This is the nearest example in Ireland of a rift valley with fault lines running along both sides.
I was glad I had brought my gaiters as the path does not appear to be maintained and I had to plough through tall grass wet from the night’s rain. This was a minor inconvenience as the surroundings were so beautiful. The valley floor is bounded by coppices of beech and oak which for the most part block any glimpses of nearby houses. Beware of incursions of hog weed. There was absolute silence apart from the gurgling of the waters.
Towering over the scene swept the steep slopes of the Galtees with their tracery of gullies carved by the tributaries of the Aherlow urgently tumbling down to join the main river.
There is a diversion around a couple of fields which may or may not contain a bull, before you’re directed back down to the bank and finally up through fields to bring you on to the road that leads back to Moor Abbey.