Go Walk: Great eminences of the Galtees, Tipperary
I sashay along the ridge, my worldy cares forgotten
The Galtees, Tipperary
Start point: From the south Tipperary village of Bansha follow signs for the Glen of Aherlow and then Rossadrehid. At Rossadrehid, take the minor road uphill and park at an island of trees by a forest entrance.
Superlatives possess an almost irresistible attraction for hillwalkers. With the swarming instincts of bees we are magnetised by the highest, the most famous, the most panoramic or simply the most accessible summits, while commonly ignoring sublime locations that have somehow managed to remain beyond the main drag. The Galtee Mountains are no exception with Glencushnabinna and Lake Muskry drawing most of the footfall to the great northern flanks of Ireland’s highest inland range. Yet sequestered between these much-visited valleys lies my favourite Galtee Glen, which I recently visited on a sunny summer day.
From the parking place for the Lough Muskry track, I headed west on a forest track to cross a mountain stream before following to the left a boot-friendly woodland trail that led like a wandering minstrel towards the heart of the high Galtees. Beyond a couple of gates, the route went right and left to skirt a forest with expansive views unfolding towards the great twin eminences of Galtymore and Galtybeg.
When the trail finally meandered to its conclusion, I struck out for the col that divides Cush Mountain from Galtybeg while filled with happy thoughts, for here is a place that always encapsulates for me the wild solitude of the hills. Having gained the col, I paused to enjoy a sweet moment of respite with handsome mountains flowing away in every direction before applying myself to the sternest work of the day. The unhelpfully steep ascent on the austere flanks of Galtybeg is a two-stage thigh- burner but the effort brought its reward when the slope finally eased and I paused at the mouth of an alarmingly steep gully falling away towards the teardrop shape of Bohreen Lough far below. From this high redoubt an expansive prospect tumbled north over pastoral Aherlow to the serene Slievenamuck and Slievefelim hills beyond.
Hillwalking drags you into the moment, of course, and with all my worldly cares now forgotten I sashayed along the Galtee Ridge enjoying enormous views to the Knockmealdown and Comeragh Mountains. In the distance walkers were making their way up the heavily eroded Black Road path towards the peak baggers honeypot of Galtymore’s summit. I remained gloriously alone, however, as I contoured above the great north-facing cliffs of the Bohreen Valley before ascending to the undistinguished top at point 786.
Here, I descended a grassy slope towards the high glacial moraines west of Lough Muskry – a spectacular corrie lake set beneath the great frowning cliffs of Greenane Mountain. At the lakeside I immediately parted with solitude for a track, which was originally built to facilitate water extraction, now provides easy access to the lakeside.
Several families and some couples were sitting in the sunshine or paddling by the water’s edge, but I decided not to tarry. Then, following the Muskry track back to my start point, I reflected that if constructed today this track would be considered, by many, an intrusion on a pristine landscape. Yet, with the passage of time, it has adroitly transformed itself from an ugly scar into a social benefit allowing easy access to a spectacular example of Ireland’s natural inheritance.