Go Walk: the Ballyhoura hills, Co Limerick

Stay on track for a captivating outing on Seefin, writes John O’Dwyer

A postcard pretty woodland trail  descended to a forest roadway.

A postcard pretty woodland trail descended to a forest roadway.

 
Go Walk: Ballyhoura Hills

Start:
From Kilmallock follow the R512 for Kildorrery. Beyond Ardpatrick take the second right, continue past the mountain bike trailhead and park right in an elongated carpark.

Estimated time: 3 hours.

Suitability: Outing mainly follows tracks but includes some boggy and unstable terrain. Disorientation is a possibility in mist, so come prepared.

Map: Discovery Sheet 73.

Actually, I had climbed Seefin many times previously, for this is common appellation in the Irish uplands. Translated as Finn’s seat, the name is proof that Finn McCool got around and sat around quite a bit, for there are mountains carrying this moniker in Tipperary, Cork, Waterford, Wicklow and Kerry.

For my maiden Ballyhoura ascent, I set out from near the village of Ardpatrick and followed a rough track uphill with forestry to my left. Constructed originally as a famine relief project, the trail ascended industriously to gain open mountainside and then conveyed me to a high point. Here, a path clothed in the late snows of springtime led to the cairn-adorned crest of Seefin East Top. My reward was a superlative view across green, pastoral countryside to the sharp contrast of the snow-crusted Galtee peaks.

Returning to the original path, I continued into a forest where the frosted trees stood white and stiff like rows of bottle brushes. A postcard pretty woodland trail then descended to a forest roadway where the arrows pointed left as expansive views opened up across Limerick’s expansive Golden Vale. Occasional groups of mountain bikers now glided seamlessly past as a reminder that Seefin is a renowned mountain biking destination and offers Ireland’s most extensive cycle trails. This is one of many admirable innovations from Ballyhoura Development, a local enterprise company that has become renowned for developing activity-based tourism.

Going left at a forestry barrier, I ascended a benign snowy path that weaved its elegant way upwards, as I reflected on my good luck at enjoying a memorable walk on a sublime March day. Reaching a parking place, my good fortune ran out. Mist enveloped me where arrows pointed left along an embankment known locally as the Black Ditch. Today, it’s a white ditch, traversing tedious boggy terrain as I trudged upwards past many rocky outcrops. Leaving the trail momentarily to avoid a drift, the snow suddenly gave way and I descended waist deep into a bog hole. Extracting myself with difficulty, I squelched my way upwards to Seefin West Top.

Crowned by an elevated trig pillar it is reputed to offer a six-county panorama but today I was rewarded only with swirling mist.

Disappointed, I tagged the arrows downhill and east. Somehow, I missed the route and descended into another bog hole before eventually encountering my ascent track. Retracing my steps downhill towards my start point, I concluded that Seefin offers a captivating outing for those with the wisdom to stay resolutely on track.

 

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