The Tipperary Ten is a group of walking trails offering access to the legend-loaded countryside of Tipperary. Linking serene villages, meandering past stately homes and abbeys as well as rambling tranquil river banks, these routes are designed to draw visitors from the well-worn trails of the hiking honeypots. This year, the Ten are being showcased in a series of Friday evening walks organised by hardworking rural recreation officer, John Egan.
So when an email tells me the next walk is through the gentle topography of Aherlow, I need no second invitation. The Glen of Aherlow always seems to me a place where life moves at a slower pace. Here, buildings relax comfortably into the wooded hillsides and the lure of user friendly paths remains almost impossible to resist.
So on a blue sky Friday, I find myself exiting the delightfully rural village of Lisvarrinane (see panel) with a group of enthusiastic walkers under the leadership of knowledgeable local guide, Michael Moroney. Immediately, Moroney throws in a few words as Gaeilge. Thus he reminds us that last year, with a monumental voluntary effort, Lisvarrinane won an chéad duas in a TV competition to find the best locality for promoting the daily use of spoken Irish.
Then, as the mighty Galtee Mountains lord it above us, we tag an old-world rural lane that is known locally as “the avenue” for it once led to the great house of the Massey/Dawson family. Passing the walled garden of the manor house, Moroney points out the building where local people came to pay rent but were not allowed beyond the threshold – your money welcome, but not yourself, apparently. Then it’s on by the impressive stables where there is now a busy campsite and a restaurant renowned for its food.
Reaching the purple arrows of Ballinacourty Loop, we begin ascending. “Paradise Hill, Temple Hill, Lyracappul, Carrignabinnia, Galtymore and Greenane” says Moroney, naming the great necklace of Galtee peaks before us. Later, we pass the glorious woodland location of the Aherlow House Hotel where a typical Irish country wedding, with what seems an entire parish present, is in full, uninhibited swing. Here Moroney explains that the original Aherlow House was a wooden structure built for the Massey/Dawson family by the Government in compensation for the destruction of their great house during the War of Independence.
Next, we descend to join an old road in the Aherlow Nature Park. This was once used by the long cars of Italian immigrant, Charles Bianconi, who introduced Ireland’s first system of cheap transportation. Beside a bridge, Moroney points out a “hanging tree” where people were executed for inconsequential crimes and their bodies left suspended as a warning to passers-by not to tangle with the establishment.
Then it’s on by the remains of a two-roomed labourer’s cottage and via rustic lanes above Aherlow. Our descent is through dusky light in Ballinacourty Wood with the trees shaking hands above us. Arriving at a T-junction, we abandon the purple arrows and go right to join a surfaced road leading to Lisvarrinane. Our evening ends with food and an obligatory cúpla focail in the local community centre.