Vee Gap, Knockmealdown Mountains, Co. Tipperary
Start: Car park at highest point of Vee Gap (S031 101) between Clogheen and Lismore on R668.
Recently I was greatly pleased when festive season television seamlessly transported me to the rom-com world of the movie Leap Year.
Incurable romantic that I am, I then watched – Kleenex at the ready – as a startlingly incohesive couple traversed Ireland and checked into the quaint surroundings of “the best little BB in Tipperary”. With astonishing insightfulness I had already correctly concluded they were destined to live happily ever after when my dismayed attention was diverted from their romantic trysts by a background of grotesquely enchanting castles, towering mountains and stunning waterfalls.
Having penned what I thought was the definitive guide to the area, I immediately realised I didn’t recognise these amazing Tipperary backdrops. Apparently a revision of my Walking Guide to Tipperary and Waterford is now urgently required. Meanwhile, I’m sure you’ll forgive me recounting one of the fine walks in this area that hasn’t managed to avoid my boots.
To explore the landscape to the west of lonesome Bay Lough in the Knockmealdown Mountains, leave the startpoint (see panel) and go towards a Marian shrine. Then contour southeast to join a more distinct uphill track and follow the waymarkers along the Avondu section of the Blackwater Way on a pleasant trail with forestry to the left. When the track descends this is your cue to go right on a trail heading west.
Follow this switchback track to a three-fence intersection. Here a peaty mountain path hugs a fence as it rises on the flanks of Knocknalougha and then descends to join a well constructed roadway skirting a forest.
Next it’s a question of tagging the forest edge until a large white stile crosses a fence to open moorland beyond. Marker poles now denote the way as the route climbs steeply to reach the top of Knockclugga, which is more of an upland spur. When you reach its highest point, say goodbye to the Blackwater Way and head north along a broad ridge that rises to Knockshanahullion (652m), the highest point in the west Comeraghs.
The mountain top is crowned by a trig pillar and a burial cairn, which has been disrupted to create a stone shelter. There are also some standing stone arrangements that are clearly of modern construction.
When you have imbibed sufficiently of the huge horizons north to the Galtee Mountains and south to the Waterford coast, descend steeply in a southeasterly direction towards the corner of a fence. Follow this fence east but when it swings south, continue east towards point 630m. Don’t follow a direct route but arc to the right so as to avoid losing height in the steep valley of the upper Glounliath river.
As you near the summit at 630m, you should pick up a faint mountain track. The top is adorned by a cairn and there are impressive views east to the Sugarloaf and Knockmealdown Ridge.
Continue east a couple of hundred metres following a fence. When another fence leads south, follow this and descend gradually to reach the three-fence intersection encountered earlier. Retrace your steps to your starting point while doubtless concluding that the west Knockmealdowns offer much reward for modest effort and in many ways personify the accessible freedom of the vertically unassuming Irish mountains.