No match for Muskry

 

A two-hour ramble to Lough Muskry, in the Galtees, is just the thing to clear away the cobwebs after an evening of overindulgence, writes JOHN G O’DWYER

But the best-laid plans . . . I encounter friends on Saturday evening and overindulge. On Sunday morning I wake late with the realisation that it’s now Glencushnabinna or the match. But still I want a walk, if only to clear my head.

In such circumstances the well-worn but now almost forgotten solution after a Saturday night on the town resurrects itself. A cobweb-busting ramble to Lough Muskry, the largest freshwater lake in the Galtees, would involve only a little over two hours – and I could still watch the match.

Still seedy at midday, I nevertheless manage to propel myself from the small triangle of trees that marks the start of the Muskry path. A dry day it is, but the mountaintops above wear a brooding cloak of cloud.

Following the indispensable walking arrows placed by the industrious Aherlow Fáilte Society, I eventually swing right and head uphill to a stile leading to open mountain.

From here the track roughens and steepens, but it is still busy with large numbers of Sunday strollers. This trail was originally built to facilitate the extraction of water from Muskry, and, in some ways, it is an intrusive scar on a pristine landscape. But I can’t help reflecting that it also provides a convenient handrail deep into the Galtees for casual ramblers and, as such, is on balance a good thing.

By the time I arrive loughside the clouds are retreating and rays of sunshine dance on still waters. Time passes pleasantly, and I feel fully myself again. Then the realisation comes that it is time to head back. But still I linger, reluctant to leave. Perhaps I could fit in a quick ramble around the lake at a cost of missing about 10 minutes of clashing ash.

I set out atop the high moraines west of the lough. The sun warms my back as the clifftops clear of mist. Suddenly, I feel ominously tempted by the slopes that rise invitingly to the right of the great cliffs and offer an easy gateway to the Galty Ridge. My mind races. Hurling matches have generally been poor this year, so will this one be better? What if Tipp lose? And if they win, won’t I see them in the final come September? It’s now a battle between a sunny beckoning mountainside and a big screen.

In the end it’s no contest. Soon I am heading up the grassy slopes and swinging left towards the curious edifice of O’Loughlin’s Castle. From a distance this resembles a man-made construction, but actually it is a natural phenomenon of shattered rock dating from the Ice Age, offering memorable views past the Knockmealdown Mountains to the south coast.

Forsaking the solitude of O’Loughlin’s Castle and keeping the cliffs to my left, I ascend Greenane and then continue northeast along the broad crest to a ruined booley that once served as a shelter for farmers tending upland flocks.

Here the main Galty Ridge doglegs sharply right, but I go left and begin descending a sometimes tedious spur that is, however, enlivened by the views towards Galtymore and Galtybeg, which are shown from here to their best advantage.

Eventually, after crossing a stream with some difficulty where it enters a wood, I continue uphill to reach the stile that earlier allowed me gain open mountainside. As I retrace the path to the walk starting point, I chance on a rambler heading uphill and inquire about the hurling.

“Useless,” he replies in a Limerick accent. “Tipp are running away with it.” As I continue a little smugly downhill I already know that on the first Sunday of September I daren’t venture anywhere near a mountain.

Lough Muskry, Co Tipperary

Getting thereTake the N24 Waterford-Limerick road to Bansha village. Then follow signs for the Glen of Aherlow, but very soon take a left at a sign for Rossadrehid. At Rossadrehid, cross a main road to a minor road that eventually swings right. Soon after, park at anisland of trees by a forest entrance.

Suitability. The walk into Lake Muskry follows a waymarked track all the way. There are a few steepish sections, but generally this walk is suitable for family groups and strollers.

If you venture on to Galty Ridge, however, you should be well kitted out and have the navigational skills required for high-altitude walking.

TimeAllow about two and a half hours for a there-and-back walk to Lough Muskry. Allow at least four hours to complete the Galtee Ridge section.

MapOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 74.

AccommodationAherlow House Hotel and Lodges (062-56153, aherlowhouse.ie) has comfortable rooms and well-appointed lodges. Light lunches and evening meals are served.

Otherwise, you’ll find details of accommodation options in Aherlow at aherlow.com.