Walk for the Weekend: A twin-county stroll with splendid views

Galtymore, with its twin-cairned top boasts a large concave plateau known locally as Dawson’s Table

The Galtee mountains. King’s Yard is in a  secluded glade on the southern side

The Galtee mountains. King’s Yard is in a secluded glade on the southern side

 

To some people the task of writing guidebooks may seem just another cleverly disguised type of unemployment; in reality it is an absorbing if challenging endeavour. The main problem is the Calvinistic attention to detail that is required. Despite summitting Galtymore over 100 times, I still felt it necessary to pay another visit apropos my forthcoming guidebook to walks in Ireland’s midlands and south.

Located in a secluded glade on the southern side of the Galtees, King’s Yard was my base. Here Bridget and Stephen Ryan, as a fine example of rural diversification, offer café, camping and shower facilities, along with secure parking.

After a word with Stephen, I sauntered briefly south before going left and following the boomerang-shaped Cooper’s Wood valley uphill. A serene path through mixed woodland above the soothing murmur of hurrying waters conveyed me to a bridge over the Attychraan river. Just beyond a rough track led up a bank and over a fence to open mountain.

With forestry now on my right, I continued uphill until the trees finally petered out. Crossing two sprightly streams, I then tackled a punchy little ascent to gain the Black Road – a mountain path created to transport turf from the uplands.

The rocky road soon had me meandering uphill before the surfaced trail ended abruptly in the shadow of Galtybeg. An informal track now led to a col, where countless footfalls over the years have rendered the peat hags muddy and unpleasant.

The compensation was a splendid view over the renowned Glen of Aherlow, and a more immediate vista into the vat-like expanse of Lough Diheen lying 200m beneath. Reputed to be the home of a serpent banished there by St Patrick, this had me reflecting on how Patrician legends have inculcated themselves so widely across Ireland as I ascended carefully – above colossal cliffs – to reach Baltimore’s summit.

Upon gaining this top for the first time, I remember being surprised to discover Galtymore is actually a liminal mountain. I had simultaneously reached the highest point of both counties Limerick and Tipperary for Galtymore is a twin-county, twin-cairned top boasting a large concave plateau known locally as Dawson’s Table.

Beyond the main summit (919m) the plateau bears an iron cross offering, perhaps, the most expansive view in the south of Ireland. Not only is it possible to gaze upon the Co Waterford coast and several nearby mountain ranges but in perfect visibility the view extends from the Wicklow Mountains in the east to the unmistakably angular outline of Carrauntoohil to the west.

After traversing Galtymore’s west summit, I descended to another plateau. The direction here was roughly south along an expansive spur that conveyed me over Knockduff Mountain and then downwards to the high point of Galtycastle. With my destination now in view, I continued by a faint path leading to a sheep pen. Here a track doglegged its way downhill to deposit me back in King’s Yard for a welcome cup of coffee in the tiny farmyard café.

Start: Leave the M8 motorway at Junction 12 and follow the signs for Kilbeheny. Beyond the village turn left at a sign for Galtymore. Follow these signs to King’s Yard where secure parking costs €2.

Time: 4.5 hours.

Suitability: High-level traverse that sometimes can be very cold and extremely windy. Be fully prepared and aware that the route crosses trackless moorland that can be disorientating in mist.

Map: OSi Sheet 74.

John G O’Dwyer’s guidebook to the Comeragh, Galtee, Knockmealdown and Slieve Bloom Mountains will be published this summer by the Collin’s Press.

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