Walk for the weekend: Another greenway to try in Co Limerick
Work began on this greenway 25 years ago – now it is an award-winning amenity
The Great Southern Greenway: developed by a group of volunteers, in 2011 they received a special award from the European Greenways Association for their pioneering work
One of the great advances in off-road walking in recent years has been the development of greenways on abandoned railway lines. The more recently opened ones, such as in Mayo and Waterford, have received a lot of attention and they are on my bucket list; but I thought it only fair to start with the Great Southern Greenway on which work began 25 years ago. Developed by a group of volunteers, they have received, in 2011, a special award from the European Greenways Association for their pioneering work.
When finished it will run the 85km from Limerick to Tralee and on to Fenit. At present, some 35km from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale have been completed. One must admire their spirit as they began work before the public liability issue for landowners had been settled and they faced considerable opposition. It is a big contrast with today when these developments are welcomed by the communities through which they pass.
I started from Newcastle West as I wanted to take in one of the looped walks associated with the greenway. The line from here runs through the lowlands at the base of the uplands to the north. As there is dense vegetation along the trail, it is difficult to see the views of the surrounding countryside. It was winter, so growth was sparse, but I would imagine that there would be plenty of interesting flora from spring onwards.
When I came to the “way” marker for the Rooskagh Loop, I turned off on to a quiet country road that led up the steep slope towards Knockanimpaha (397m). At the top of the route the road ran along just below the top of the ridge it was possible to see across the rich grasslands of the Golden Vale to the heavily forested Mullach an Radhairc Mountains, with the Ballyhoura Mountains to the southeast and beyond them the hazy outline of the Galtees.
As I turned south and headed back down to the trail the view expanded to the east until the pastoral landscape was swallowed up by the Slieve Felim Mountains. Passing under a tall, narrow, attractive bridge of ancient limestone blocks I emerged back on to the greenway and set my face towards Newcastle West. The trail is very well maintained with plenty of signposts and stout wooden gates at farm crossings which will soon be replaced with cattle grids to facilitate cyclists.
The original volunteers have handed their rights to develop the trail back to Iarnród Éireann and they in turn are in the process of handing it over to Kerry County Council. So hopefully we will see this trail, the first of the greenways, become as widely used as the newer ones.
As I sat drinking a coffee in Newcastle West an old phrase came into my mind: “If we knew then what we know now.” And I thought of all the marvelous abandoned rail routes that are lost forever, such as Cork to Baltimore, Tralee to Dingle, Killarney to Cahersiveen. But at least we are now rescuing what is left and creating a wonderful asset in the outdoors.
Map: Ordnance Survey. Discovery Series, sheet 64. Downloadable map on website
Start and finish: Newcastle West. Grid reference: 290 340
How to get there: Coming from Limerick on the N21 turn left on to R 521 after entering the town. The trailhead is 1km up the road
Time: Four hours
Suitability: Moderate. Good footwear
Food and accommodation: Newcastle West