Walk for the Weekend: Comeragh Plateau, Co Waterford
‘Bóithrín na Sochraide’ draws its name from the sombre practice of carrying coffins from the Nire Valley to a lowland cemetery
I am unlikely to ever forget this truly magnificent outing in the majestic Comeragh Mountains
Sometimes I worry about myself. For example, I recently made a coffee and then lost it as I pottered around the house. While searching for the errant mug, She Who Must Be Obeyed ordered the living room swept, the fireplace cleaned and fuel brought in. Another cuppa was required to cope with the resulting stress, but I soon lost the second mug – somewhere near the coal shed, I think.
This meant I was a tardy getting away to the Comeraghs and was late setting out from Curraheen trailhead on a lovely winter’s day. This old farmyard is built in a pleasing vernacular style, with the outbuildings forming a compact courtyard. Following the purple way markers down an enclosed lane, I went right by tagging arrows past an explanatory map board and on through a series of delightfully small fields to reach open mountain.
A spur walk is here signed right for “Coumduala Lough”, but my way was straight on, with Crotty’s Rock – known locally as “the ass’s ears” – protruding above the skyline as if an enormous donkey was reposing beyond the horizon.
Crossing several streams, I soon gained the corner of Graigavalla Forest. Keeping the trees on my left I pressed on to where the walking arrows went right. These led me to white poles marking an ancient trade route across the Comeraghs, known as “Bóithrín na Sochraide”. It draws its name from the sombre practice of carrying coffins from the Nire Valley for burial in a lowland cemetery.
The bóithrín conveyed me upwards to gain a high point known as the Gap, where I beheld a majestic vista into the jaws of the Comeragh coums.
Then it was left and uphill beside a fence. Passing a rocky rib on its left side (it would have made an enjoyable scramble if I had more time) I gained the austere vastness of the great Comeragh plateau.
Ambling easily for about 20 minutes in a roughly southeasterly direction I reached the great cliffs above Coumshingaun. Few cliches remain unhackneyed in describing the greatest glaciated coum on these islands, so I will just say it took my breath...as it always does.
A short ramble, roughly north, led me to the impressive declivities guarding lonesome Coum Iarthar. Going counter-clockwise, I circuited the corrie edge above its four picturesque paternoster lakes with the circular inner Boola constituting the highest lake in the Comeraghs. Continuing all the way around, I descended reasonably pleasant terrain.
Here I was undeservingly rewarded for my tardy start: the sun was setting in a magnificent fireball behind Knockanaffrin Mountain, while in contrast, twilight shaded the mysterious coum below. It was an awesome finale to a magnificent day and had me rooted to the spot.
Showtime over, I reached the floor of the coum beside the outermost lake. Lighted only by a crescented moon, I now followed the yellow and the purple arrows back to Curraheen in the gathering darkness.
Driving away, it struck me that while disremembering may now have come to squat in my life, I am unlikely ever to forget this truly magnificent outing in the majestic Comeragh Mountains.
Comeragh Plateau, Co Waterford
Start and finish: From Clonmel follow the R678 for Rathgormuck to Clondonnell crossroads, which bears a sign for the Boolas and the Gap. Go right here and drive 3km, going straight ahead through two intersections to park in Curraheen farmyard.
Suitability: Challenging outing suitable for well-equipped walkers with fitness and a full suite of navigational skills.
Time: five hours.
Map: OSi Discovery Sheet 75