Walk for the Weekend: Pleasant amble through the Golden Vale

Galtees provide a dramatic backdrop for a climb up Sugarloaf Hill in Co Tipperary

Sugarloaf Hill in Co Tipperary at 663m is one of the less intimidating peaks in Ireland.

Sugarloaf Hill in Co Tipperary at 663m is one of the less intimidating peaks in Ireland.

 

Hill walkers are compulsive peak baggers. As soon as you’ve climbed one peak over 900m, you want to climb the other 13. These peaks – more than 3,000ft – are known in Scotland as Munros. That might bring you on to the Vandeleur-Lynams list; the 269 peaks over 600m and so on. You might decide to do the county high points, of which there are 27. Some counties share a summit, such as Galteemore, which is shared by Limerick and Tipperary. For all the options, check out the “Guide to Ireland’s Mountain Summits” compiled by Mountainviews.ie.

One of the least intimidating of lists is “the Sugarloafs”, of which there are five. Wicklow has a Sugarloaf, a Great Sugarloaf and a Little Sugarloaf. Cork has one and Tipperary has Sugarloaf Hill (663m), which I had come to climb by a new route. Then it will be off to Wicklow which will be new territory for me as I’ve only climbed Lugnaquilla there.

The route starts at the apex of the Vee, that well known viewing spot that looks out over the Golden Vale. A well-used track leads down into Glenmoylan. Keep left at the first junction and then right at the second, which is the path that will lead you up the valley. It’s a most pleasant walk as it provides a clear route through the long heather that is a feature of this mountain. (There has been no “burning off” for many years due to the large amount of afforestation in the area.) The sweet susurrations of the river Moylan added to my appreciation.

From the glen there was a surprisingly easy pull up to the ridge between Knockmealdown Mountain and Sugarloaf. I quickly arrived on the summit, which is strewn with a thick layer of frost-shattered rock – making the Irish name, Cnoc na gCloch (Hill of the Stones), far more apt, because it really doesn’t have the classic Sugarloaf profile.

The stones do provide a perfect perch to view the panorama which was now complete as the cloud had lifted from the surrounding peaks. The lush fields of the Golden Vale, erupting with spring growth in a variety of green and beige hues in the rich soils of this noted agricultural region, were spread out below me in a captivating pastoral patchwork. The Galtees provided a dramatic backdrop.

The track from the summit down the northern slopes of Sugarloaf Hill is well defined and presents no problems. Close to the road you’ll come to a tall cairn, the “Grubb Memorial”. As children we were told that Richard Grubb, who died in 1921, had been buried standing up because (a) he was a Quaker and (b) it was his wish to be buried upright in order enjoy the view.

Of course, when we got older we discovered that Quakers weren’t buried upright. And anyway, the Grubb family had been expelled from the Society of Friends in 1844 for attending “balls at which music and dancing form a chief part”. I still like to think of him standing there.

After such a pleasant walk, I had developed a healthy appetite, so I headed to Cahir for some grub.

Sugarloaf Hill, Co Tipperary/Waterford

Map: Ordnance Survey Discovery Series, Sheet 74
Start/Finish: At the apex of the “Vee” on the R668, Cahir to Cappoquin Road. Grid Reference 044 118
How to get there: Take the R668 Clogheen road out of Cahir. Turn left in Clogheen for the Vee.
Time: 3-4 hours
Distance: 4km
Total ascent: 650m
Suitability: Route is moderate; boots and rain gear
Food: Cahir

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