Walk for the Weekend: Silvermine Hills, Co Tipperary
Glenculloo could easily take the title in a contest for ‘hidden valley of Tipperary’
Nestling beneath a camel-back ridge, Silvermines takes its name from a long-standing mining tradition in the area
I felt I owed them one. When my guidebook to the best walks in Tipperary and Waterford was published in 2012, I made the inexplicable slip of not including the magical outing offered by the Silvermines Ridge. Recognising the error of my ways I included it in my latest book on walks in the Comeragh, Galtee, Knockmealdown and Slieve Bloom mountains.
So, when an invitation came to join the denizens of the “Mines” for their second annual walking festival, I guessed all had been forgiven. Only too glad of any excuse to head along to the picturesque north Tipperary village, I set out on a glorious morning when June was literally bursting out all over. Nestling beneath a camel-back ridge, Silvermines takes its name from a long-standing mining tradition in the area. Lead, zinc, copper and silver have been extracted here since medieval times and mining continued sporadically to near the end of last century.
Having imbibed of coffee and homemade scones in the convivial atmosphere of Hickey’s hostelry and met with a walking friend from the past, Betty Gleeson, I chose the Glenculloo Loop walk, which promised a wealth of historic detail. Soon after I found myself on board the bus heading for the airy trailhead at 390m elevation that is known locally as “the Step”.
Then it was “shanks mare” under the knowledgeable leadership of Pat Sheehan as we followed the Slieve Felim Way downhill to the Instagram pretty valley of Glown. With farmers busy hay-making in glorious sunshine the timeless vista immediately reminded me of Glenariff - queen of the Antrim glens. Here, Sheehan paused to inform us that the area is mainly populated by the Harrington and Clifford families who originally came from Kerry as herdsmen for the local estate.
Now it was up the sylvan lane leading into Glenculloo, a secluded valley through which Patrick Sarsfield traversed in 1690 while on his way to attack King William’s Limerick bound siege cannon. Beside an old lime kiln at the gates of Glenculloo Lodge, we paused again and were told that this was originally a hunting lodge built in the 1860s by the wealthy landowning Power-Lawlor family.
Having crossed a bridge over the Mulcair River, we chanced upon another bequest of the Power-Lalors – the local schoolhouse. This single room schoolhouse, which once catered for up to 30 children, has now been tastefully transformed into a family home. Literacy and numeracy were the gateway to a better life in 19th century Ireland but keeping schoolteachers apparently proved a perennial headache here, with many appointees leaving when they realised the isolation of the location.
Upwards then, through the valley, to cross a biscuit-tin-pretty bridge spanning the Mulcair River. Going left at a single-story house we tagged a bucolic track, known locally as Harrington’s Lane, as it meandered uphill. Gaining a forest roadway beside a newly built bungalow, we took the left option. Now we banqueted on great sweeping vistas across the valley to the scene-stealing ramparts of Keeper Hill as we sauntered uphill to reach the public road about 200m from the trailhead. As we were bussed back to Silvermines for generously provided sustenance in Hickey’s, I mused that if there is ever a contest for the title, “hidden valley of Tipperary”, sequestered Glenculloo will surely occupy poll position.
Start point: From Nenagh take the R500 to Silvermines, which is situated at the intersection with the R499. Continue south through the village for about 2.5 km to the trailhead
Suitability: Route presents few navigational difficulties or other hazards
Time: 2 hours
Map: OSI Discovery Series, sheet 59