Walk for the Weekend: The Borheen and Muskry valleys

Easily accessible routes reveal enchanting lakes beneath the shadow of Galty Ridge

It was one of my “when are you going to?” days. A voice wanted to know when I was, going to “cut the grass”, “clip the hedges” and “sweep the tarmac”?

The answer, of course, was never if I can get away with it. But on this occasion the voice was too persistent to be denied. “Sods law” meant that this had occurred on one of those days I had planned a walk.

So, having accepted that what cannot be escaped must be embraced, I dutifully cut the grass, swept the patio and gave the leylandii a lick. Afterwards, I found that only an abbreviated time for walking remained. This didn’t pose a problem, for I was heading into the Galtee Mountains.

Now most of you will probably believe that Ireland’s highest inland mountains offer only long, committed day walks, but this isn’t actually the case. The north side of the range is easily accessible, with the jewels of the Galtees secreted here – great steep-sided corries that chew hungrily into the mountainside to hold five austerely enchanting lakes beneath the shadow of the elevated Galty Ridge. It was to two of these I was headed.

Local legend holds that this watery expanse was once the abode of a slew of pretty damsels who on alternate years were transformed into a flock of birds

From the parking place at the end of the Lough Muskry track, I struck out west on a forest roadway to cross a mountain stream before following to the left a boot-friendly woodland trail that led like a wandering minstrel towards the heart of the Galtees.

Beyond a couple of gates, the route went right and left to skirt a forest with expansive views unfolding towards the great twin eminences of Galtymore and Galtybeg.

When the trail meandered to its conclusion, I struck out for the col that divides Cush Mountain from Galtybeg. Here is a place that always encapsulated for me the wild solitude of the hills. Gaining the col, I paused to enjoy a sweet moment of respite with handsome mountains flowing away in every direction before applying myself to the sternest work of the day: the climb over the glacial moraines guarding Borheen Lough.

There is nothing like a lakeside to drag you into the moment, and sitting alone by these quiet waters I marvelled at the perfect teardrop shape of the lake. Onwards then, beneath the great cliffs of the Galtee Ridge and over the low col into the Muskry Valley.

Here the nature of my walk changed from solitude, for a track, which was originally built to facilitate the extraction of water from Lough Muskry, offers easy access to the 20-acre lake. Local legend holds that this watery expanse was once the abode of a slew of pretty damsels who on alternate years were transformed into a flock of birds. Neither damsels nor bird flocks appeared, but several family groups were having a great time pottering around in the sunshine and paddling in the still waters.

Afterwards I made my way out the water service track from Muskry, which seemed like an intrusive scar on an otherwise pristine landscape. But it also provides a convenient handrail deep into the heart of the Galtees for casual ramblers and family groups and is, on balance I concluded, a good thing.

Walk for the Weekend: The Borheen and Muskry valleys

Start point: From the south Tipperary village of Bansha follow signs for the Glen of Aherlow and then Rossadrehid. At Rossadrehid, take the minor road uphill and park at an island of trees by a forest entrance.

Suitability: Moderately challenging outing that nevertheless requires suitable equipment and navigational ability

Estimated time: 4.5 hours

Map: OSi Discovery Series, sheet 74

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