Walk for the Weekend: the Western Corries of the Comeraghs

Mystical walk in Waterford, the county with the best corrie landscape in Ireland

 

“Silent and serene, it watches the centuries glide by” – so I read of Coomfea in a lost 1970s guidebook, and the lovely evocative words have stayed with me since. Coomfea is the westernmost of the 13 beautiful corrie loughs in the Comeragh Mountains, which the Geological Survey says is the best corrie landscape in Ireland.

The lough, and the now gently grassed and green hollow it occupies, weren’t always so peaceful. Only 13,000 years ago, the sights and sounds would have been very different. Then the hollow was a noisy battleground of mountain sandstone and glacier ice fed by snow spilling off a domed plateau icecap.

There were only the gentler sights and sounds of choughs and ravens and lark-song

On a typical bad Ice-Age day, avalanches, ferocious blizzards, biting cold and billowing clouds of spindrift would have filled the air! But happily for us, thousands of years later, on an autumn walk there were only the gentler sights and sounds of choughs and ravens and lark-song, waterfalls spilling off the plateau, and a soft west wind.

Excellent coffee and muffins in the Butter Market Coffee Shop in Clonmel revived us after a two-hour drive from Dublin and soon we were off down the R672 to Ballymacarbry, taking a left up to the ample Nire Valley road-head carpark. Our plan was to take the Scilloges Walk, which is described clearly on panels in the carpark, up to the lakes of the same name, contour around through the wide spectacular corrie of Coumaloughra, up the narrow arête east of Coomfea Lough on to the plateau . . . and then we would decide what to do.

The 40-minute walk up to the Scilloge Loughs was pleasant, easy and open, if a bit boggy in spots. With no midges, the corrie was a lovely place for a first hangout and an opportunity to feel the peace of Comeragh Lough. We admired the long waterfall of Bean Piobra (“woman with the pipe”) appearing to “smoke” in the wind high up on the plateau edge. Then it was on across the wide space and hummocky ground of Coumaloughra, followed by the steep but really nice pull up the Coomfea arête. And it was from there that we contemplated lonely and shapely Coomfea, with the expanse of the Golden Vale and the Galtees away to our right.

A happy review of the day and some refreshments in Melody’s pub in Ballymacarbry and we were on our way

The high Comeragh plateau is a great scenic vantage point and is easy going; note the ancient desert-rounded pebbles at your feet, only now eroded out of deep layers of Old Red Sandstone conglomerate. We skirted the top of the Scilloges corrie, past the head of the “smoking” waterfall, joined the broad ridge west of Coumlara and began a slow and easy descent to the carpark.

A welcome change of clothes, a happy review of the day and some refreshments in Melody’s pub in Ballymacarbry and we were on our way. It was a really lovely day in the company of good friends, gentle mountains, deep mystical lakes and peaceful places.

Western Corries of the Comeraghs, Nire Valley, Co Waterford

Map: OS Sheet 75.
Start/Finish: Nire Valley Carpark, R672 to Ballymacarbry, then left to the Nire Valley.
Effort: About 13kms, about 550m of ascent, four to five hours.
Suitability: Knowledge of mountain route-finding essential; care needed on arête; moderate level of fitness.

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