Make tracks for a spectacular trail

The Deise Greenway in Waterford follows a old railway route, considered the most scenic in Ireland

Approaching the stone-built Victorian railway tunnel on the Deise Greenway.

Approaching the stone-built Victorian railway tunnel on the Deise Greenway.

 

The Great Western Greenway has been a great success story in the west of Ireland, but it now has a serious competitor, and is no longer, as is claimed, “the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland”. The Deise Greenway in Co Waterford follows a spectacular old railway route that starts in Waterford city, crosses towering viaducts and sea-girded causeways and passes through Victorian tunnels to reach the coast at Dungarvan, a 45 kilometre-long glorious rural route. The whole route will be opened soon, but the final 10km of the route, from the hamlet of Durrow to the county town of Dungarvan, has been recently opened, and gives an idea of what the Deise Greenway has to offer.

This stage of the greenway starts at the official carpark, opposite Tom O’Mahoney’s pub and shop in Durrow. A short ramp takes us up onto the tarmac greenway and we head west. After a few minutes, the route begins to cut into the rock of a low hill, and we enter a fine and tall stone-built Victorian railway tunnel. Not as spooky as you might imagine, it is beautifully lit every few metres by lights in alcoves along both sides, and anyway, you can see the far end 400m away. It is however, an interesting experience.

The Waterford to Dungarvan railway line was opened in 1878, and the last passenger train left Dungarvan for Waterford and Rosslare in March 1967. The line was considered at the time the most scenic route in Ireland, with its fine views of the ocean and the lush green countryside through which it travelled. It was also the most expensive railway line to be built in Ireland, due to the many hills and valleys that had to be negotiated along its short route.

We exit the tunnel as if into the Amazon jungle, a deep cutting of strangely faceted, moss-clothed rock, hung down with trailing creepers, ivy and great sprays of ferns. Not far from the tunnel exit, the route crosses a stone viaduct across a deep valley through which the Dalligan River flows down towards the sea. Blown up by Irregular forces in 1922, the viaduct was repaired by the English firm of McAlpine and back in use by the following year. Many local men who worked on the viaduct went to England to work for McAlpine, and became the ‘Fusiliers’ of the famous song. To the north, the southern Comeragh Mountains line the horizon.

Soon, the Atlantic Ocean comes into view ahead. Shortly after, look out for a white cross mounted above the path, on the right. It marks the spot where an IRA ambush went wrong in June 1921, and Volunteer Jack Cummins was shot dead by British troops. Soon after, the route reaches the sea at the pretty beach of Ballyvoile. Broad and silvery Dungarvan Bay stretches south and west, enclosed by hump-backed Helvick Head at the far side.

Now the greenway heads briefly away from the sea through countryside that must be a wildflower lover’s heaven. In August, there are great clumps of valerian and marjoram along the way, rich purple clumps of loosestrife and the yellowy spires of a plant I remember from farmhouse gardens of old – great mullein. Fields of healthy cattle are passed and rabbits disturbed.

The trailhead at Ballinroad, with 3km left to Dungarvan, is passed, and the route takes on a luxury feature not normally found – regular lamp standards!

Soon, a narrow passageway leads the route out onto a causeway across the Glendine River as it enters Dungarvan Bay. The tide was out on the day I walked, and the mudflats were populated with oystercatchers and blackheaded gulls, and the air was full of curlew’s calls. In the shallows, herons and their pristine white cousins, egrets, fished away industriously, while long-legged redshanks prowled the muddy edges.

On the west side of the causeway, the route begins its entry into Dungarvan town through the suburb of Abbeyside.

DEISE GREENWAY, CO WATERFORD

Getting there: Take a left turn 1.7km southwest of the village of Lemybrian on the N25. Go straight through a crossroads and a little after, bear right, to reach O’Mahoney’s pub and the greenway carpark after 3.8km. There is no mention of Durrow on the OS map.

Distance: With two cars, 10km one way, or 20km there and back.

Time: 2 -2.5 hours.

Suitability: Tarmac path all the way, suitable for all and great for children.

Map: OS Discovery 82.

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