Where Fionn Mac Cumhail rested on his pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne

Walk for the Weekend: the rarely mentioned Monavullagh Mountains, in Co Waterford, offers lakes, cliffs, the Mahon Falls – and spectacular views

 

Northeast of Dungarvan lies the massif known as the Comeragh Mountains. And structurally they consist of a plateau scalloped around its sides by some mighty impressive cooms, the largest being Coomshingaun which is one of the largest in the country.

But the Ordnance Survey has split the plateau into two blocks whose border lies along the narrowest part of the plateau. To the north lie the Comeragh Mountains and to the south lie the Monavullagh Mountains, a name rarely used. Most hill walkers are drawn to the Comeraghs with Coumsingaun and Crotty’s Rock being the main attractions. As there is ease of access on all sides of this massif, it is not a problem to explore the less visited peaks.

An exploration of the Monavullagh Range has long been on my list. An easy pull up a spur brought me on to the plateau. There is a satisfying view on both sides; to the right, the Mahon Valley with the silver thread of Mahon Falls at its head. To the left, the grim cliffs of the outer edges of Coumtay disclosed that the Monavullaghs did not escape the ravages of ice action either. The summit cairn on Spot Height 668 was quickly reached (one of the great benefits of having a car park located on the 400m contour).

Eyes of an alien

A gentle ascent of 2km brought me to Coumfea, Spot Height 711, (Coom of the deer); the highest point on the band of cliffs which encircle a cluster of lakes on the floor of the coom. In the sunshine, they were a deep blue and, because of their unusual shape, they looked like the eyes of an alien staring up at me. Vaguely disturbed, I stopped staring back and instead took in the broad panorama around, which takes in the entire ranges of the Knockmealdowns and the Galtees.

I moved on southwards ticking off Spot Heights 715m and 691m to arrive at the Triangulation Station of Mullach See Finn, 726m, the highest point on the walk. The name refers to a spot where Fionn Mac Cumhail rested on his pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. There are so many See Finns around the country where Fionn is reputed to have rested it’s no wonder he never caught up with them.

A narrow ridge leads south to Spot Height 615, Barrnamadra Gap. From here I was able to look down into the grimmest coom I’ve ever seen. It is lake-less and narrow with grim dark cliffs. Not a place to linger so I hurried on to Farbeaga, The False Man (593m) which has a far more pleasing prospect as it looks down on the coastal lowlands and the glistening waters of Dungarvan Bay.

The walk back was shorter as I didn’t have to go over to Coumfea. The amble down the final spur was made all the more pleasing in that there was no long walk out at the end.

MONAVULLAGH MOUNTAINS, CO WATERFORD

Map Ordnance Survey. Discovery Series. Sheet 75

Start and finish A car park at Grid Reference: 313 075
How to get there Take the N25 east from Dungarvan. After 12km, go left at the fork at Lemybrien on to the R676 Carrick-on-Suir road. Follow the signposts for Mahon Falls. Continue past the main car park for the falls to the smaller one at the high point of the road, half a kilometre further on.
Time Five hours
Distance 15.5km
Ascent 900m
Suitability Hard. Boots and weather-proof clothing essential
Food and accommodation Dungarvan

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