Ponds, parkland and pheasants aplenty

PORTLAW-CURRAGHMORE LOOP

A ‘PLANNED’ town is unusual in Ireland, but the Malcomsons, cotton mill owners, laid out Portlaw with wide streets and workers’ cottages in the 19th century.

We start at a roundabout like a clock dial in the town centre. Six roads emanate, none signposted. We pass the door of the Centra supermarket, a Marian shrine and then an Italianate lodge, sadly derelict. On this quiet road, we reach the impressive entrance to Curraghmore House, home of the 8th Marquis of Waterford, surrounded by a 100 acre estate. Walkers are welcome all year.

Inside, we follow the graveled driveway skirted by tall trees and rhododendrons. The path follows the Clodagh River, which we soon see below on our left, with rapids here and there. We may become excited by the sight of pheasants foraging on the opposite bank, unconcerned by our proximity; we saw an albino pheasant amongst them. One can access a green path across the Clodagh via a footbridge; however, we continue on the driveway. The February morning we walked there, we came upon a shooting party amongst the trees, perhaps 20 men and women in deerstalker hats and Burberry jackets standing stock still in the rain, guns raised, waiting for birds to fly overhead, while keepers with retrievers stood by. No birds flew over but later we heard volleys from the woods. Weekly game-shooting parties are held on the estate from November to January.

We see Curraghmore House ahead, and the path divides, the way to the house marked ‘private’. The house is open to the public much of the year. Curraghmore was built by the de la Poers after their arrival in Ireland with the Norman invasion of 1169. The original castle, with walls four-metre thick, is incorporated in the impressive Victorian manor with a fine courtyard in front and flanked by low Georgian wings on both sides. The Shell House (there is also a shell house at Ballymaloe Gardens in Co Cork) was the creation of Catherine de la Poer, a teenager when she married in 1715.

She carried out much re-making of the house and grounds. Apparently, ship’s captains sailing out of Waterford brought back the exotic shells that adorn the walls from distant shores.

We go right, continuing on the driveway. Woodland gives way to fields, with pheasants wandering everywhere. Soon, to our right, we see the old, stone buildings of the estate farm; the de la Poer Beresfords were never absentee landlords but farmed the demesne over the centuries, and grazed sheep, cattle and horses on the extensive parkland.

We pass the arched farm entrance and continue past a derelict cottage to a gate lodge where we leave the estate grounds and turn right onto a narrow road, passing a cottage with white stones on the verge. Reaching higher ground, we have views over the estate farm and ponds alongside. We come upon the ivy-covered ruins of a house and a ruined church and graveyard with fine crosses. We have magnificent views of the estate, a panorama of parkland and woods, as fine a view as anywhere in Ireland.

Back on the tarred road, we top the hill and descend steeply to the Curraghmore gates. On the short walk back to Portlaw, we pass under an enormous evergreen holm oak inside the estate walls.

Get there

Start point: Portlaw village reached via the M8 from Cork, turning onto N24 at Cahir, direction Waterford. At Fiddown, take the R680 across the Suir then right, signposted Portlaw.

From Waterford, take the N24 to Limerick and at Fiddown continue as above. From Kilkenny, N10 to M9, to Mullinavat, then Fiddown.

Distance: 12km approx.

Difficulty:

A charming easy loop walk on estate paths and minor roads.

Map: OS Map 75

*For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

Club News

DUNGARVAN HILLWALKING CLUB

(dungarvanhillwalking.org)

Mar 31: Knockaffrin Ridge, Grade B, 4-6hrs., meet TSB car park 10 mins before walk. Start 10am. Mar 31: Baylough, Grade C, 3 hrs., €3, meet TSB car park 13.00hrs.

WICKLOW NORDIC WALKERS (www.hillwalkingforhealth.com)

Mar 30: Hill Walk. Capacity 30. Ind. walkers €25, book up to Mar 28. Final decision on route left until all are assembled. Meet Wicklow Heather Restaurant, Laragh, 10am.

GALWAY WALKING CLUB (galwaywalkingclub.wordpress.com)

Mar 31: Buckaun Maamtrasna, Grade B, Meet Omniplex Cinema, Headford Rd., 9.15am. Car-sharing. Park in Black Box car park (walk through Omniplex car park).

NORTH LEITRIM GLENS FESTIVAL

(google.com/site/hshillwalkers)

Mar 30/31: Long walks, 6/7hrs. short, 5/6hrs. Also, guided Sunday ramble for all. Tel. 071 9830920.

WEST CLARE WALKING CLUB

(www.westclarewalkingclub.com)

Mar 29: Croagh Patrick, Grade moderate to hard. 3hrs., approx. Tracks, rocks, shale. Meet C Patrick car park, start 11.30am.

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