FOR anyone with an interest in rivers, their beauty and their industrial use, this walk presents a fine view of the Nore and the well-preserved artifacts, notably the masonry bridge, the weir and the mill at Castletown. The loop also takes us along quiet country roads, with distant views of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
Castletown developed around a 12th century Norman castle but all that remains is the motte on which it stood, a grassy mound still visible. More recent history is evident in the well-preserved Georgian houses with typical fanlights that border the village green. The village has won awards for its neatness.
Setting off, we walk left from St Edmund’s Church and pass the large, many-windowed De La Salle Monastery established in 1881, now a venue for retreats. We cross the R447 taking the signpost for Slieve Bloom Mountains and Killinure, 11km. Now, we are on a typical country road, with distant views of mountains. Sorrel can be found on the ditches. The dark green, narrow leaves are edible raw, rich in iron, a sort of wayside spinach. The taste is sour but not unpleasant, the sharpness resulting from oxalic acid, which can be fatal if ingested in large amounts. Sorrel has been cultivated for centuries and is widely used in soups and salads in eastern Europe. A traditional Flemish winter dish is canned pureed sorrel mixed with mashed potatoes and eaten with sausages.
After 1.5km, we reach a Y junction, and keep right to descend to the Nore valley, where we cross a stone bridge over the Nore, quite narrow and insignificant at this point.
Reaching a T-junction (shown as a crossroads on the OS map) we turn right, signposted Slieve Bloom Village Drive. The road is now wider, with verdant countryside on both sides. We arrive again at the R445, and turning right, we cross it onto the L1671. After a short distance, we come to a Y sign and turn right onto a smaller road with high hedges.
This is the L1670 but there is no sign to say so until we reach the a T-junction where it meets the L1672, onto which we turn left to take us down into Castletown.
Walking downhill, we arrive at an attractive 18th century stone mill, with whitewashed buildings alongside. The signboard tells us some of its history; that waters of the Nore, controlled by the weir opposite, turned the mill wheel which was linked to the grinding wheels inside. The business thrived for some centuries.
The four-storey building is impressive, with its rows of red windows contrasting with the dark cut stone. Alongside it are sluices and ironworks part, no doubt, of the millrace.
Crossing the road, we get a fine overview of the weir and this is an excellent spot from which to watch salmon make their resolute way through the strong downward flow when the river is in spate in autumn. The best view of the entire scene is enjoyed from the riverside Nature Walk to the right on the Castletown village side. Looking downriver, the six-arch masonry bridge, with the left bank arch used by the mill race, is an imposing sight, and with the weir and the tall, dark mill house beyond, certainly offers an engaging photo opportunity.
Returning to the road, the village green, where we parked, is close by.
Start point: Approximately 17km west of Portlaoise on the R445 road to Roscrea and about 4km beyond Mountrath, we go left onto minor road L1672, signposted Castletown. Entering the village, we cross a bridge over the River Nore (more of this, later) and park at the grassy triangle at the village centre.
Distance: 6.5km loop walk.
Easy going and on roads, therefore a good choice in winter.
Map: OS Discovery Series No 54
*For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
LOOP HEAD WALKING FESTIVAL(www.loophead.ie)
Meet and register at the Stella Maris hotel before each walk. Apr 5: Kilkee Heritage Walk, Grade C, 2hrs., 6.30pm. Apr 6: Kilkee Cliffs Dawn Walk, Grade C, ‘Reflection in Nature’, poetry, dawn chorus, meet at dawn. Apr 6: Looped circuit, Grade A, 4hrs., meet 11am. Apr 6: George’s Head, Grade B, 2hrs., meet 11am. Apr 6: Nordic Walking Workshop, Grade C, meet 2pm. Apr 7: Kilkee Cliffs Dawn Walk, Grade C, meet dawn. Apr 7: Midday walk, Kilcredaun, Grade A, 3hrs. meet noon. Apr 7: Midday walk, George’s Head, Grade B, 2hrs., meet noon.
SKIBBEREEN WALKING CLUB
Apr 7: Tragumna Road Walk, meet Skibbereen Eagle Pub, Tragumna, 1.45pm.
CLONAKILTY WALKING GROUP (www. clonakiltywalking.com)
Apr 7: Seefin Loop, Grade B, meet O’Donovan’s Hotel, 8.30am and Gateway Coffee Shop, Durrus, 9.45am.
Apr 4: Barrabunocka Bridge Night Walk, 2hrs., meet at bridge, 7.30pm.