Glen of Aherlow Loop
Per my editor’s request, as we draw near to year’s end, I picked five favourites (the first of which was last week) of weekly walk-writing on this page. I last enjoyed this loop walk on a glorious September day in 2012, watching fish in the river and spotting water birds along its banks.
How lovely indeed was the glen, made famous by Charles Kickham’s sad song about a boy forced by evictions to leave Aherlow and join the English army.
At Moor Abbey, established in 1471 under the O’Brien kings of Thomond, we walk right, past the car park, up the country lane. In 1570 Sir Henry Sidney, father of the poet, Sir Philip Sidney, burnt the abbey to the ground.
During the Desmond Rebellion, 1596, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald hid his forces in the wooded glen and evaded English attack. In 1750, the Friars engaged in a ‘notorious row’ in Mitchelstown, and the whole parish was excommunicated. RIC attempts to blow up the abbey in 1921 failed.
The road ascends gently. At a sign for “Tigh Roy Ionad Cultúrtha” we turn into a narrow, tarred road. Soon, we have extensive views of the Galtees, Galtymore at centre and almost pyramidal Temple Hill, west,. We pass Tigh Roy, an Irish language workshops, music and dance venue. In autumn, yellow Lady’s Bedstraw grows on the ditch. Traditionally, it was used to stuff mattresses: its ‘vapours’ apparently kills fleas.
We are walking on the lower slopes of Slievenamuck, the Aherlow river below us on the right. Ignoring bohreens, we stay on the tarred lane until we pass through a gate onto a farm track.
As the road swings around, and arrive at a wooden and a metal stile. The wooden stile is safe and easy; the metal job is tall, arduous and dangerous. and are being replaced by hand gates on various walks in Britain.
A kissing-gate or a half-circle-and-post is equally effective in barring animals. We have joined the beautiful Ballyhoura Way and the route is now simple to follow. Initially, it takes us across boggy fields down toward the Aherlow, its course marked by willows. There is often no ‘beaten’ track so we must watch for the stiles, located in hedges or field corners.
Waymarks direct us through farm gates, along farm tracks and across small bridges forging streams. Off to the left is Cushnabinna mountain seen directly across the glen as we ascend.
Where we reach the tree-lined river, a finger post directs us across a bridge to a path along the bank. We shortly pass a small marsh populated by frogs, so our guide Rody Tierney of the Galtee Walking Club, told us and, on that September day, small frogs were, indeed, hopping about the adjacent fields.
Water crowfoot drifted in the river’s current, fingerling brown trout were darting into the shadows and we saw dippers, the birds that walk under water, jet black with white breasts.
Butterbur grew in large patches, the leaves almost circular, with flower heads reminiscent of heliotrope.
Butterburrs in Ireland are predominantly male, female plants being very rare. Once they were used for wrapping butter.
Walking the river bank, we stayed, where possible, inside the wire marking the field boundary. On that sunny noon, cattle chewing the cud in the water-meadows across the river and the mountains rising behind them presented a picture of classical beauty.
Nearing the stone bridge over the river, the track becomes a grassy path. At the bridge, we walked right to pass through a stile just below the trailhead where we began.
BANDON WALKING CLUB www.bandonwalkingclub.com
Dec 14: Holy Walk, grade C, meet Ash Tree, Bandon, 10am mince pies & coffee, depart 10:45.
BISHOPSTOWN HILLWALKING CLUB www.bishopstownohc/bhcwalks.html
Dec 10: Gougane Barra, grade B, 14 km, 5.5 hrs, asc. 750 km, meet Gougane Barra 9.45am.
Dec 13: Galtees, grade B, 13 km, 4.5 hrs meet Firgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown, 9.30am.
Dec 14: Tomies Wood & O’Sullivan’s Cascade, grade C, 10 km, 3.5 hrs, asc. 150m, meet Fossa Church, 11am.
Dec 14: Sugarloaf-Knockmealdown, grade B, 13 km, 4.5 hrs, asc 800m, meet Lismore Castle Car Park, 9.45am.
MALLOW HILL WALKING CLUB www.mallowhillwalkingclub.org
Dec 14: Laharn, Mistletoe & Mince Pie walk, easy, 1.5 to 2 hrs, meet Laharn Cross, 11am.
KENMARE WALKING CLUB www.kenmarewalking.com
Dec 14: Peakeen, grade B, meet The Square, Kenmare, 12 noon.
GALWAY WALKING CLUB www.galwaywalkingclub.wordpress.com
Dec 14: Oughterard-New Village, loop, 17 km, forest & bog road, meet Omniplex, Headford Road, 9:45am.
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