Kilcolman Walk: Rare plants and old stories spring up at Kilcolman

THE route is all left turns, easily followed from the map. As we proceed north, and then west, we have views of the forested slopes of the Ballyhoura Range, Caroline Mountain, Knockduv, Carron and Seefin.

We encounter three unique features on our route: an ancient church in ruins, an outstanding bog habitat, and a castle with important literary associations. Shortly after we turn north 2km from our trailhead, we reach the ruins of Templesaggart church, also called Thoumpaleenhulman , the ‘small church of Colman’. Kilcolman means, of course, the church of Colman; it is said to have been established by St. Colman in the 6th century. The graveyard contains many ancient markers that never bore names, or where the names have been worn away by time and weather.

On our left one km. farther along is Kilcolman National Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. Kilcolman ‘Bog’ has been managed for nature conservation since the 1970s. It is a prime site for birdwatchers, maintained by the OPW and IWC (BirdWatch Ireland) A lane going left off the road leads to gate where a plaque notes that the land is privately owned. Visits are by permission only, telephone Mallow (022) 24200. A warden normally conducts visitors around the site. It is not, in fact, a bog but comprises reed-swamp, floating fen and open water; limestone fens are rare and threatened habitats throughout Europe. Once a lake, the water-levels are now managed for conservation using sluice gates. Thirteen species of waterbirds breed here including Shoveler ducks. Formerly, a traditional wintering ground for Greenland White Front geese, it still hosts Whooper Swans, Bewick’s Swans, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail and Pochard, and up to 1,000 Wigeon and 1,200-1,500 Teal overwinter there. In summer, dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies are seen in abundance. The site, hosting plant species absent or very rare elsewhere in Co. Cork, is of great botanical importance. It has been designated as a Specially Protected Area by the National Parks and Wildlife Service There are two observation hides on the reserve and a half-hour walk through the fen between them.

Having passed the bog, we see, overlooking it at the northern end, Kilcolman Castle, once the home of English soldier and poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). Built in medieval times by the earls of Desmond, it was confiscated by the crown and passed to Sir Philip Sidney. In 1588, having assisted in the putting down of the Desmond Rebellion, Spenser was granted the castle together with 3,000 acres. He refurbished the building and lived there for ten years. During this time, he wrote his epic poem The Faerie Queene, inspired by the Tudor conquest of Ireland and influenced by the magnificent scenery around him. He is, perhaps, best known for his line from Prothalamion “Sweet Thames run softly till I end my song.” Ewan McColl’s lyric Sweet Thames, Flow Softly , and the refrain in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land were clearly drawn from this. In 1589, his neighbour, Sir Walter Raleigh, overseer of the Plantation of Munster, insisted he came to London where Raleigh introduced him to Elizabeth I. After reading The Faerie Queene, she granted Spenser a pension of £50 a year.

In 1598, Kilcolman castle was attacked and destroyed by Irish forces under Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. Spenser managed to escape. His son rebuilt Kilcolman but it was again destroyed in 1622 and, afterwards, abandoned.

We continue north, nearer the Ballyhoura Mountains, and then south to return to our trailhead.



Kilcolman Walk: Rare plants and old stories spring up at Kilcolman

We take the N20 Cork-Limerick road and, at Buttevant, go east on the R522, signposted Doneraile. At the third road left (Ballyellis Cross Rds), we turn north and, after 200m. arrive at Boherboy Cross Rds., where broad verges allow parking. This is our trailhead.

Description/distance: No steep climbs. Quiet country road, often sheltered by fine trees. Only one stretch, 1.5km. between Bantigeen and Ballinvonear Cross Rds, carries some traffic. 9km. 2hrs. Binoculars will be useful.

Map: OS Discovery 73.




Nov 9: Moll’s Gap, Derrygarrif, C, easy pace, 4 hrs, meet Ash Tree Bandon, 8:30 am/Tea Shop, Moll’s Gap 10 am.


Nov 7: Torchlit walks: meet Upperchurch Village 7:30 pm.

Nov 8: (1) Upperchurch Hills, steep, experienced walkers, 18 km, 6 hrs (2) Knockalough-Red Hugh Walk, moderate hills, 6 km & 10 km, 2/3hrs, meet Upperchurch 10 am. &12:15 am.

Nov 8: Eamoin an Chnoic Walk, 8 km, 2.5 hrs, average fitness, meet Upperchurch 12:30 am.

Nov 9: Farney Castle to Upperchurch, road, field, forest, farm tracks, 15 km., 4 hrs, meet Farney Castle 11 am.

Nov 9: Hollyford-Red Hill Walk road/forest track, 18 km, 4 hrs, meet Hollyford 11 am.

Nov 9: Knocklough-Red Hugh Walk, as Nov 8.

Nov 9: Sli Eamoin an Chnoic Walk, as Nov 8.

Nov 9: Birchill Nature Trail, easy, 8km, 2.5 hrs, meet Rosmult 12:30 pm.


To instantly power up your look, veer towards the hard shoulder.Bold shoulder: How to instantly power up your look

Plums are a wonderful autumn fruit, useful for all sorts of recipes both sweet and savoury. In Ireland we are blessed with wonderfully sweet plums.Currabinny Cooks: Juicy plums work for both sweet and savoury dishes

The rise of home skincare devices doesn't mean that salons and clinics no longer serve a purpose.The Skin Nerd: Don’t try this at home — new treatments in the salon

Millions of gamers watched Fortnite reach breaking point on Sunday night, with ten seasons of mysterious storyline culminating in meteors hitting the island and everything disappearing.GameTech: End of beginning for Fortnite as Chapter 2 finally goes live

More From The Irish Examiner