Laois: Treading through a tapestry of colour

GLENBARROW LOOP ON THE SLIEVE BLOOM WAY, CO LAOIS

WHAT for me was most striking of all on this walk — even more striking than the 360 degree views from the ridge — was the extraordinary tapestry of lichens, mosses, heathers, rushes and bog-plants of every shape and vivid colour laid out on the mountain alongside the boardwalks from the moment we set out at the car park, and all the way up the ridge until we enter the plantations.

To compare the hillside with a thousand-acre Turkish carpet would be clichéd, but such an analogy is unavoidable; it has all the richness of texture and colour of a magnificent oriental rug. The colours leap out, even in winter, the reds, deep reds, purples, brown, greens, bottle greens and pastel greens, lemon yellows and pastel yellows, oranges and deep oranges and blues. The brilliant colours of a million exotic butterfly wings?

For anyone setting out on this walk — that is, anyone as ignorant as myself of nomenclature of bog beauty, the names of the plants that comprise the picture — a guide from Peatlands Ireland or a pocket book of mosses and lichens would add immeasurably to the experience. And binoculars, too, not only for the vast, long views from the viewing platforms, but so that one can zoom in on the plants without having to step off the boardwalks which are, of course, put there so that a parade of walking boots won’t trample the mountain’s delicate and incomparable ecology.

From the car park trailhead, the brown mountain looks like nothing special. There are boards mapping the walks. I’d suggest that boards illustrating the flora would be very useful; the route of the walk is simple as the map herewith will show.

We climb the boardwalks, cleverly studded with staples to provide grip against slipping. We reach the viewing points, broad platforms, very well set up present panoramic prospects south and north. Long, narrow illustrative boards depict sketches of all the features to be seen over the wide 180° prospects in each direction. These are aesthetically and functionally well designed.

To the south, we can see, amongst the many other features and relatively close to us, Portarlington, Portlaoise, and then, beyond, farther and farther into the distance, the Dublin Mountains Wicklow Mountains, the Blackstairs and Mount Leinster, all over 70km distant, the Comeragh Mountains and the Galtees, both ranges at 96km, the Knockmealdowns at 103km.

To the north, the conurbations of Tullamore (see the church spire) and Clara, Co Offaly, are in the near distance, Athlone and Mullingar, and far, far away — but to be seen on a clear day — Slieve Bán in Roscommon, Slieve na Calliagh in Co Meath and, farther still, Slieve Anierin in Leitrim, 114km, and the Cuilcagh Mountains in Fermanagh, source of the River Shannon, 123km away.

The views are breathtaking. Having recovered our breath, we continue on boardwalks to surmount the Ridge of Capard (after negotiating bothersome and dangerous ladder stiles en route) and from there, we continue in forests of spruce, with occasional birch, deep, dark walks at times, above Glenbarrow and then, after walking above the pretty river for which it is named, emerge at the car park where we began.

Club News

INISHBOFIN WALKING FESTIVAL

May 25-27. See: www.inishbofin.com

KENMARE WALKING CLUB

(www.kenmarewalking.com)

May 26: Dursey Island, Grade B, members only (sign up by May 19), meet The Square, Kenmare, 8am.

LAUNE MOUNTAINEERING CLUB

May 26: Reeks Walk, meet 8am, Knocknaganty Walk, Sneem, meet 9am. Membership €45

DUNMANWAY HILLWALKING

www.dunmanway.ie/activites/walking

May 26: Carrantouhill, Grade A, 11km., 5.5hrs, ascent 522m, meet SuperValu carpark, Dunmanway, at 8.30 am (Associate Membership €10; membership €45pa)

SLIEVE BLOOM WALKS

www.slievebloom.ie/

May 25: Clear Lake, Grade C, 7km, 3 hrs., meet Glenbarrow carpark, 13.00.


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