Beyond 5k: Munster spots to explore within your county boundaries this weekend

If you are reacquainting yourself with your county this weekend, here are the places to check out
Beyond 5k: Munster spots to explore within your county boundaries this weekend

Lots of us will be heading out to explore our home counties this weekend. 

Curragh Woods, Cork 

Growing up in Midleton we would spend many afternoons exploring the nearby Curragh woods. As big lovers of C. S. Lewis our imaginations would transform as we crossed the gates into the woods, our dog Aslan became the great big lion we had grown to love as we set about exploring the now magical woods. 

Walks with children are all the more fun when you can explore and get muddy in nature, and a trip to the woods provides all of that and more, so stick on your wellies and raincoat and let your imagination go wild for the day. - MM 

Limerick City to Shannon Fields Riverside Walk, Limerick 

King John's Castle and River Shannon in downtown Limerick, Ireland illuminated at night.
King John's Castle and River Shannon in downtown Limerick, Ireland illuminated at night.

Take the family on a walking tour of Limerick, easing back into the outside world before a leisurely stroll along the riverside towards Shannon Fields. 

The 3.2km trail starts on Lock Quay, heading out of the city alongside the River Shannon, finishing at Athlunkard Bridge. This route has bike lanes – a perfect time to test out the new wheels that Santa brought in the great outdoors. - MM 

Ballyalla Lake, Clare 

This year has seen a huge increase in wild water swimming and the beautiful Ballyalla Lake is a gorgeous spot for it. 

Aside from swimming, the lake and its surroundings have a range of year round activities including kayaking and stand up paddle boarding should you be so brave, and there is a 7km lakeside loop walk for those that have no interesting in getting their toes wet. - MM 

The Gearagh, Cork 

Feeling a bit restless? Are there only so many days you can stay at home in 2020? Take the history, and geography, lovers in your life to the vast meadowlands of The Gearagh near Macroom. Here you’ll find the remains of the only post-glacial alluvial forest in Western Europe. 

The 6.5km Gearagh Loop consists of submerged islands that once supported a rich woodland flora which can still be seen during dry periods. The nature reserve is also home to many types of birds and wildlife so make sure to bring your binoculars and pack a change of shoes – just in case! - MM 

Glenbawn Woods, Tipperary 

Glenbawn Woods, set just outside of Clonmel and part of the Munster Vales, has three walks ranging in length and difficulty, all starting from the car park and incorporating the beautiful surroundings. 

The Dun Ui Faolain Loop is the longest of the walks at 5km, taking walkers along the river trail and up through the woodland before looping back round to its starting point. - MM 

Enjoy a blast of sea air on the Ardmore Cliff walk.
Enjoy a blast of sea air on the Ardmore Cliff walk.

Ardmore Cliff Walk, Waterford 

The cliff walk at Ardmore has been a firm favourite of mine over the past couple of years.

The sea air blowing in your face and the beautiful scenery always make for an enjoyable day out. 

The walk is short at 4.5km but is full of interesting spots along the way including a shipwreck, ruins and plenty of wildlife to keep you entertained. - MM 

Listowel Literary Walk, Kerry 

Walk the paths of literary greats including John B. Keane and Bryan McMahon on the Listowel Literary Walk, where you’ll find statues, murals and sculptures honouring the town’s literary greats. The 4km walk is set in the town so you can wander at your own pace and while some museums might be closed there is still plenty to see on the streets. - MM 

Keeper Hill, Limerick 

At 694m in height and as the highest mountain in Shannon this hike isn’t for the faint-hearted, but there are other options for those that don’t wish to take on that challenge. The loop explores the lower shoulders of the hill and can be followed via the purple arrows that are marked throughout, while the red arrows will take walkers to the summit. - MM 

White Strand Beach, Clare 

Famous for its white sand and tranquil surroundings, a walk here will help you to forget about any stress. The walk is short and sweet, so there is plenty of time for a quick dip, but bring a flask of hot chocolate to warm you up after. Located 2.5km outside of Doonbeg there are endless amounts of coastal scenery and magnificent views to be had on a walk here. - MM 

Dromore Woods, Clare 

Clare is one of my favourite counties.  Aside from the majestic landscape and stunning coastal scenery, there are endless nooks and crannies to discover, including Dromore Woods, a short drive outside of Ennis. As with the rest of the county, here you’ll find a reserve that is rich with flora and fauna thanks to its diverse habitat, and you’ll also find many historical aspects including castles, churches and ring forts. - MM 

A curious Sika deer at Doneraile Park, Co. Cork.
A curious Sika deer at Doneraile Park, Co. Cork.

Doneraile, Cork 

Doneraile Estate (just 50km from Cork City) makes a gorgeous location for a wander with its historic manor surrounded by acres of wooded parkland. But it's Doneraile’s herds of sika, fallow and red deer which make the resident fauna particularly gorgeous.

Take the 5km wildlife park perimeter loop where you can see many of the curious animals grazing in the pastures! - TB

Waterford Greenway 

The hiker/biker route stretches 56kms from Waterford to Dungarvan with countless entry points en route to dip into the action. And what a backdrop! 

From the crashing waves at Clonea Beach to the Comeragh mountains looming like snow-dusted stollen cakes, few settings are more heavenly hibernal. - TB

Lismore, Waterford 

Lismore is one of my favourite villages in Ireland. It could be its 19th Century gothic castle buttressing the River Blackwater or its chocolate box main street which could be a scene from a vintage tin of Quality Street. 

There’s just something about its Anglo-Irish heritage that makes you feel you could be in an episode of Midsommer Murders rather than the edge of West Waterford. 

The small town offers visitors a number of trails; Lady Louisa's Walk (which starts from the car park on the Cappoquin road) meanders 2km from the riverbanks to Lismore Cathedral, while just outside the town, The Ballysaggartmore Towers walk is another 2km looped trail featuring woodland, waterfalls and castle towers which make popular spots for kids to explore. - TB

Other worldly beauty at Gougane Barra. Picture: Cecily Ní Loinnsigh
Other worldly beauty at Gougane Barra. Picture: Cecily Ní Loinnsigh

Gougane Barra, Cork 

Dreaming of the Canadian Rockies? Well, that's just how Coillte describe the magical mountain trails that wind around Gougane Barra Forest Park. West Cork’s gorgeous park features six all-level walks starting with a kid-friendly 500m nature trail.

Most dramatic, however, is the Slí na Sléibhe (the mountain way) which is billed as a 2hr strenuous (but pretty doable!) 2.5km route winding hikers aloft into the wilds and back down again. - TB

Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary.

How often have you passed the Galtee mountains journeying along the M8 - and always wished to wander in their shadow?  Veer off the motorway towards the Glen of Aherlow and you’ll discover the hiking heartland of the Munster Vales - which remains far beyond the masses. 

Starting from the (season appropriate) Christ the King statue, you’ve the option of five trailheads from a 2km woodland loop to the 10km Ballinacourty walk which takes you up hill and down dale, backdropped by those gorgeous Galtee views. - TB

Great Southern Trail, Limerick 

After millions of euro of investment, many stretches of Limerick’s finest greenway have already reopened to the public. 

Got a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in your clan? Kids love the idea or peddling through the reimagined line of what was the former Great Southern & Western Railway route until it was stopped in its tracks in 1978. 

You can join the route from villages like Abbeyfeale or Newcastle West - the aim for the route is to eventually stretch 85kms from Limerick to North Kerry! - TB

You might meet some locals at Sheep's head. 
You might meet some locals at Sheep's head. 

Sheep’s Head Way, Cork 

Take the drive west to Cork’s most secluded peninsula, the Sheep’s Head. 

The headland (whose largest village of Durrus is home to just 300 people) is a true hiker's paradise, featuring over 100kms of all walking trails through hills, pastures, bogs and valleys. Most epic (and a very doable 4kms) is the lighthouse loop which takes you from the Tooreen car park to what feels like the edge of the Earth. - TB

Ballycotton, Cork 

The East Cork fishing village of Ballycotton may be best known for its cliff walk but with the advent of sea-swimming this year, it also makes a charming spot for a dip. 

There are number of spots both in and around the village to get your fix. On calm days, The Cow (located in the heart of the village near The Blackbird pub) is a popular spot to brace a harbour dip while the two beaches of Ballyandreen and Silver Strand, both within a few gear shifts, are gorgeous spots for some vitamin sea. - TB

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