LISMORE . . . while the town was made by man, the beauty of its setting was in place long before human initiatives.
It was fortunate that some of the finest architects of their time were involved in the planning of the castle, the cathedral and the many other fine edifices and streets. Built on the River Blackwater, with the Knockmealdown Mountains beyond, the town today is a repository of history and a testament to Ireland’s dramatic past and vibrant present.
Some weeks ago I wrote a commentary on the Lady Louisa walk, and its extension along the banks of the Blackwater at Lismore.
On the weekend I visited the town, I also took a walk in the ‘highlands’ above it and from there enjoyed fine views of the verdant valley beneath the Knockmealdowns. We start at Lismore Courthouse, now the Heritage Centre; it was Eleanor Howard, at the centre, who recommended this walk. Leaving the building, we turn sharp right up Chapel Street, following the pavement. Ignoring side roads, we pass St Carthage’s Church and soon after we pass the 80km speed-limit sign, the pavement finishes and the street becomes a pleasant country road with conifer plantations in the middle distance on both sides.
The road undulates slightly and then descends steeply to a bridge over the small Abhabheag river. Beyond it, we begin to climb as the road ascends in a zigzag through the woods at Ballysaggartbeghill. Paths lead into the plantations, beech trees on the right, with some clear felling, and conifers on the left of the road, now no wider than the width of a car.
It climbs through zigzags and then we are away from the trees, out in the open, with fields on either side. I noticed some Himalayan Balsam, a non-native species, extremely robust and invasive; it has colonised extensive sections of the Blackwater banks along the riverside walk mentioned earlier. The way divides at a large, “feathery ash” as Betjeman, the poet would have called it if he saw it in full foliage, but the gravelled spur to the right leads into a house and we continue on the tarmac.
After a steep decent, we arrive at a T-junction, with a quaint stone gateway opposite, flanked by two yew trees, with a sweet chestnut alongside.
The road levels and the farmyards and houses alongside have the appearance of long tenure. We pass Ballinvella National School, built in 1862, its 150th anniversary this year.
A straight stretch, with views down to the right over the valley of the River Bride, then a T-junction with a Yield sign and a signpost indicating Lismore. We go left here but if we first make a brief diversion to the right we get a lovely view of a bend in the Bride below us.
Back at the T-junction we go straight ahead, direction Lismore, and now we come to a rise and a panoramic view of the Knockmealdowns stretching as far left and right as we can see. Between us and the mountains, is Lismore town, nestled by the Blackwater, with the castle prominent above the trees of what was once the Devonshire estate. We go sharply downhill, and ignore the road to the right; we follow the signposts. After passing through a wooded stretch we find, once again, Himalayan Balsam, with its pretty pink and white, snapdragon-like flowers, now on both sides of the road.
Crossing a bridge over the Abhabheag — “little river“, Anglicised as “Owenbeg” — every step now takes us closer to the town below, and more detail can be seen. The road levels out now. The presence of Japanese knotweed on the right, along with the balsam earlier provide sobering examples of ‘alien’ plant species in our countryside. Passing a farmyard with old stone barns, and soon reach a pavement leading into Lismore.
Start Point: Lismore, Co. Waterford, is on the N72 from Fermoy, Co. Cork. We start at the Heritage Centre facing the monument and the park, and take the street between it and An Teach Dearg (The Red House Inn) pub.
Time: 3 hours.
13 km loop walk: all on town street or quiet country roads, with some moderately steep ascents and descents.
Map: OS Discovery 81
* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
KENMARE WALKING CLUB
Nov 18: Glenrastal (OS 84) Grade B, meet The Square Kenmare. 10am.
LAKE DISTRICT HILLWALKING CLUB
Nov 18: Diamond Hill, Grade C, meet Hamilton’s Bar, Leenane, 10.30am.
MIDELTON HILLWALKING CLUB (Low-level walks) Nov 17: Castlemartyr Wood , meet St. Colman’s Community College, Old Youghal Road, Midleton, at the Car Park on the left of the Main Entrance. 2pm.
ARDARA HILLWALKING CLUB
Nov 18: Boora, Grade C 10km/3hrs, refreshments in Boora Inn afterwards, family and friends welcome, meet Boora opposite Bird Hide, 1pm.
BLACKROCK HILLWALKING CLUB
Nov 18: Coumshingaun (SW Gully), Grade A, 4 to 5 hours, meet Campus Dungarvan 10am or Kilclooney Woods at 10.15 am.
Nov 18: Windy Gap, Grade B (also, fitter Grade C walkers) loops around the village of Glenbeigh, 3.5 to 4 hours, meet Glenbeigh 10.30am.