PORTLAW, Co Waterford, which I mentioned in a previous walk, was a 19th century industrialised village, centred around a cotton mill established by the Malcomson family in 1825. Waterwheels were installed on the Clodagh River to provide motive power; the pits dug to contain them still remain.
The Malcomsons were Quakers; they improved the village, laying it out to a plan, and employing most of the inhabitants. The mill was converted to a spinning factory and, in 1932, to a tannery.
We start our walk at the roundabout at the town centre where an information board provides details of local historic buildings. Six roads radiate from the circle. We take Main Street, which leads to Bridge Street, at the end of which we turn right onto the bridge over the River Clodagh. On the left is a pumping station, and on the right a small Presbyterian church, now derelict. The date over the door reads 1845.
We continue along the pavement on the right, ignoring signs for Water ford, following the Kilmacthomas/Carroll’s Cross signs. To the right is the RC church.
There are now a series of sharp turns and the road becomes narrow; care must be taken on this stretch. Where a sign indicates bends and another reads “Caution Concealed Entrance 150m ahead”. At this ‘concealed entrance’ on the left, we leave the road and set down a gravelled track, wide enough for a vehicle to pass but pitted with potholes. A local walker we met told us this was an outlying part of the estate of Lord Waterford (John Hubert de la Poer Beresford) — on another walk we explored the paths around the castle at Curraghmore House, the heart of the demesne.
The forest on both sides is wildwood, mixed deciduous and coniferous trees, with a holly and hazel understorey. We pass two forest paths, with pole barriers. A low stone wall follows the path on the right for a kilometre or more; one wonders why it was built but there is, in fact, a steep drop on the other side. Alders and birch are common trees along this stretch, and then rhododendron and some laurel.
We reach a small group of houses, and a drive-able track crosses ours. If we continue through this ‘crossroads’, we will come to a T-junction at a byroad 200m ahead. However, we go only as far as the ruins of Kilbunny Church and cemetery.
The Kilbunny site — from the Irish, Cill mo Mhunna, St. Munna’s church — dates from the 8thcentury, but the ruin is that of an 11th century church. It is hard to establish if the site is dedicated to the same St Munna that founded with an important monastery at Taghmon, Westmeath.
Notable in the ruin is the 11th century Irish-Romanesque doorway facing west.
Above it is a sculpted head, very worn, possibly a likeness to St Munna or the head of a horse, or dragon.
On both sides are bullaun stones with depressions filled with rainwater in wet weather. Folklore attaches healing properties to this water, and the stones had religious significance. Bullaun stones are also found in Scotland, France, Sweden and Lithuania.
After we leave the church site, rather than going right to the T-junction and the motor road, we can return to the ‘cross roads, and turn right, towards Portlaw on a gravelled track. As will be seen from the map, this takes us to the motor road, but we can almost immediately take another track to bring us nearer to the village and the roundabout where we started.
START: Reach Portlaw village via M8 from Cork, turning onto N24 at Cahir, direction Waterford. At Fiddown, take R680 over the Suir and then right on a minor road signposted Portlaw. Coming from Waterford, take N24, direction Limerick. At Fiddown continue as described above. From Kilkenny, N10 to M9, to Mullinavat, then minor road to Fiddown.
DESCRIPTION: An 8km loop walk on minor roads (care must be taken on one section) and woodland paths.
MAP: OS Number 75
*For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
West Clare Walking Club Feb 17: Kilmurry Ibricane Minor Club, registration 11am to 12.25 at GAA Grounds, start 12.30, location Quilty, 5km., fun walk/run, flat, all road. Michael Considine 086 8450848 €10 (€5 children) €20 family, refreshments afterwards.
Wicklow Nordic Walking Feb 17: Hill walk (guided), start 10am, end 3pm., 30 walkers max., fee, €25, group rates available, book by Feb 15, (see website), meet Wicklow Heather Restaurant, Laragh, 10am.
Slieve Bloom Organised Walks Feb 17: Belmont to Pollagh, Grade B, 14km, 4hrs, bus €5, assemble Pollagh Church (Co Offaly) time, 11am.
Feb 17: Glenbarrow to Cones, Grade B, 10km., 4hrs., assemble Glenbarrow Car park 1300hrs Adult €5 Children free.
Galtee Walking Club
Feb 17: The Galtees, Grade A, meet Cl,ydagh Bridge, 10am; Feb 17: Bane Hill, Brade B, meet Mountain Road, Cahir, 10am; Feb 17: Wooded Loop, Grade c, meet Lady Gregory’s Pub, Kilmoyler, 11am.