Walk of the Week: Kilgarvan and MacCaura's Grave, Co Kerry

WHEN I walked this route, mid-March 2014, the banks of the attractive little rapids on the Slaheny River above Coolyard Bridge were being reinforced. There are many classic mountain-river rapids and waterfalls to admire on this walk.

Just beyond the bridge, we go left, up a waymarked, unsurfaced road away from the river. It is soon below us again, heard more than seen. After a kilometre, at a farmhouse and a new, stone-faced house on the left, the shaley track becomes a green road leading down to a ford and galvanised metal footbridge across a stream running into the Slaheny. Clearly, vehicles use the ford, but with the exceptional rain this winter, only a tractor could safely make the crossing.

A grassy lane takes us up from the stream on to a narrow, tarmaced road, where we turn right — there is waymark just above us. This country road ascends gently. To our left, we see the shoulders of large mountains, covered in snow. Nearest is Esknabrock and beyond it Stoompa, 705m. The road is gravel surfaced, with no houses for long stretches. After passing a water tank on the lane, a brown fingerpost ahead announces the site of the Battle of Callan and MacCaura’s Grave (McCarthy’s Grave). A curved stone wall encloses a rounded boulder with a memorial plaque behind it in Irish and English recording it as the burial place of Donal, Chieftain of the MacCarthy Fineens. ”. . . in faithful remembrance of him. He died in the Battle of Collon (sic.) August 1261 where he liberated the Kingdom of South Munster from Norman domination forever. He himself was killed at this very spot, where he was buried. May his soul have rest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the souls of the men who died with him.”

The Annals of Connacht 1261 record that “A very destructive war was waged against the Galls this year by Fingen son of Domnall Mac Carthaig and his kinsmen. A great hosting was made by the Fitz Geralds into Desmond, to attack Mac Carthaig; but he attacked them and routed them and fitz Thomas, John by name, and his son killed there, as well as fifteen knights, besides eight noble barons and many young squires and countless soldiery. He killed Barrach Mor (Barry More) also. Afterwards Fingen Mac Carthaig was killed by the Galls and the kingship of Desmond was assumed by his brother, the Ex-cleric Mac Carthaig.”

Just beyond is a sign for a Mass Rock with access to the field via one of those metal six-step ladder-styles so complicated and dangerous to use that a diagram is provided to show one how to ascend and descend. The rock, surrounded by railings, is the usual table-stone altar used for the illicit celebration of mass when Catholicism was proscribed during Penal Times. At the t-junction just ahead, we go left downhill, ignoring the waymark pointing ahead. At the Yield sign, we go left on the road. On our right, are some lovely waterfalls, white water over black rock in the shadow of birches and willows. The empty, snow-covered hills behind Kilgarvan lie ahead. We pass the steep avenue to The Kilgarvan Motor Museum. A colourful, tin-roofed house on the left is a feature before we arrive at Coolyard Bridge and cross it to our trailhead.

Start point: 1km south of Kilgarvan off the spectacular Bantry-Snave-Borlin Valley road. At the western end of Kilgarvan take the signpost for Bantry 35km. Cross Cahergal Bridge keep right and take the first right to cross Coolyard Bridge. Park here or walk from the village.

Distance/time: 9km/2hrs.

Difficulty: Unsurfaced boreens and surfaced by-roads. Some steep ups-and-downs.

Map: OS Number 79

For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

SLIGO WALKING CLUB

(sligowalkingclub.ie)

Apr 22: Tuesday walk, Lough Talt, track and road, moderate, 12km, 3hrs, meet carpark of the Carraroe Retail Park (Curry’s end), 10am.

Apr 26: Saturday walk, Streedagh, track, beach and road, easy, 13km, 3hrs, meet carpark of the Institute of Technology, Sligo, 10am.

GALTEE WALKING CLUB (galteewalkingclub.ie)

Apr 23: Forest, easy walk, 2hrs, meet Christ the King statue, Aherlow, 7pm.

Apr 26: Family Climb and mass on Galtymore in aid of Ballylanders Church roof, meet King’s Yard, 10am.

Apr 27: Comeraghs, A, meet Carey’s Castle carpark, Clonmel, 10am.

Apr 27: Galtees, B, 4hrs+, meet Clydagh Bridge, 10am.

Apr 27: Bansha Woods and back, meet Christ the King statue, 11am.

HILLWALKERS CLUB, DUBLIN (hillwalkersclub.com)

Apr 27: Oldbridge to Ballinastoe Woods, via Scarr, Kanturk and Knocknacloghoge, 16km, meet Burgh Quay, 10am or bus stop before roundabout at Loughlinstown, 10.20am.

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