WE set off down the road toward Lough Gur and the lake soon comes into sight on our left. We see Grange Hill beyond, and Knockfennel Hill, location of important Neolithic sites. We shortly arrive at the ruins of the Teampall Nua. It is said to date from the 15th century. The arched entrance door, an elegant arched window and the bell arch above one gable are intact. A stone plaque on one wall reads “Sweet Temple Nua.
In an unmarked grave sleeps Tomas O’Connellan, renowned poet-harper, who died [. . .] 1698 [and] Owen Bresan 1847-1912 local poet and historian whose song “Teampall Nua” kept O’Connellan’s memory alive.” The headstones in the graveyard has fine examples of Celtic crosses.
At the parking layby on the roadside just past the ruin, butterburr, a plant with leaves 70cm in diameter, thrives. We have views of the lake and the south side of Knockadoon Hill, actually an island topped by two stone forts, and the site of 15th century Bourchier’s Castle, originally a Desmond stronghold, and 13th century Black Castle, both of which guarded the entrances to it.
Just beyond, on the right hand side of the road, we come to an impressive wedge tomb dating from c2,500 BC, locally known as The Giant’s Grave. Access is easy, and one can view it close-up and from all angles.
There are four upright stones, forming ‘walls’, on the north and south sides, and three roof-stones, another lying fallen nearby. The chamber within is 8.5m long and looks relatively dry; it is easy to believe that, in the early years of the last century, a destitute old woman might have used it as a dwelling for many years. It was originally a tomb, and during an excavation in 1938, archaeologists found the bones of eight adults and four children, along with cremated bones and shards of pottery from the Beaker Early Bronze Age era.
On the other side of the road, there is a locked gate and then a path that likely led down to one of the Knockadoon castles.
The road winds on, with a house here and there. Around the corner we get views of a water meadow between us and Knockadoon. At the crossroads, we turn right for Knockainy, with an old pump on our left and a quaint thatched house with half door. To our right is the hill of Knockdere and a Fujiyama-like peak in a range far to our left.
Now, at the next crossroads, where we again go right, another feature, The Honey Fitz Theatre, commemorating Francis Fitzgerald, the grandfather of JFK who, in 1906, became the first son of an Irishman to be elected major of a US city.
His sweet singing voice earned him the nickname, and he finished his electioneering rallies with musical performances.
An information board, including a family tree and period photographs, relates the history of the family. The parish church stands behind it.
Continuing, we pass the national school. The road is wider but has broad verges at intervals. After 1.5km we come to a T-junction and turn right onto the R512 — Bruff is signposted left and Limerick right.
This road can be busy and care should be taken, but within 800m, we are back at our trailhead.
Start: Turn off N20 at Charleville onto R515 to Kilmallock or onto R516 at Croom to reach Bruff. There we take the R512 Holycross road. 3km beyond Bruff, a black Lough Gur Heritage Centre sign directs us right alongside Reardon’s pub. Here there is a filling station, shop and post office. Parking can easily be found. This is our trailhead.
Description: Views of Lough Gur, an ancient church in ruins, birthplace of JFK’s ancestors, an impressive megalithic tomb.
Map: OS 65
nFor maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie
Aug 31: Seven Peaks in Galtees, grade A, ascent 916m., meet Maxol Garage, Mitchlestown, 9am.
Aug 31: Galtee Mor, grade B, meet Mitchelstown Service Station,10am.
Aug 31: Sliabh na mBan, grade C, easy trek, 3.5 to 4 hrs., meet Kilcash Village, 11am.
Aug 31: Comeraghs, grade B, 4 to 6 hrs., meet TSB Carpark, Dungarvan, 10am.
Aug 27: Forest Track, 2 hrs., meet Bansha Woods Car Park, Kilshane, 7pm.
Aug 31: Berneens-Gregans-Poulacapple, gradual climb, track and road, 6 hrs., meet The Pier, Ballyvaughan, 10:30am.