Over Christmas Ruth and myself went on a few mountain hikes on the Knockmealdown Mountains near my home place. You can see some photos from them here.
I used always love seeing my home from the top of the mountain when out herding the sheep with my grandad. So when I brought Ruth there a few years ago, it was great fun letting her see my home from a different perspective. It is just about visible even though it is a good few miles away from the mountain.
I'd never really thought much of the distance when I was younger, as I grew up looking at the mountain out my front window. I always thought, "sure ya, tis just over there". So when Ruth asked me how far away it was I was stumped. I knew there was an old military road, mainly of rough dirt track, running from the mountain out to Ballyaggart where I'm from, but I'd never used it before. I knew of a few people that used the road now and again on their quads to get to the mountain so presumed it wouldn't be too far. Turns out its 9 miles.
As it was a one way trip, I got my dad to drop us out to the beginning of the track at the mountains. He walked with us for the first 100m to the top of a hill. It was the most uneven surface of the walk so it was nice to get it out of the way. When it reached the top my dad gave us the directions for the rest of the trail and waved us on. I love the feeling you get when you set off on a walk with no map, just a few verbal directions to guide you. It adds a sense of excitement to the walk even on the best paved of roads.
Quick photo near the start.
After about 2km of small rough path it begins to widen as Ballysaggart comes into view.
Back when the military used the road they often transported turf from the mountain to use as fuel. All of their large cutting areas are since gone and replaced with forest but there is still the odd local doing a bit of illegal cutting.
After about 4km we reached the conifer forest in Ballysggart. From here on we would be walking on large gravelled forest roads until we met the main road. When I was younger myself and a few friend used to head out to the waterfalls in Ballsaggart through the forest so I had a fairly good grasp of the layout of the west half of the forest. This meant that the grid of roads on the left section of the forest was totally foreign to me. That’s why I was so shocked when we came across an abandoned sheep shed and railway carriage in a small clearing of the trees. To be honest the last thing I was expecting in the middle of a forest in the back arse of nowhere was a railway carriage. Especially since the nearest railway was in Lismore, nearly 10km away and that closed back in the 60's.
After passing the shed and carriage it was plain sailing back to the main road which lead us back home.
About five years ago I brought Ruth for a hike to the top of the Knockmealdown Mountains in my home land. She absolutely loved it so we decided to go on a few mountain hikes when we were home for Christmas . I spent a lot of my childhood herding sheep on the mountains for my grandad but there were still a few of the paths that I had yet to do.
The path we chose was one I had known about for ages but had only walked the first secton.
It begins with an old dirt road that leads you right down to the old glacier lake of Bay Lough. Now, there are soooooo many stories about Bay Lough. These mostly revolve around the legend of Petticoat Loose. As with a lot of legends, there are many different versions and I know many people will say that my version is wrong but it's the one I grew up with ... so:
'Years and years ago there was a dance held in the local in a town just down from the mountains. As it was a big occasion, most of the community was in attendance, all having the craic, dancing and singing. At the dance was a local girl - a farmer’s daughter. She, like the others, was having a brilliant night drinking and dancing.
'Fairly well into the night, her dress became caught in a nail on the floor while dancing. Not knowing this the girl continued dance causing the nail the rip the dress from her leaving her standing the middle of the dance floor wearing only her undergarments. The whole hall erupted into laughter. The girl, mortified, ran out of the hall and into the dark night in the direction of the mountain. In her frantic efforts to get away from everyone she became lost. As she ran on the mucky path she lost her footing, causing her to slip and fall down a hill into Bay Lough. The sheer shock of the cold water rendered her unable to swim to safety and she began to drown. In her screams for help, she cursed the local people of her village for this. She claimed that she would have revenge on any man or woman to come near the lake.'
There is a specific date in the year when Petticoat Loose, as she became known as, rises from the lake at night and drags anyone foolish enough to be near the lake into it. Now, for the life of me, I can't remember the date.
Other versions of the story claim that Petticoat Loose was, in fact, a witch. This is why she was able to place the curse. Another is that she was banished to the lake by the locals for being a witch and the only way to she can escape is the build a chair using sand at the bottom of the lake, grain by grain. As there is no definitive story and everyone claiming theirs is the right one, I would say that it will be a legend that will last.
After you pass the lake the path splits into two. We took the left path which leads up and around the lake, giving you spectacular views of the lake and valley below.
The plan was to follow the path for a while until we met a small mountain waterfall. That was the plan! Unfortunately I got the directions to this waterfall from my brother, who forgot to tell us that the waterfall was at the second mountain stream, not the first. Due to this information cock up we arrived at the first stream thinking we were at the right place. The stream was all but a trickle with no sign of a waterfall anywhere. We put "a lack of rainfall" as the reason for the missing waterfall and began our hike back to the car. Of course we found out later that this was not the case.
It was not a total waste though as the heavy frost allowed for some amazing photo opportunities.
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry