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.
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry