Day 24-25: Tipperary Heritage Way / by ellie berry

The Tipperary Heritage Way is a 56km linear trail that goes from The Vee in the Knockmealdown Mountains, through Ardfinnan, Cahir and Golden, and finishes at The Rock of Cashel. 

Day One: The Vee - Cahir Castle, 23km
Not wanting to walk up the mountain, we decided to start at the Vee and have a nice easy wander downhill. The whole start section if the trail is amazing. You walk down a perfect trail to Bay Lough, a lake nestled in a curve of the mountain. Below is the amazing footage we got of the lake and surrounding area. Theres no sound, so I recommend putting on some epic music and imagine your in Lord of the Rings. Or something else, if that's not your thing. 

 

The trail continues along the lower foothills of the Knockmealdowns, the forests there being perfect for walking, and then turning north to head through Ardfinnan. After Ardfinnan the trail walks almost within sight of my first home in Tipperary, which was a weirder experience than I expected. Not that it was weird - but seeing trees and roads that I remember driving along years ago to be exactly the same - or very much not the same, was kind of surreal. Anyway. 

Compared to most of the 'trails' we've walked a 'historical way' is different. It's less about interesting terrain or impressive landscapes, but about the culture in the area. So a very high percentage of the walking is along roads.  It's not really bad, it's just a different kind of experience. 

Unfortunately we arrived 10 minutes too late to go in and see the swiss cottage. The short walk from there up to Cahir was more beautiful than I remembered. There's now a fairy trail and sculptures all along the walk in and around Cahir Castle. The sunshine probably helped it all look so perfect. 

Day Two: Cahir Castle - the Rock of Cashel, 33km
What surprised me most were the routes the trail took in and out of towns - roads that I didn't know existed, even having wandered the place as a bored teen. Out of Cahir we walked up around the lower levels of the Galtee Mountains through the woods.
The next section saw us walk over 2hrs (12km or so) along roads. For road walking it was completely fine - I don't remember having any traffic. When it's that long though it can definitely get a bit repetitive. It felt like the people putting the trail together found all these interesting places, but the places fell into two distinct areas, and the only way to bring them together was to have the walk go straight along this one country road for a very long time. 

Once back in fields we walked along a weir and past more ivy-clad ruins. What we weren't expecting was Athassel Abbey. The Abbey sits by itself near the river bank, huge walls and arches creating a the largest ruin I've ever seen. Long slender windows several meters tall and a courtyard made me feel like I'd stepped back in time. It was a really amazing place to see.

After I'd recovered from being impressed by just the pure size of the place, what really blew me away about the Abbey was how preserved parts of it were. Doorways looked unblemished, stonework around sheltered pillars still detailed. There were some areas with extra support beams added, with the look that it walls were being slowly cleaned. 

While we were exploring the Abbey, in the back of our minds we noticed now dark the place was starting to feel. Our time for the day was slipping away, but we didn't want to rush away from such a beautiful place. At a guess, we spent a little over an hour there before moving on. 

In Golden we bought plenty of coffee and sugar to give us a bit of a boost. It being later than planed, I decided that a pastry dinner was the only way to go. A croissant, maple pecan thing, and chocolate twist seemed like a perfect mix.  

After leaving Golden we were almost exclusively farm-field walking. The majority of the fields had a separate fenced-off walking lane alone the edge, which was amazing. Of course, there were one or two without, and we got to dust off our cow herding skills. It was almost a relief to see a small track reappear. Even at this late stage in the walk there was another castle ruin on the far side of the river, along with a lived-in house that looked like The Burrow from Harry Potter, or maybe something from A series of Unfortunate Events. Either way, pretty amazing. 

Our approach to the Rock of Cashel brought us in along a quiet side road and past the Hoare Abbey ruins. Even though it was overcast the dusk light gave the final stretch a certain glow.  

I definitely enjoyed this trail - if only for seeing places I thought I knew completely from a different angle.