After our less-than-successful go at the Multeen Way, we decided to have two days off - which is where days 17 + 18 went to.
The Ballyhoura Way is a 90km linear trail. We walked it over 4 days from Limerick Junction southwards through Tipperary, Limerick and Cork (backwards if you're looking at the trail maps on Irish Trails).
The trail starts at an extremely accessible location - Limerick Junction train station. the pay back of this stellar location being that the first few hours of walking into Tipperary Town and back out of it again is all on busy roads. The signage for the way within Tipperary town is also pretty hard to find. I was glad we printed off the maps.
Once the trail got onto tiny country roads and then became forest trails, the beginning road sections were quickly forgotten. Mostly because of the very very intense incline. The only reason we pushed through the first major rise was the fact there was a little old man also walking, and coming up behind us faster than we we're making it up the hill. The motivation to not be overtaken by someone with at least 40years on us resulted in us looking shamefully like tomato coloured wobbly jelly creatures. But tomato jelly creatures that were not overtaken! The old man still looked casually at ease when he turned into his drive.
Being partly from Tipperary it was surprising to see views of it I've never noticed before - I'm mainly talking about the glen of Atherlow. The trail comes around a corner, and there in front of you the slope just falls away, with the valley below you rising up again to form the Galtee Mountains on the other side. There's also a rather impressive statue of Christ the King looking out at the mountains with you. The area you're standing at is called the turntable, which is quite fitting with how it feels like the slope disappears below you. There are some nice picnic benches there and a small car park.
The trail after that was beautiful as well, and our pace definitely slowed just because it was a nice place to be.
Day two saw lots of decent sized villages, meaning we had plenty of chances to buy food, and even snuck in two coffee breaks (Galbally and Kilfinane). It was also the first (but definitely not the last) time we got to walk through a wind farm. Wind turbines are such amazing, powerful and majestic structures.
Day 3 saw us climb Castle Hill, which is one of my new favourite rock outcrops out there. We made lunch and just enjoyed the view for a while.
With the wonderful weather we had for walking, we didn't notice how fast we were going through our water. It was late afternoon and deep within the Ballyhoura Forest when we realised we had 200ml total. Dehydrated food was all we had. Which meant that evening for dinner we shared a the remains of a dark chocolate bar I had in my bag, and decided we could live with a night of being hungry.
If only it had been a quiet night. I didn't know this before, but some forests play a cuckoo recording on repeat to stop other birds from nesting in the area. There wasn't a moment that night when we couldn't hear it - it 'moved' in a circle around the area, but never quite far enough away. To say we were not in the best moods the following morning would be an understatement.
Day 4 was then extra hard as we started or final 20km, all along road. Not all of this road was as busy as our first day, and there were too big highlights: The Donkey Sanctuary, and Liscarroll Castle. We didn't actually realise we would be passing the sanctuary until a woman stopped her car and offered us a lift. We said we were fine, and then she told us that The Donkey Sanctuary was just down the road and that we should definitely call in when we were passing - she also worked there. I'm so glad that we stopped there. it's open for people to call by and walk a loop or two around their fields and see the donkeys in their care. The place was amazingly well run with more benches than we've possibly seen in our whole first 3 weeks of walking.
The Ballyhoura Way is a great trail. If we were to improve it ... we would probably end it in Liscarroll. I've no idea why it goes to Johns bridge, apart from the fact that it connects the Beara-Breifne Way if it does continue (possibly misspelled). As I said at the beginning, the walk out of Limerick Junction/Tipp town is also not enjoyable, but at least it serves the purpose of making the trail be accessible.
However, maybe that last bit is more enjoyable if you're walking the trail the other way - while all of the trails are designed to be walkable from any end, the way that it is discussed is doing it the other way around from what we did. Maybe that's better?
Finally, I'm sorry there are no photos. I'm writing this blog in a tent on my phone, and all the photos are on the laptop. When we take a day off I'll make sure to update everything with photographs (and let you know that I have) but for now it's just going to be some words.
Oh! And I can show you our video!