O'Loughlins Castle Loop

Mountain Range: Galtee Mountains
Walk: O’Loughlins Castle Loop
Wow Factor: Fantastic views, O’Loughlins Castle (rocky outcrop, not a real castle)
Distance: Approx. 14km
Duration: 4-5hrs
OSI: 74
Rating: Moderate 

Start/Finish Point: R921 284 Lake Muskry Trail Head

Starting at the trail head car park follow the track crossing over the stile, keep to the right and take the high ground trail towards Lough Muskry. At R918 252 where the stream crosses the path head west for the spur coming off spot height 786. To make life easier aim for the col between 786 and Knockastakeen before commencing your climb, beware of boggy patches and keep to the higher ground. I won’t lie to you the climb up to spot height 786 isn’t easy and is a bit of a slog it just goes on and on but once you have gained the height the rest of the hike is a lot easier and pretty much a stroll in comparison. Better to take your time, stop often and enjoy the view…… it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Head East now climbing to the top of spot height 786 towards the col at R916 239 where you will come across O’Loughlins Castle, not a real castle by the way but a rocky outcrop which is still pretty cool although a real castle would have been awesome.

                                                                                                         O’Loughlins Castle

This is a great spot for a rest and the “Castle” offers a great wind break during bad weather. So pull out the tea and sandwiches and savor the peace and quiet.

Once rested its time to tackle the last climb of the day and highest point of the hike by climbing Greenane at 802m. For better views keep to the left looking down on Lough Muskry below but be careful, if the weather is poor avoid this route.

The ground levels out now with a stroll across to Farbreaga 724m, you will find a large rocky mound here which makes a great seat for a final break.

Time to head down now and back to the real world....... the joys, following the North West spur coming off Farbreaga aiming for the forest below at R926 264, with the forest on your right continue down to the stream. If the weather has been good the water level will be low enough to allow crossing if the weather has been poor cross the fence on your right and look for a safer spot down river. Once across the stream continue up hill to meet the track and stile from the start of the hike and return to the trail head.

Congratulations another hike completed, time to put your feet up with a cup of tea and take it easy for the rest of the day you deserve it. 

Lough Muskry

Mountain Range: Galtee Mountains
Walk: Lake Muskry Walk
Wow Factor: Fantastic views, Corrie Lake
Distance: Approx. 9km
Duration: 3-4hrs
OSI: 74
Rating: Easy -Moderate

 Start/Finish Point: R921 284 Lake Muskry Trail Head

A great walk that involves very little navigation with views of one of the most magnificent lakes in the south east.  A must for all hikers, the lake itself is easily accessible as there is a track all the way from the main trail head car park right to the banks of the lake. This is by no means a walk in the park as there are some small hills to climb, however the scenery more than makes up for it.
Starting at the trail head car park follow the track through the woods, I’m afraid the climbing starts here and if you are like me you will probably have the following thoughts:
-          God I’m so unfit!
-          I think my heart is going to explode!
-          Should I really be sweeting this much?? I just started!

It takes me awhile to get into a rhythm but once I do my thoughts drift to:
-          It’s a great day for a hike!
-          Look at these views!
-          Look how far I have travelled, I feel great!
-          I hope I pass someone on the way back that has just started so I can feel better about myself knowing how far they have yet to travel. (harsh but true)
Keep going straight; you will come to two clearings where you can distinctly hear the bubbling of a stream. Looking down on your left from these clearings will give you great photo opportunities just be mindful of your step.

Shortly after you will reach a stile leading out onto open mountain, the path follows a right hand bend climbing over rough terrain. Be careful not to follow the trail marker posts that continue straight ahead, you will end up in very boggy terrain. Stick to the main trail. It gets a small bit harder here as the ground consists of loose rock with evidence of water erosion resulting in deep trenches along the trail. I find it easier to walk closer to the edge of the track as the ground is more stable and offers better views of Farbreage and Greenane on your left. Remember to stop and take photos both for memories but also for Facebook to show your friends what they are missing………… and of course how awesome you are for doing it.
The ground levels off here for a while……. thank god. But unfortunately it will rise again with a vengeance. Before it does you will cross a wide stream which offers great photo opportunities. Jump down the bank on your left and take a few snaps.

By now you have surely noticed the hill in front of you. Break it down, stop when you want to and before you know it you will be at the top. It looks worse than it is but that’s easy say, however the lake is just over that hill so that should be incentive enough. I particularly like taking people here for their first hike as they get the sense of wilderness and remoteness with the safety of a marked trail. But it’s the look of wonder and amazement on their face when they first see the lake that makes it all worthwhile.
Congratulations you made it. Time to sit down and enjoy the views with that all important cup of tea, its places like these that make me wonder do people know what they are missing?? It’s hard to describe to people what you see but more importantly what you feel when you look out over views like this, so next time drag them with you! Start planning your next mini adventure and head for the hills.

The lighter side #1

So the weather is great the sun is out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, you are feeling fit and taking this hike in your stride, you have the whole mountain to yourself……… or so you thought. You look behind you and a group of hikers are gaining fast. “Damn it” you mutter, no one likes been hounded on the hills. You have two options push yourself harder to out run them or let them catch up and overtake you……… that isn’t a nice feeling. Ok so you know you can’t out run them but you don’t want to be overtaken so what do you do?? Let them pass you but make it look like you had a reason to stop other than the fact that your lungs are about to explode and you haven’t felt your feet in the last twenty minutes.  How?

·         Stop and redo your laces, an oldie but a goodie.
·         Stop and take some photos, landscape not selfies.
·         Double check your map, double edged sword here as they may ask if you are lost or need help.
·         Stop and pretend you are engrossed in sending a text message.
·         Become an emotional mess on the side of the hill, nobody wants to deal with that and will walk on by…………. Only use in extreme circumstances.

I’ve been overtaken by people twice my age, there is no shame in it…………ok I lie there is a bit of shame in it but that’s a fact of life so to compensate for it I use the above tips to make myself feel better. Have fun and enjoy yourself, in my experience the people I’ve met on the hill are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Coumshingaun Loop

Mountain Range: Comeragh Mountains
Walk: Coumshingaun Loop
Wow Factor: Fantastic views, Corrie Lake
Distance: Approx. 6km
Duration: 3-3.5hrs
OSI: 75
Rating: Moderate

Start/Finish Point: S341 103 Kilclooney Woods Car Park

This is a great walk that has everything including a bit of scrambling. The views are magnificent and Coumshingaun itself is a wonder to be hold. But you will work for it. Once you have conquered the south spur and on the plateau it gets a lot easier. So take your time, stop often and enjoy the views. This will be a walk to remember.

Starting at the Kilclooney Woods car park follow the trail through the forest until you merge onto a forest road this is a great warm up as I am usually fecked by the time I get to the road. Follow the road right to a clearing; one of these things is not like the other can you spot it? You should notice a mast cleverly disguised as a tree on your left. Continue on through the forest climbing a stile out onto the open mountain side. Keep to the left and follow the trail upwards past a large boulder. Soon you will see the trial opening out to the right through the stone wall and up onto the south spur. I generally aim for the large erratic (a rock or boulder that differs from the surrounding rock and is believed to have been brought from a distance by glacial action.) on the spur. You can’t miss it; this is where the climbing starts and the swearing begins usually along the lines of “Oh god oh god I’m going to die” or “why the hell am I doing this?” but I promise you it will be worth it. From the erratic follow the path heading up the spur, I know it looks daunting but it’s quite spectacular so keep at it. You can make this route as interesting as you like by walking below and around the rocky outcrops or by climbing over and through them. Follow the trail along the spur admiring the view of the Lough below on your right.

The trail start to disappear now as the spur merges onto the main plateau however you will have to scramble a bit in order to reach it. I made the mistake of taking my Husky Sheldon up this route; turns out he’s afraid of heights! I mean seriously he wouldn’t move I had to carry him up to the plateau where he promptly ran head first into a bog but that’s another story.
Follow the trail as far as you can, it turns a bit to the left and then upwards over rocks and grass. Once on the plateau follow the coum around to the right and find that all important spot to sit down and break out the flask. I really only do this for my cup of tea, sitting on the edge of the coum listening to the wind letting all my worries blow away.  It’s all downhill from here so relax and take in the scenery.
Once rested follow the coum around and down the North spur, stop and look back at what you have achieved……… it’s pretty impressive. Descending the north spur involves negotiating a rocky pathway so watch your footing and move slowly. Keep to the left and follow the path off the spur. I highly recommend visiting the Lough at this stage after all that’s why you are here. The return route involves contouring around the south spur where you will easily find the trail leading back to the stile at the forest. Remember the stile can be difficult to spot from a height so if in doubt aim for the forest and follow the trail down.  Well done another adventure completed.


Coumduala Loop

Mountain Range: Comeragh Mountains
Walk: Coumduala Loop
Wow Factor: Fantastic views, lakes, small waterfall.
Distance: 9km
Duration: 3.5-4.5hrs
OSI: 75
Starting/Finish Point: S278 127 Nire Valley Car Park

Rating: Officially rated as hard- above average level of fitness. In my opinion I would rate it as moderate, take your time it’s a marathon not a sprint.

This has to be one of my favourite walks in the Comeraghs. Starting at the Nire Valley car park follow the way markers for the Coumduala loop, you can also follow the way markers for The Gap until you reach the stile but instead of crossing over the stile continue upwards keeping the fence on your right. Use the fence as a handrail and follow it up hill. It will start to get a bit tougher here as the terrain gets steeper but stop and look around see how far you have climbed admire the scenery this isn’t a race. You will notice you are gaining height quite fast. Continuing onwards feet slipping, heart pumping thinking surely any minute now I am going to die the ground levels off, thank the lord!

You will see the Knockanaffrin Ridge ahead of you, continue following the fence. You are getting closer to the top now. It looks worse than it is. As you near the top you will come across a stile to your right and a stile directly ahead of you. Cross over the stile directly in front of you but beware there is quiet a drop at the other side. From here you can look down on Coumduala Lough this is one of the best spots to stop for a cup of tea so rest for a bit and enjoy the views.

 When you manage to break yourself away from the scenic views cross back over the stile and now cross over the stile on your left heading in an easterly direction with the fence on your left. Should you encounter poor visibility just remember to follow the fence downhill. After a small bit more climbing the route will descend and level out to reach what’s known as “The Gap”. From here you have two options you can follow the track from the gap back to the car park (approx. 1hr) or you can continue out to the view the Sgilloge Loughs.

 If you decide you want to see the Loughs then fantastic you won’t be disappointed. From the gap walk approx. 100m eastwards with the fence on your left until you come to the next way marker. At the way marker turn right and you will find a distinct trail leading off in a south westerly direction. It will take approx. 1 hour to reach the Loughs but there are way markers along the way. A good tick off point to note will be the stream crossing. You are approx. halfway there at this stage. Keep the way markers in sight and you will be fine. The trail takes a left, try to keep the high ground no point making hard for yourself with one last climb now up and into the Loughs, find a nice spot to sit and rest while enjoying the views. Relax sit back and have a cup of tea you deserve it.

Stop now and listen, what do you hear? I hear the waterfall splashing of the rocks as it flows continuously from the heights above me downwards to disappear before the Lough and nothing else other than the sounds of nature. No cars, no TV, no problems.  And this is why I hike.

When you eventually pry yourself away from the serenity of the Lough follow the way markers out and down towards the fence. Follow the fence around to the left until it turns right and follow the fence and the way markers down and off the hill to cross  the bridge and out on to a track and back to civilisation. Well done another adventure completed.