During a previous visit to the Ridge of Capard back in the Summer I recalled noting that the ‘longer’ route, on the Info Board in the Car Park, was 4km, and that the estimated walk duration was 2 hours. I remember thinking that whilst 4km wasn’t much in distance, if the powers-that-be reckoned it should take 2 hours to complete that loop, then it must be a fairly challenging trail.
The Weather Gods aligned with the Time-Off Gods, giving us both a free Sunday, with fabulous weather, and a yearning to get our hiking boots out in the air again. It was going to be a coin toss between going back up to the Ridge of Capard (I’ve been dying to show the husband the views from up there!) and an 8km loop walk I’ve been eyeing up for a while. However the coin toss was no longer required when my printer spat the dummy and spewed the contents of its colour cartridge all over its internals. Being the self-styled Queen of Over-Preparation I didn’t want to walk in an unknown area without a copy of the route and trail description, so the decision was made to head to the ridge.
The trail starts off on the familiar wooden boardwalk. We took a small diversion up to the viewing point, and spent 5 minutes taking photographs of family groups for visiting tourists, before discretely heading off on our intended walk, without really getting a chance to enjoy the 360° views.
At the point where my previous walk route went through a gate and followed the Slieve Bloom way up over the ridge, we followed our chosen route along a gravel track. Soon enough we came to a locked metal gate, and a metal ladder stile. I was anxiously thinking of the best way to get a 20kg, wriggling, squirmy Dolly up and over the stile (those steps are NOT very dog friendly!) when I spied a gap in the wall over to the right. There was a bit of scramble over rocks, logs and through brambles, but it was still easier than trying to get a big dog over that stile.
The beautiful Glenbarrow valley opened up below us, and the track descended gently into it. The info board had warned of keeping clear of ruined buildings and stone walls, and we soon came across the remnants of old stone cottages and what we assumed were small stock enclosures. A small cottage came into to view on the left, with a small plaque on the outside wall:
According to this webpage, The Cones, was once home to a number of families that survived this bleak landscape. After the Irish Potato Famine, their numbers decreased from about 12 families in the 1850s to 4 families after 1911. It is hard to imagine how anyone could scratch a living from the land around here, and I have to remind myself that these tree plantations are relatively new, and the landscape would have looked quite different back in the day. Naughty I know, but we ignored the sign warning us to stay away from the unstable building, and had a quick peek inside. I tried to imagine the tales that were told, sitting around the fireplace in the evening. The views that might have been seen, down the valley, through the window. And the lives that had passed through that cottage’s history. I could have stayed there all day, letting my nostalgic imagination run wild, but the husband and the dog were keen to move on.
Shortly before turning sharp right, we came upon the magic tree. Even when we were right up close to it, it was difficult to see just how it was growing at all. It seemed to be floating in mid-air 🙂
The trail took us through a section of forestry, and then a long uphill section. The communications mast near the car park (The Metal Man) came into view sooner than I expected, and a right turn on the trail brought us to some wooden steps…which my poor, tired thighs didn’t thank me for at the time. The steps went over the top of a bank, and then a small section of boardwalk allowed us to traverse a small boggy, spring. A short section of easy, flat trail brought us all too soon back to the car park! I didn’t want to stop, really I didn’t. I felt barely warmed up, and simply couldn’t believe we were back at the car already! However, I knew there was a trig point somewhere near the car park, so whilst we stopped momentarily at the car for the husband to remove a layer, I double checked the OSI map again. Back down the lane, and a left turn up a soft track brought us to quite possibly the easiest summit-top trig point. You could pretty much drive to it if you so wished. Breath-taking views however, and it added about a quarter of a mile onto our walk. After a quick cup of hot tea, whilst watching a large bank of rain clouds heading in our direction, we legged it home to light the fire…
“I really enjoyed that, but I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t longer or more challenging“…are words I would never have said about walking ANYWHERE a year ago! Let alone out on the Slieve Blooms, so I allowed myself a slightly indulgent smile and reflected on the fact that my disappointment was a good thing in this instance.
From a recreational point of view – a lovely walk in a beautiful spot, on well-maintained tracks, with breath-taking views.
From a personal point of view – I wanted to breathe harder and for my muscles to hurt more…
Of course, I had hoped to make use of having a free Sunday this coming weekend, but the weather forecast is looking woeful.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind bad weather…but finding waterproof over trousers to fit me is a complete non-runner so far. Therefore walking in heavy rain will just have to wait until I’m slimmer!