Rock of Loyer Loop, Moneygall

12th October 2014

With my Hiking-Wagen still having work done, and the husband busy at work over the weekend, I wanted to find a short, local walk  so that we could grab a couple of hours out in the fresh air.  At just 4.6km in length, the new Rock of Loyer Loop walk in Moneygall ticked both those boxes.

I packed a small backpack, to carry some waterproofs as the weather was undecided about whether it wanted to rain on us or not, and in anticipation of the picnic area mentioned on the trail description, I threw in a small flask of coffee and some treats too.

The start of the walk is located adjacent to a children’s playground, and there’s a tarmacced car park there too.  A mapboard with details of the loop walk is positioned close-by on a grassy area, and across the road a small green sign on a wall indicates the direction you start off in.

Going down the lane towards the main street you can’t help but notice the proud local links to Barack Obama – a patriotically painted cottage is visible from the car park.

Patriotic Cottage - Moneygall, Co. Offaly ©The Curvy Hiker

Patriotic Cottage – Moneygall, Co. Offaly
©The Curvy Hiker

Once on main street the first business you pass is the Obama Cafe (sadly closed on our visit), and the now famous Hayes bar, where the US President poured and enjoyed a pint of Guinness in the village previously inhabited by his ancestors.

President Barack Obama talks with pub-goers as...

President Barack Obama talks with pub-goers as First Lady Michelle Obama draws a pint at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall, Ireland, May 23, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But history and genealogy aside, the trail takes you up main street before taking you to the right, opposite the village post office.  Keep a good eye out for the direction markers, we had printed a route map from the internet, so we knew we had to turn right, but the marker at this junction was partially hidden by thick cabling attached to the post that it’s on, and could be easy to miss!

The trail then takes you up the lane, past the church and some residential houses, and also a tumble-down abandoned cottage which I couldn’t resist checking out.

After around half a mile the signs point you off the lane and over a tall metal stile.  A “No Dogs” sign marks the point where you leave the public roads and enter on to farmland.  We had left all our dogs at home, and I will confess that I was curious to see why they might be so strict on the ‘No Dogs’ thing, but on the other side of the stile was a very narrow path bordered by barbed wire on one side, and an electric fence on the other, separating us from the cattle that were grazing peacefully in the field.  The electric fence was live – no I didn’t personally check it, but I could hear the fenceline ticking, indicating that a current was passing along it.

The trail takes you gently uphill, through fields with grazing cattle and sheep (hence the “No Dogs” signs), on clearly marked paths, and the occasional stile.  Typically we had chosen a dull, grey day for our walk, but the views down across Moneygall were lovely, and on a bright, clear day I can easily imagine that the views across the landscape would be fabulous! At one point the trail creators have thoughtfully placed a simple wooden bench; a great place to rest awhile and take in the views.

One more field to walk up through and then the trail brings you downhill, along the edge of a forest, to meet up with a gravelled farm track, via a sturdy kissing gate.  The loop arrows point you the left here, however if you need to cut the walk short for whatever reason, turning right here will take you back down into Moneygall village.  We were looking forward to checking out the picnic area, so we turned left and headed up hill.

On our way up to the picnic area we came across a ewe lamb stuck in some brambles.  Upon further investigation, she wasn’t very stuck at all, but obviously in her head she was stuck fast, and looking very miserable.  Her mother was a little way away, bleating her head off calling for her lamb.  I was able to lean over the fence and check the lamb over for any obvious injuries, but other than feeling a little cold, and a bit underweight, she seemed physically ok.  I disentangled her from the few small brambles caught in her fleece, then turned her and encouraged her to walk out into the field.  I don’t know how long she had been stuck for, but she initially seemed fairly disorientated, and the slowly began to realise that she was free again.  We carried on our way, knowing that we would be passing back this way on the return leg of the trail, and so we could check her again on our way back.

Not nearly as tangled as she thought she was...

Not nearly as tangled as she thought she was…

At the end of the track we did find the picnic area, but we were more than a little dismayed to see that it was completely fenced off with yet more electric fencing.  I wonder if the picnic area is only accessible/available during the summer months?  If so, it might be a nice gesture if the trail developers would mention it as such.  I can’t imagine the landowner wanted walkers unclipping it to gain access to the field and the picnic area, otherwise they might have made it a little more walker-friendly, so we left the fencing alone, and instead turned to trudge back down the track retracing our steps all the way back to the kissing gate where we’d first joined the track…with our untouched flask of coffee and ‘picnic snacks’.  I resisted the urge to “Hurumphf!!” as we did so.

On the plus side, the views across to the Devil’s Bit, even on a dull, grey day, was fantastic, so I can’t wait to see how the views would be on a bright, clear day…hopefully on a day where we are welcome to access the picnic area!
We also checked back in on our woolly friend on our way back past and were delighted to see her reunited with a happier looking mum!  We bumped into the sheep farmer on our way back down, and let him know about the lamb further up the hill.  She had still seemed a little dopey to me, and I was happier to head home knowing that the farmer would be checking on her.
The wind had picked up, and added to the fact that I was a little bit grumpy at not being able to access the promised picnic area, we mostly plodded back down the track with our heads down and our collars and neck warmers pulled up to our ears, but I did look up at one point to spot a ring fort on a hillside facing us.  Apologies for the poor photo, my phone struggles with distances sometimes.  Ring forts have always fascinated me, and always get me thinking about who might have lived there, how their lives might have been, and why a particular place might have been chosen for the fort.  This one appeared to command a good view down the valley and away across the midlands, and was in a good position to be able to spot incoming potential invaders I think.

At the bottom of the farm track you join a quiet country road, which brings you right back to the car park where you started.  I was absolutely stopped in my tracks by the beautiful scent coming off these stunning wild honeysuckle!

Despite my disappointment of not being able to access the picnic area (I won’t mention it again, I promise!), my overwhelming impression was that a lot of hardworking had gone into construction this looped trail, the gateways and stiles were all really well made, and can only heap praise on the trail developers for making it happen and doing such a good job…but about that picnic area..!  No, no, I promised I’d drop that subject!

Once back in the car park it seemed rude to just pile back into the car and head home, so instead we wandered around the corner, back on to the main street, and headed to Hayes’ bar for some well-earned refreshments!

The Rock of Loyer, as I understand it, is/was a rock on Loyer Hill.  In a historical geological survey document I found online ages ago, the description is given of a large limestone boulder, measuring 9 feet by 21 feet by 7½ feet, situated on the top of Loyer Hill.

If you want to test your eyes you can read all about the geology of the area at this link. The brief mention of the rock is on page 16 of the PDF document.

Hand-drawn depiction of the Rock of Loyer.

Hand-drawn depiction of the Rock of Loyer.

I don’t *cough* make a habit of searching for historical geological documents, but I was poring over some old maps online (I do make a habit of getting absorbed in old maps!) and whilst browsing the area on the OSI website, near to a property we own, and using the 25″ historic map layer (dated 1897-1913) the words “Rock of Loyer” caught my attention and intrigued me.  Google, at the time, gave me nothing but the geological survey, which didn’t fascinate me quite as much as the maps.  However, the lack of further info on the rock did make me wonder if the Rock of Loyer was one of those things that may simply be lost to history.  But when the Rock of Loyer loop walk was launched earlier this year I was delighted that the rock was being celebrated in some small way.

I have no idea if the rock is still there, or if it may have been removed during forestry operations, but the OSI maps of years 2000 and 2005 do appear to show something in the area that may indeed be the Rock of Loyer, still in place.  By my reckoning it is in the middle of the forestry area that the trail skirts around.  If it is still there, I would absolutely love it if the trail could be developed in the future, with the agreement of the landowners, to bring walkers up to see the namesake of the trail that they are on.

Historic map link (1897-1913):,603532,680038,7,9

Map link (2000):,603529,680024,7,4

Map link (2005):,603529,680015,7,0

Wet, wild & windy in Portumna Forest

Walked: 25th January 2014

With a free Saturday for both of us, and a pretty awful weather forecast, we tentatively planned a lowland forest walk instead of heading up on to the hills.

Twitter IWN forecast

Portumna Forest Park, a 600 hectare Coillte managed recreation area, is somewhere I’ve previously enjoyed visiting with the dogs, for bikejoring and other dryland mushing exploits, but not a place I’ve been purely for walking.  It is less than 40 minutes drive from here, so I really should make more use of the place!

Portumna sits at the north end of Lough Derg, and is an historic crossing point over the River Shannon between counties Tipperary and Galway.

Portumna Forest Park - Map Board

Portumna Forest Park – Map Board

We had planned to do the Bonaveen Trail (the red route), a 10.5km looped walked around the western part of the forest park, but forestry operations had large sections of the loop closed off for ongoing works.  Undeterred we studied the map boards beside the visitor’s centre, and devised our own modified version of the looped route, which would join up with the Bonaveen Trail at a point outside of the forestry operations area.

A couple of wrong turns, where my usually excellent sense of direction let me down (the husband often calls me ‘Wife-Nav’), and we finally caught up with the correct coloured arrow markers.  On setting out the weather was bitterly cold, with a persistent heavy drizzle; the kind that saturates you almost without you realising it, so Dolly was slightly mortified to be wearing her ‘wet-weather coat’.  Despite being a gundog breed German Shorthaired Pointers don’t typically do well in cold/wet conditions, due to their lean build, short-haired coats and thin skins, and from past experience I know that Dolly can get pretty miserable fairly quickly in these conditions. So the coat went on!  However, in addition to being 100% waterproof and warm, the coat is very light and doesn’t hinder her exuberant progress in any way.

Dolly ready for rain

There were signs for a mini detour to Bonaveen Harbour, which was heavily flooded and, dare I say it, a little disappointing.  Although, perhaps that’s an unfair comment, and there might be more to see when the water levels have receded?  We did spot a small stone building, with a dead tree behind it, which from a certain angle had more than a passing resemblance to Monty Python‘s the Knights of NI, and had me chuckling unashamedly for a while, and annoying the husband with random shouts of ‘Ni!’ during the remainder of our walk…such a child!  Maybe they had finally found their shrubbery?

The weather was mostly kind to us, the drizzle lifted for a while, but inevitably the worst weather hit us whilst we were on the most exposed sections of the loop, along the shoreline of Lough Derg, where we had little or no shelter from the squally showers and gusty winds, and even hailstones at one point.  It was more than a little scary to see and hear small branches coming off the bare trees around us, and we didn’t hang around to admire the lough views, instead there was nothing for it but to put our heads down (Dolly included) and quicken our pace to get back into the relative shelter of the thicker forest.  We were more than slightly alarmed and surprised to see two men in a small row-boat out on the lough, I can’t even imagine how scary that must have been. for them  The waves were really throwing their little boat around, and at one point we lost sight of them altogether.  They were near an island so hopefully they safely made it there for some shelter, to sit out the storm.  I checked online when we got home, and for a few days afterwards, but there were no reports of missing fishermen in local press or RNLI alerts,  so we have to presume they made it home safely.

The trail took us back into the thicker forest, which afforded a little more shelter from the weather, but the cracking of tree boughs, and the occasional thud of falling branches nearby was still unnerving.  We were originally going to divert onto the Rinmaher Trail (green route on the map) and make a big loop of the entire forest park, but the weather really wasn’t pleasant, and so we stayed on the Bonaveen Trail and decided to head back to the car park.  I enjoyed spotting various fungi on our route.  I only wish I knew what half of them were, there were some spectacular formations.

Floods caused a minor diversion (as well as wet boots, socks & trousers!), but gave Dolly the opportunity for a spot of paddling.  I got thoroughly stuck at one point, with nowhere to go but into water up to my knees, so I just had to suck it up and get on with it.  We tried to walk around the flood, but other than retracing our steps completely, there was no easy way around.  So we just thought ‘feck it’ and headed straight through as best we could, much to Dolly’s delight!  Once past the flooded area, we had to negotiate some particularly fierce brambles to rejoin the path.  It was easier to carry Dolly over the thick brambles, which was just lovely after all her paddling.

The beautiful sight of a small herd of fallow deer crossing the path less than 100m in front of us meant that Dolly all but dragged us the last quarter of a mile back to the car park, and made me grateful that we had kept her firmly on her lead!  I think we’d still be out looking for her now if she’d been running free.

I didn’t take too many photos given the inclement weather, and my phone camera’s aversion to damp weather at the best of times.  This seems to have resulted in a remarkably sunny set of photos, taken during the brief moments of sun and/or dry spells.

There was so much more that I wanted to explore, but we were wet and cold, and an afternoon by the fire was a lot more appealing on that day.  However, at just under 6 miles, our visit to Portumna forest Park was an easy and rewarding way to slowly push my miles up and tell my head I can walk further each time.

I’m really looking forward to coming back in better weather, in the hopes of doing the longer route that we had planned.  Oh, and just one more thing to mention, despite the information given on the Irish Trails website, dogs are very welcome!

Return to Knockbarron

23 March 2014

A free Sunday, with a reasonably favourable weather forecast, meant we could finally look to head out somewhere, albeit for a few hours.  Light showers were expected, and a steady breeze.

I toyed with the idea of going somewhere new, with new trails to explore, but the husband needed to stay relatively close to home, in order to be able to head into work to check alarms etc on fairly short notice, so we needed to stay local.  I also fancied taking our ageing collie, Dee, out with us, and Knockbarron Woods presented themselves as the perfect location.  It was local, it was familiar so we knew what to expect, and the layout of the loop trail meant that we were never too far from the car park at any time, should Dee show signs of not coping with the extended exercise, or worse.  We had found her having a seizure in the bathroom just over a month ago, so we’ve been keeping a close eye on her ever since, but thankfully she hasn’t had another one.



Dee walks out with me locally every day, but she can get stiff and creaky in her left shoulder after longer walks, especially in colder weather.  However her face would break your heart every time we head out the door with a day pack and our walking boots, and it dawns on her that she’s being left behind…again.  So this time, when the others were left behind, and she was called out to join us, it was indescribably lovely to see her springing around the front yard like a puppy again, so excited to be coming out with us!

I was looking forward to revisiting Knockbarron, curious to compare how I felt during and after this time, with how I fared the last time we visited, nearly a year ago.

We parked in the correct car park this time, and reflected on why such a lovely place is not busier on a sunny Sunday.  I think we saw only one other person and their dog, the whole time we were there.  In a way its sad that these beautiful places are relatively under-used, but it’s also nice that it’s not a busy location too, I guess I’m hard to please most of the time always sometimes.

04 Still water

Thanks to the recent storms there were lots of trees down, some of which were across the trail paths.  Also lot of evidence of forest operations too, presumably clearing up a lot of the dead fall from the bad weather.  At one point we lost the path completely due to machinery tracks in the mud, and felled trees, but trusting my sense of direction, and dragging up a dim memory of last time we were here, we soon picked up the correct path again.

I was overjoyed to find myself at the top of some of the steeper sections, remembering how I’d found it such hard work last time.  On some of the longer slopes I recalled how often I had previously had to stop to get my breath back on the way up, yet they felt like much kinder inclines this time, with no need to stop to catch my breath or to rest fatigued legs.  I was dreading a couple of sections in particular, because I remember the struggle to get up them last time, yet this time they were easy.  I can’t tell you how good that felt!

Dee was having such a fun time. We let her off the lead for most of it, she really can’t dash about like she used to, and she knows it.  She started off after a deer at one point, but gave up after only a few yards of a half-hearted lope.  But she was so enjoying just being out and about with us, with new smells to sniff, and new places to explore.  At no point did she show any sign of struggling with the distance or terrain, but she was noticeably strolling at a slower pace along for the last section.

Happy Dee

The husband’s sharp eyesight caught this little fella as we walked out into the clearfell section, so we stepped carefully around him (her?).

I still can’t get the distance recorded by my Runkeeper tracking app to agree with the stated distance on the Loop Walk Info Board in the car park, but regardless of the correct distance, I was buoyed up to see that we were significantly quicker this time, even though we really had just enjoyed it a strolling pace.  I think that what I love most about Knockbarron Woods, located just a couple of miles from Kinnity, is the variety of terrain, and the fact that whilst you’re not going up huge hills, or necessarily covering long distances; the way the trail winds up and down the esker ridge is a really great workout for your legs and lungs, in beautiful surroundings.

Coillte Outdoors Website – Knockbarron Loop

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Brittas Loop – Clonaslee

Stunning autumnal colours welcomed us as we parked up at the trailhead in Clonaslee village, and set off on the Brittas Forest Loop.  With this riot of colour all around us I knew this particular walk was going to be lovely, and it didn’t disappoint.

The Clodiagh River kept us company for the first part of the walk, as we passed through gates and crossed stiles…so many stiles!  Even if there were no hills to speak of on this route at all, the many, many stiles gave my legs a great workout!  I don’t know the full reason behind why all these stiles are here, but I’m guessing that numerous fields adjacent to the route all have access to the river for watering their livestock, so each field had a thin strip of land running down to the river, bordered on both sides by fencing, with stiles to give access to the footpath.

We came across some strange stone-built structures, and guessed that these were the ruins of a bridge, a weir and a pump house that had previously served Brittas House (also known as Brittas Castle), as suggested on the Irish Trails website.  I am always fascinated by old structures like this, and love to explore them, trying to imagine how it might have looked when it was all in full working order.

Not far after the ruins the trail curves away from the river and starts to take you up a hill.  At the top of the hill was the (almost) obligatory gate and stile, but my legs were relieved to see that the gate was not padlocked and opened easily, bringing us out onto a farm track.  We stopped for brief chats with a local farmer, busy planting a new hedge, and then for more chats a little further along with a herd of nosey cattle, waiting near the gate for their cake rations.  It was a good place to stop for a drink of water, with pleasant views down the hill, across the fields, to the village of Clonaslee.

We crossed a quiet country lane, onto a small forest path, and continued our way through mature woodland, with some fabulous sections of old stone wall.  Presumably the original estate boundary for the nearby, and now derelict, Brittas House.  We got a little confused when we came to Brittas Lake, I think a marker arrow has dropped off a tree perhaps?  However, we decided to do a loop of this pretty little lake anyway, and we soon found our way back onto the correct path after just a little head scratching.  According to this website, Brittas Lake – which has recently been restored – was originally constructed as a reservoir for the house. Its banks are stone lined and water was pumped from the Clodiagh River.

The forest path soon gave way to a forestry road.  We did keep our eyes open for an ancient well, as indicated by the trail map on the Coillte website, but all we found that might possibly have been it was what looked like a small, overgrown ditch with a fence around it?  If this was indeed the site of an ancient well site, it may benefit from a spot of maintenance.  I’m often a little saddened when these small, but historical, sites become forgotten.

Millie’s ears pricked up at the sound barking dogs nearby and we soon found ourselves walking along a pleasant grassy ride, behind houses.  From this we supposed that we must be drawing close to Clonaslee again.  A large set of iron gates loomed before us, and I started to wonder if we’d missed another arrow marker, whilst calculating in my mind how far we might have to back-track if the gates were locked.  The huge gates were indeed locked, but there was a small slipway to one side to allow pedestrian access, phew!  We found ourselves in the middle of Clonaslee and a local resident, coming out of her house near the gates, asked us if we were lost.  I thanked her, and assured her that we were fine.   Nevertheless, that did get me wondering if we should have exited the trail through these gates at all?  It seems that we were on the correct track, according to the majority of trail descriptions and maps for this loopwalk, and that this gate was on the intended route.  However one website indicates that we should have turned left at a small wooden gate (so small/hidden that we obviously missed it and any associated arrow marker that may or may not have been there?) before we reached the houses, and instead passed by the Coillte regional offices before turning right on the public footpath/pavement by the main road.

Reminding myself to double-check the route once we got home, we carried on through the village of Clonaslee, and turned right by the bridge to bring us back up the lane alongside the Clodiagh River to the trailhead parking area.

Here are the rest of my photos…

Throughout the walk we came across numerous different types of fungi.  I only wish I knew more about identifying mushrooms and toadstools etc.  So don’t ask me what they are, but here are a selection of the best pics…and if you think you know what any of them are, please do comment 🙂

According to various online sources, Brittas House went on fire in 1942 and, despite the best efforts of the Tullamore Fire Brigade, it was almost completely destroyed.  Just for fun, here is a little bit of local history I found online regarding the demise of Brittas House, which may or may not be true…

Brittas House was empty, a caretaker lived nearby. Local lore has it that the fire was arson, started by [the] same caretaker because he was stealing the valuables inside and selling them off. The women, Alice Maud and Kathleen, [the owner’s at that time] both lived in England at that time. The story goes that one of them decided to move back to Brittas, so the caretaker set fire to the house, it burned for two days.

November 2013