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.