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
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 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!
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.
It’s quite narrow here, watch your step!
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.
Moneygall, from the bench
Looking down towards the Obama Plaza
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.
It’s all downhill from here!
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…
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.
No picnics today!
The Devil’s Bit
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.
Reunited with mum
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. http://www.geologicalmaps.net/IrishHistMapsDownload/B02080.pdf The brief mention of the rock is on page 16 of the PDF document.
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): http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,603532,680038,7,9
Map link (2000): http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,603529,680024,7,4
Map link (2005): http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,603529,680015,7,0