Walks in the locality

Sheep grazing on 'The Hills Around Rylane'

The walks described below are from the book ' TWENTY FIVE SCENIC ROAD WALKS IN WEST CORK' by Prof. Sean Teegan, published by Mercier.

The Boggeragh Mountains Boggeragh Mountains in large capitals on the lower half of Sheet 21 easily identifies the area of the next 7 walks. On the west the area is bounded by the Macroom-Millsteeet road (R582), on the north by the Backwater River, on the east by the Mallow-Coachford road (R619) and on the south by the river Lee. Although the highest point (Musheramore) is a mere 2118 ft nevertheless there are no fewer than fourteen points in the area above 1000 ft. Boggeragh country is somewhat bleak since it contains much moorland but this moorland is seldom unattractive as it is broken by the green fields of the many little river valleys, which reach up into it from the lower areas. Of late large tracts of it have been re-afforested thus restoring it to what it originally was prior to the wholesale felling of recent centuries. The strength of the Boggeragh as walking country is twofold. Firstly since most of the walks are above 800 ft there are many and varying long-distance panoramas in all directions and secondly the entire area is criss-crossed by a vast network of byroads, many of them with green spines, criterion of little vehicular traffic. The whole area is now very thinly populated but in past times the opposite was the case. The large number of stone-alignments in the area is evidence of a large pre Christian population, whilst the road density and the vast number of derelict homesteads point to a high population in later centuries and hand-built stone walls still enclose moorland, which was one time pasture. Note: the routes of all the Boggeragh walks are completely within the limits of Sheet 21 and all map referrer in the text are to this sheet. Furthermore, since all the grid references are in the W Sub-Zone, the letter W will be omitted from quoted grid references Getting to Boggeragh Country More precisely getting to the starting points of the various walks. Since Macroom is at the south-western corner of the area, the route from there will be described. Travellers from Cork can take the main road (N 22) to Macroom, drive through the main street passing the Castle on the left and over the 9-arch stone bridge which crosses the Sullane River and immediately turning right onto the road signposted to Ballinagree. Immediately after passing the older homes of Masseytown, the road begins to rise, very soon passing newer homes on the left. Just short of 2 miles from the bridge ignore the road to the left signposted ‘Coilte Teo’ and continue straight through the next crossroads still following the signpost to Ballinagree on the gradually rising road, which soon comes out into open country and arrives at Bawnmore Cross (G.R. 344 780 and 3.5 miles from the bridge). This is a cross of 5 roads with what appears to be a disused creamery on the left. For walks 4 and 5 continue straight up to Moanflugh on the road sign-posted to Millstreet. Otherwise bear right on the road sign-posted to Ballinagree and continue for just over a mile to Carrigthomas Cross (G.R. 354 798). Turn right here for walk 3 and left for walks 6 and 8. For walk 7 continue straight to the village of Ballinagree. Details for reaching the starting point of walk 9 will be given under that walk.

A Circle around Cooper’s Rock This is a relatively short walk (about 5.5 miles) in the southernmost spur of the Boggeraghs. All of it is between the 700 and 800 ft contours and, since it is on a kind of a dry-land peninsula, it affords some really fine long-distance views to the east, south and west. On one clear October afternoon we could see as far as Mangerton in Kerry to the west (25 miles), and to the east as far as the Knockmealdown Mountains in Waterford (50 miles), from two different points on the walk. Cooper’s Rock (G.R: 372 776) is actually marked on the map, its height being given as 991 ft. It is a rough craggy heap of sandstone just south of Burren Mountain (not named but height given as 1250 ft on the map). There is a neat well-built cairn on the summit and this makes it easily recognizable from near and far. Having turned right at Carrigthomas Cross you immediately drive across the Laney River and the road rises steadily out of the river valley for about a mile when you come to a crossroad (G.R: 374 796). There is a good green shoulder on the road straight ahead where you can park the car. Walking back from the car to the cross take the road to the left (south). The sharp rise ahead of you is short and as the road levels out (temporarily), you see off ahead in the distance the conical Douce Mountain in the Shehy range. Very shortly craggy Doughill appears to the right (east) of Douce and further to the right are the lofty heights above Gougane Barra and then to the left of Douce come Shehy mountain itself and Nowen, in that order thereby completing a beautiful distant prospect of the Shehy range. As your eye travels from left to right past the Shehy range you see some of the peaks of the Derrynasaggart range. If you are lucky with the day you may be able to see Mangertoon Mountain away in the distance behind the gap between the Shehys and the Derrynasaggarts. In the immediate foreground the green fields of the Laney valley fall away southward towards Macroom. This whole beautiful backdrop is going to be with you for a few miles. Distant shapes and perspectives will change as the road meanders and as the light changes. As you stop to take your first look at the entire scene you will notice in the fields below you the remains of a stone circle, relic of a far back civilisation. As you continue walking, Cooper’s Rock itself appears on your left just three fields away and its topping cairn is clearly visible and then just as the road swings left, in the field on your right is a pair of magnificent standing stones. Go into the field and stand between them and admire the great view to the west and to the south away across the valley of the Lee towards the heights of Templemartin and beyond even to the sea. Give a thought to the erectors of the stones. Did they see what you see and did they stop to admire it? To what extent has the scene changed from their day? Were the stones placed in this precise spot to command the entire scene? Who knows! Back to the road, which begins to fall as it crosses a little fast-flowing stream, hidden in the foliage. Very shortly after crossing the stream take the road to the left and up a sharp climb. As you climb, look back at the standing stones as they in turn look towards the Derrynasaggarts, Musherabeg and Musheramore. Soon you come to a derelict stone house on your left shortly beyond which is an opening into a field. This is the best point to take off for your trip to the top of Cooper’s Rock. Just go straight up following the stony path and in about 10 minutes you are there. Sit down on the pile of stones and enjoy the view, not alone the view, but also the silence, something, which is becoming more and more difficult to find in today’s living. Having returned to the road, turn left as you emerge from the field and go with the fall of ground to a cluster of trees, an attractive entrance and avenue on your right and a little further on a large cream-coloured house on your left. Take the road to the left immediately before this house and follow it up a fairly steep climb for about 0.5 mile until you see ahead of you a cottage (painted green at the time of writing) immediately before which is a junction left, which you take. As the road rises look back at that superb view which has been with you for the last few miles, but shortly Cooper’s Rock will come between you and it. At the highest point of the road where it swings left look over the rusty 6-bar gate towards the north-east and on the skyline you should make out the heights of the Knockmealdown Mountains, almost 50 miles away. Ahead on the left is the rounded hump of Burren Mountain and you now coast down around the side of it passing a homestead in trees. If the gate across your road is closed pass through and close it after you. Continue your way downhill, noting the forestry on your left, until you join a wider road on to which you turn left walking along through the forestry on each side. Ahead you will soon see the blunt top of Mullaghanish with its relay mast. Just when you emerge from the trees and where the road begins to fall you see the green pastures of the lower slopes of Musheramore and Musherabeg, with Ballinagree Church nestling in their midst. This green bowl-like formation is the work of the Laney River and its many tributaries, which drain the southern slopes of the Boggeraghs. The Laney flows south to join the Sullane just before the latter joins the Lee, east of Macroom town. Enjoy the pleasant view as the road gradually falls for over a mile down to the cross where you left your car. Distance: 5.5 miles. Time: 2.5 hours.

On the Southern Slopes of Mushera Beg This walk is about the same length as the round of Cooper’s Rock. It does not offer similar spectacular vistas but it has a pleasant charm, which is difficult to define. Broadly speaking it traverses the valley shoulders of the Cusloura River, which runs down the southern slopes of Musherabeg to join the Laney. It passes through countryside which once was densely populated, to judge by the many derelict homes to be seen along the route. To add to its charm you will meet hardly any road traffic at all, and consequently the sounds of the countryside predominate. The starting point is Moanflugh School which is marked on the map at G.R: 324 798 and which is reached by turning left at Bawnmore Cross and driving along for about 2 miles on a gently rising road to a T junction at which the school faces you. Your best parking place is close to the wall of the schoolyard. Standing with the school on your left you are facing north up the road to the col between Musherabeg and Musheramore. Notice that the road behind you runs south-west to a crossroad next to which is the mark Gallain and that the road to the right at this cross runs north-west to join the main Macroom—Millstreet road at Carriganimmy (more about this road later). Now with the school still on your left, walk a few yards forward (northward) to a road branching off to the left. This is the road to take. It runs westward and joins the road to Carriganimmy previously referred to at a point, the G.R. of which is 306 796. It has an enticing green spine and it soon begins to rise offering good views ahead of Musherabeg and Musheramore. You pass a cluster of homes still occupied on your right while ahead you can see a crag to which the road rises. Soon you join the road leading to Carriganimmy and you turn right and continue the climb up to a pass at 900 ft. Near the pass notice on your left the ruined stone building - the remains of Carrignaspirroge (rock of the sparrow-hawks) church - a pointer to a one-time high population in the area. Just beyond the top of the pass do not take the road going to the right. It is a cul-de-sac, which skirts the forestry and leads to a farmstead. But do notice the very fine stone circle in the field between the road on which you are and that going to the right (the map clearly puts it on the other side). There are 5 stones in the circle and 2 odd ones some distance from the circle. Now face north-west and admire the panorama which the erectors saw many centuries ago. Immediately below is the valley of the Keel River, which divides the Boggeraghs from the Derrynasaggarts. Beyond is the gradual rise of land off towards the slopes of Mullaghanish. At this point take a look at the map and notice the dotted short-cut road connecting the road on which you are with the one running west-east and onto which you want to get. This link is now nothing more than a muddy cattle track, which skirts along the forestry. Nevertheless it can be walked and it will take off the other 2 sides of the triangle, amounting to about 0.75 mile. Having got on to the west-east road either by the short or long route, follow the climb with the forestry on your right and rocky crags on your left. Soon you will reach the highest point just above the hairpin bend. Musherabeg is now straight ahead. On your right there is the entire expanse of the moinfluich, the wet flatland. This has been the work of the Cusloura (which you will soon cross) which has washed down material from the heights of Musherabeg to form a plain through which it meanders before joining the Laney, the valley of which you can see further off to the right. Further forestry now approaches on your left as you skirt around the upper end of the momfluich. At this stage the road has swung north in order to ‘vee-up’ to cross the Cusloura by an old stone bridge, after which it turns south-east. As you walk along notice all the derelict homesteads, most of them set back from the road with traces of the boreens leading into them. Rough scrub has taken over where once there were fertile fields. The road finally joins that coming down from the Musherabeg—Musheramore col. Turn right at the junction and follow the gently falling slope back to the school. Along the way you cross the Cusloura again, now much wider and more slow moving. Look over the left-hand parapet of the bridge and you will clearly see the approaches to the ford, which preceded the bridge. Distance: 5.5 miles. Time: 2 hours.

Between Mushera beg and Musheramore If you have done the previous walk and feel that it has not been long or exciting enough to justify the drive from Macroom, or more so from Cork, why not try in addition this very pleasant and different walk between Musherabeg and Musheramore or to give it another title Up and Down. Its starting point is Moanflugh School but be warned, it is about 6.8 miles and if you need sustenance between the two walks there is none at Moanflugh and certainly none on the route. The nearest hostelry is about 3 miles back towards Macroom. The Awboy is another tributary of the Laney, which rises up in the col between Musherabeg and Musheramore and has carved out the valley between the two peaks. As with the Cusloura in the previous walk you will cross it twice, once up high where it is small and again lower down when it has grown considerably. Start from the school as in the previous walk but ignore the road on the left. About 0.5 mile further on there is a road on the right, which you also ignore. This is in fact the end of the walk. Another road to the left slightly further on should also be ignored (this is of course the return road of the previous walk). Soon the road narrows and signs of a green spine begin to appear as you pass a farmstead on the right. This is the last occupied home, which you are going to see for quite a few miles. A belt of evergreens on the right affords intermittent views across the valley to Musheramore. The steadily rising road shortly comes out into open country with a fine view of Musherabeg ahead on the left, followed shortly by a splendid view of Musheramore on your right. You are looking here at two peaks, the higher one (2118 ft) being Musheramore, the other being the unnamed one, with a height of 1856 ft. Very shortly as the road continues to rise, you come into sheep country and the Awboy valley begins to narrow and ahead you can see the col between the two peaks and this is where the road is heading for on its northerly course. Now if you look carefully at the map you will see forestry marked on the left-hand side but you will notice that all that now remain are hundreds of tree stumps interspersed with boulders. You are now in real Boggeragh country where green fields have yielded to heath and moorland. After about 3 miles from the start the road begins to swing to the right (to the north-east) and continues to rise to the point where it joins the road coming up the shoulder of Musheramore. Turn right and begin the long descent down the other shoulder of the Awboy stream but before you do so sit on the grassy bank and enjoy the magnificent panorama off to the south-west (i.e. along the line of the road on which you have just been walking). You are looking far across the valley of the young River Lee in the vicinity of Inchigeelagh, towards Bantry Bay and as the eye moves more towards the south one sees the fall of land away from the Boggeraghs towards Cork City. Behind you will notice a road junction and a road sign. These will feature in later walks (6 and 8). As you descend continue to enjoy that grand prospect ahead. It looks at its very best on a late sunny afternoon when the sun is in the west and lighting up the distant hills and plains. After about a mile you enter a belt of forestry and shortly you pass the first occupied house, which you have seen for some miles and about 0.5 mile further on take the narrow road to the right, which slopes downward. This road is easily identified by the white cottage at the junction, the road with its green spine soon turns south and after about a mile crosses the Awboy and immediately turns sharply right and rises abruptly past a colourful homestead on the left. Where it levels out a road comes in on the right, ignore this it is a cul-de-sac. Shortly you arrive at a T-junction where you turn left to Moanflugh School and your car. Distance: 6.8 miles. Time: 2.5 hours.

A Circle around Musheramore This walk is over 11 miles and makes a great day’s outing. It takes one through all the facets of Boggeragh country. At two points it reaches a height of 1400 ft and affords splendid vistas of near and far. Although 11 miles may appear a bit long, be encouraged by the fact that just when the legs may be beginning to tire, the final 3 miles are downhill! To get to the starting point drive up to Carrigthomas Cross and turn left onto a gradually rising road. Having passed through some pieces of forestry you come into open country and you get a good view ahead to the right of Musheramore around which you are about to walk. About a mile from the cross you come to a road to the right (G.R: 346 814) and this is your starting point. There is ample parking on the grassy margin at the junction. The first 0.5 mile of this minor road runs through flat marshy land, but then it begins to rise and at the same time swing towards the west and slowly a splendid view begins to unfold on the left, which expands as you go higher passing a farmstead on your right and approaching forestry on your left. Just before entering the forestry stop and enjoy that view which is probably the finest of the entire walk although you are still well below 1,400 ft. Looking due west you see afar Shehy itself well separated from Douce on the right and further right Doughill followed by the heights of Keimaneigh and Gougane Barra and in the very far distance some of the Kerry peaks. Going to the left of Shehy, one can see Nowen and further away the heights around Castle Donovan and the hinterland of Bantry Bay. Nor should you overlook the very attractive scenery closer to hand, a pleasant mix of green fields, forestry as well as scattered trees and immediately on the left Musherabeg. Just where the road turns north a road comes in on the right. This road comes up from Ballinagree and forms part of Walk 7. You will notice from your map that the road ahead takes a big loop as it crosses a number of little streams, which comprise the headwaters of the Laney. This is a beautiful and quiet stretch of road, with stretches of forestry on both sides but yet affording pleasing views to the right of the lower fertile slopes of the Boggeraghs and - in the distance - of the Lee valley. About 4.2 miles from the starting point you come to a T-junction, where you turn left onto what is known as the Butter Road or the Kerry Road about which we shall have something to say later in the walk. As you now begin the short sharp climb up to the col between Mushera and Seefin you very soon come into open country with a good view of the rounded top of Mushera (as distinct from Musheramore) ahead of you on the left and soon you are in the lee of it as you reach the top which is just above the 1,400 ft contour. And just as you pass the bog on your right a huge panorama to the north comes into view. This is, of course, the broad fertile valley of the Blackwater River between Millstreet and Mallow. Notice the neatly rounded hump immediately in front of you and locate it on the map. It is Claragh (1486 ft), the easternmost peak of the Derrynasaggart range. The high land, which you see in the distance beyond Claragh is the Mullaghareirk mountain range on the Kerry-Limerick border. Turning somewhat to the right you can see (if the day is clear) in the very far distance the Slieve Felim Mountains, 40 miles away in west Tipperary. You are now 5 miles from the start and although the going has been fairly strenuous you will agree that it has been well worth it. You may like to take a rest here which is close to the half-way point but it is generally fairly breezy up here and a more sheltered and more interesting spot about 1.5 mile down the hill is suggested. As you walk downhill continue to enjoy the view ahead. By the way not very far from the top is a well of clear water, set in a neat stone surround on you left, where you can slake your thirst. Slightly over a mile from the top a road comes in on the right and slightly further on also on the right, you come to a big slab of stone set in the ditch. This is the Kerryman’s Table and is an appropriate spot to rest and read what follows. Go to the bottom right-hand corner of Sheet 21 and locate the little village of Tower (G.R: 582 748), which is about 6 miles from Cork city. Notice the straight stretch (5 miles) of road running north-west there, from there running west for 3 miles and north-west again up the side of Mushera and down the other side (where you now are) on to Millstreet. From Millstreet west to Rathmore (G.R: 174 930) it more of less coincides with the main road (R582) and then strikes away cross country for 16 miles with only a single bend to Castleisland and thence coinciding with the main road (N21) to Tralee. Time was (up to the mid-nineteenth century) when this was the trunk route serving much of Cork and Kerry and had many branches to left and right as is clear from the map. To the Corkman it was the Kerry Road; to the Kerryman it was the Butter Road. Along this road came day after day the vast quantities of butter made in the country homes, to the great butter market in Cork city, from where it was exported to many parts of the world. And it is easy to follow the road from Tower into the city, through the little village of Kerry Pike, along Blarney Road and down to the foot of Blarney Street close to where the butter market buildings were. You are sitting on the spot where the Kerrymen are said to have taken a rest before facing up the climb to Mushera, followed by the long descent down to the city. Much of the route has given way to more convenient, more populated and less hilly roads. Nevertheless its entire length is surfaced (albeit a few pot-holed stretches here and there) and it makes a most scenic and interesting drive all the way from Cork to Tralee or vice versa. Incidentally of all the possible routes between Cork and Tralee it is the shortest. The journeyman of the past did not mind the steep climb or the trek across bleak country as long as it shortened the distance. Back on the road continue the fall of ground down to the crossroad. Ahead of you and slightly to the left of Claragh is Caherbarnagh (2239 ft), one of the higher points of the Derrynasaggart range. At the cross turn left (signposts to St John’s Well and Knocknakilla Stone Circle) and begin the 1.5-mile climb up the shoulder of Musheramore, which you see on your left ahead. For quite a while you can enjoy good views (to the right) of Caherbarnagh and Mullaghanish and if you care to look back you can still see the green Blackwater Valley. At the signpost (on your left) to St John’s Well, it is worth making the very short detour to the well, where a plaque explains its early pagan origins and where there is a magnificent view of the Derrynasaggarts. Resume your climb through forestry, finally emerging into open country as you near the 1,400 ft summit and as you reach it you see that the whole scene changes, as you look off down towards the south and west. The road to the right and signposted to Knocknakilla Stone Circle is the starting point of Walk 8 and if you have done Walk 5 you have been here before and are familiar with the first mile or so of the 3 mile descent towards the Laney river. The remainder of the descent is pleasant walking, as you gradually enter more fertile countryside with intermittent stretches of forestry on each side. After 11.6 miles and about 4.5 hours later you arrive back to your car. This walk is well worth repeating in the opposite direction, that is commencing by heading straight up to the Musherabeg-Musheramore col. It is quite a different experience. Distance: 11.6 miles. Time: 4.5 hours.

Ballinagree and Carrigagulla This pleasant walk is in the area immediately to the southeast of Walk 6 and has a stretch of about 3 miles in common with it. It does not go to the heights of Walk 6 and being about 2 miles shorter, may appeal to the walker for whom Walk 6 is a bit much, as it will still give some taste of the slopes of Musheramore. It is a walk that is very easy to follow on the map and consequently the description given here is somewhat brief. The starting point is the village of Ballinagree (G.R: 366 808), the home of ‘the Bould Thady Quill’, the great hero of the song of the same name. There is plenty of parking just left of the main road near the church. Take the road ascending by the side of the church and passing some new homes. On the map this road is represented by two thin lines close together and going north out of the village. It is a delightful road with a green spine and no traffic. After about 0.5 mile you come to a sharp bend onto a kind of a promontory. If you face west here you will see below you the winding Laney Valley falling away towards the Lee and in the distance the three highlights of the Shehy mountains. As you continue to rise you will come across views of Musheramore and Musherabeg and further on the whole range of the Derrynasaggart swings into view. If the day is clear you should be able to see the humps of Mangerton and the conical tip of Torc, 25 miles away in Kerry. The road continues to rise through evergreens and soon you pass the last inhabited home, which you will see for about 5 miles, and as you come into open stony country, you see that entire great panorama in total. Up here you cross the 1,200 ft contour and Musheramore is ahead of you as the road falls to meet the road coming in on the left. This of course is the road which forms the first leg of the previous walk (Number 6) and you turn right onto it but do note the very fine standing stone inside the gate near the junction. When you come to the end of this road where it joins the Butter Road turn right and follow the 2.75 mile descent through the townland of Carrigagulla. As you descend, notice the original great width (ditch to ditch) of the Butter Road and how only a fraction of this width is surfaced. Notice to how the homes are grouped together in clusters, as of old and also how many of them are derelict. When you come to the junction with the signpost to Macroom turn right. Very shortly you will cross the Lartey by Carrigagulla Bridge. The concrete parapets of this bridge belie its two beautiful stone arches, which are set at a slight angle to each other. They are best seen by looking over the right-hand parapet. A little over a mile further on the road crosses another stone-arched bridge and if you look over the left hand side you will see two streams (tributaries of the Laney) meeting just under the arch. As you continue on towards Ballinagree you will enjoy the good views of the Laney away below you on the left and beyond the rounded heights of Burren Mountain. Distance: 9.5 miles. Time: 3/4 hours.

Published by: Mercier Press Year written: 1900 Copyright owned by: Prof. Sean Teegan

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