Comeragh & Monavullagh Mountains
Habitat: Upland moorland, crags and lakes; conifer forests on the slopes.
Main interest: Upland nesting birds; coniferous forest birds.
Regular/annual: Red Grouse, Hen Harrier, Wheatear, Siskin, Crossbill.
Scarcer species & rarities: White-tailed Eagle, Hobby, Dotterel (old records), Long-tailed Skua, Nightjar, Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel.
Access and suggested walks:
The best starting point for the various walks possible in the Comeragh and Monavullagh mountains is from Mahon Bridge. From Waterford, this can be reached by turning off right just beyond the railway crossing almost four km south-west of Kilmacthomas and continuing on for about three km. From Dungarvan, either turn off left just before Lemybrien , from where Mahon Bridge is five km to the north-east, or continue on the main Cork-Waterford Road and turn left just before the railway crossing mentioned above, about five km from Lemybrien. From Carrick-on-Suir take the main Dungarvan road to Ballyhest Cross Roads (10 km), from where the northern end of the Comeraghs can be visited by turning north-west (right) as described later. Otherwise, continue southwards for the coums on the east and south faces of the range. From Clonmel the Nire Valley can be reached by taking the Ardfinnan/Dungarvan road to Ballymacarbry (15 km) and continue east as described later. The northern side of the Comeraghs can be visited by taking the Rathgormuck road and then to Ballyhest Cross Roads (19 km). Go south from there for the east and south side of the Comeraghs.
The most direct route to this coum is to go south-west at the shop at Mahon Bridge, and continue on through the village of Kilrossanty five km away. Take the next right turn about three km further on, signposted for Kilbrien and continue up that road until the top of the hill is reached. From Dungarvan, take the main Cork-Waterford road and turn left either before or after the forest beyond the Pike, almost nine km from Dungarvan town, and proceed as for Kilbrien.
On the south side of the road here is Crohaun , which has suitable habitat for many upland birds. At 350 metres, the short walk north-west to the top of the coum is a gentle ramble over boggy terrain. Although not indicated on the 1/2" map, there are high cliffs here, precipitous and dangerous in places. The peak to the north is Seefin at 730 metres, and the col between Seefin and Farbreaga is known as the Barnanmaddra Gap. It is also possible to reach Farbreaga from the road that passes close to Coum Mahon/Coum Tay, a tiring walk across bogland, through Bracken and Gorse with a forestry plantation on the way; probably the best route though, for those in search of birds.
Coum Mahon/Coum Tay
Continue straight up north-west past the shop at Mahon Bridge for just over 3 km and take the sharp right turn at the signpost for the Mahon Falls (farmouse on the right hand side). There are two car-parking bays on either side of that uphill road, once you pass through the forest and over the cattle grid. The upper one is best for access to the Falls proper.
There is a path all the way in to the waterfalls which makes Coum Mahon the easiest part of the Comeraghs to reach. This ease of access, however, means that this enchanting coum can become quite congested with both cars and people, particularly on weekend afternoons in good summer weather, so avoid at these times. It is possible to climb up at the falls (right-hand or east side) and head south-west from there across to Coum Tay, a distance of over two km across the blanket bog. Alternatively, park your car at the third car-park at the top of the steep road, just a short distance from the Coum Mahon carpark, and walk up the ridge separating the two coums, which also affords excellent views of the Mahon Valley, and head north-west once on top. It is also possible to go straight in from that car-park and access Coum Tay from below. A turret of rock, Leacanthimlay, lies on the west side of Coum Tay, and further south, in around the corner, lies Coumknockaun, one of the smallest of the Comeragh coums, seldom visited. If up top at Coum Tay, a short five minute walk north across the plateau and through the peat hags will provide breathtaking views of the Nire Valley with the Knockanaffrin ridge to the north-east and the Coumalocha directly below at the base of the cliffs. Coumfea, probably out of sight to the north-west, is not too far away and worth a visit.
Access: Foilanprisoon, Fauscoum and Coumshingaun can be reached from Kilclooney forest, some four km north of Mahon Bridge or 7.5 km south of Ballyhest Cross Roads on the Carrick-on-Suir road.
From the carpark at Kilclooney forest, follow the path to a clearing in the forest. From here, go left for Foilanprisoon/Fauscoum and right for Coumshingaun. There is no defined path in any direction but the walk up to the base of the cliffs at Foilanprisoon or the coums at Fauscoum and Coumshingaun is reasonably straightforward. It is possible to reach the top of the mountain from the extreme left (south side) of Foilanprisoon and walk north from there across to Coumshingaun, passing Foilanprisoon and Fauscoum on the way. This, however, is a long and strenuous walk (around five hours), not to be taken lightly. It is also possible to walk the Coumshingaun horseshoe by climbing up to the plateau by the southern ridge and walking clockwise around the coum from there (three to four hours). However, great care is needed at the west end of the southern ridge where a tricky scramble is required to reach the top, recommended only for those with climbing experience. The view of the coum and the surrounding countryside is simply incredible on a clear day and makes the effort worthwhile. The climb down (or up) at the east end on the northern ridge is safe and without difficulty, or, Crotty’s Rock, further north, can be reached relatively easily in 10 to 15 minutes. Due east of Coumshingaun on the far side of the road is Croughaun Hill, heavily afforested, with some nice walks and a good variety of tree-dwelling birds.
Coumshingaun is arguably the finest glacial corrie lake in Ireland and is worth a visit purely for the magnificent lake surrounded by sheer and impressive cliff-faces.
Coumshingaun can be reached more directly from the avenue on the east side of the road about two km further north of the entrance to Kilclooney forest (4.5 km south of Ballyhest Cross Roads). From here, cross the gate on the west side of the road, walk over the shallow stream and continue on up to the ditch. Once over that, there is a well-worn grassy path which leads more or less all the way into the coum, although the path does become less defined nearer the coum proper. This is the best access route for those with family parties interested only in reaching the lake at Coumshingaun and with no intention of climbing up top.
The slope on the way up is all morraine, with boulder after boulder, impressive left-overs from receding glacial ice-waters. On a good day in summer, the lake is majestically beautiful, set in a natural amphitheatre of splendour and silence. It is not possible to walk completely around the lake, unless you are prepared for some scrambling at one point, best left to the experienced climber (there are some excellent rock routes of varying grades in Coumshingaun). There is a cliff in Coumshingaun known as Carraig an Fhiolair - “Rock of the Eagle”, which probably relates to the use of Coumshingaun as a breeding site by eagles up to 1855, though there is some confusion as to whether the species concerned was the Golden or the White-tailed Eagle.
Fauscoum is perhaps unspectacular by comparison, with steep-sided slopes, few cliffs and little water, and is rarely visited but is equally enthralling, nonetheless. The highest point in the Comeraghs lies overhead on the plateau at 800 metres. Just around the corner on the south side of Fauscoum lie the high-rising cliffs of Foilanprisoon, seldom visited too but spectacular and sun-drenched all day in warm summer weather.
Crotty’s Rock/Coum Iarthar
About eight km north of Mahon Bridge on the Dungarvan-Carrick Road, there is a turn off left, three km south-west of the Ballyhest Cross Roads where the Rathgormack and Clonea roads meet the Carrick-Dungarvan road. This narrow road ends in a cul-de-sac at a farmhouse at Coolnalingady where there is limited car-parking by the side of the road. Crotty’s Rock, straight up, and Coum Iarthar, further west, can be reached by walking south-west up the slope from the stream further along the lane.
A water-pipe runs all the way down the mountain, and, if located, provides the most direct route to Crotty’s Lake. There are two levels in this enclosed coum; at the lower level is the lake, good for trout fishing, and higher up is a grassy ramp backed by steep-sided cliffs with two dominating pinnacles on the east side. The easternmost crag is Crotty’s Rock, so called after a famous outlaw, William Crotty, hanged in Waterford in 1742, whose wife apparently jumped to her death from this rock some time after.
From the lake the walk to the top up the slope on the west side, nearest the entrance to the coum, is steep but safe. Once up top, Coum Iarthar is but a short 10 minute walk to the west. This coum is also referred to as the Boolas, probably an abbreviation of Boolacloghagh, the highest point in the townland. In the distance, to the north-west, lies the Knockanaffrin Ridge separated from Coum Iarthar by a low pass known as the Gap. From the plateau at Crotty’s Rock, Coumshingaun can be reached by walking due south, which takes about 15 minutes and is recommended. On the way, Iske Solais, an appropriately named stream, cascades down the mountainside through a deep glen between the two coums.
Lough Coumduala/L. Mohra
Lough Coumduala, or Quinlan’s Lake, the source of the Clodiagh river, and Lough Mohra may be the least impressive of the Comeragh coums but, nevertheless, the Knockanaffrin Ridge, which takes in both coums along its length, offers an invigorating walk with splendid views on either side.
At the northern end, a good starting point is the ridge near Harney’s Cross Roads, above Glenpatrick. This lies about 10 km north-west of Rathgormuck village which can be reached by turning left at the Ballyhest Cross Roads, 11 km north of Mahon Bridge. Alternatively, take the first left turn after Rathgormuck and then the second left turn on that road which ends in a cul-de-sac; there is a path into the Gap, also a good point from which to walk the Knockanaffrin Ridge from its southern end.
The Knockanaffrin Ridge can be walked in about four hours and on a good day breathtaking views may be obtained of the surrounding countryside. Lough Mohra and Lough Coumduala, on their own, are best reached from Curaheen, by taking the first left turn north-west of Rathgormuck and continuing on this winding road until it turns sharply right. Coumduala is to the south-west (one hour) and Lough Mohra is a slightly longer walk (over one hour) to the north-west.
The Nire Valley
From Rathgormuck, go north-west for just over 9 km to Harney’s Cross Roads and take a left turn there. Continue south, uphill and downhill, for four km and veer left at that junction. A short distance further on (1.7 km), cross the white bridge over the Nire river, veer left there and the Nire carpark is then five km away. From the southern end of the range, it is probably best to go to Ballymacarbry from Kilbrien and turn right there at Melody's pub, and right again about five km away at the white bridge, up along the Nire river to the aforementioned carpark. From Dungarvan or Clonmel, take the main Dungarvan-Clonmel road to Ballymacarbry and go east from there.
The Nire Valley can now be explored on foot in any direction from this point. To the south-east from the car park lie the Sgilloge Loughs. There are two lakes here, Lough Coumstelloge More and L. C. Beg (these names have become anglicised over the years, hence the different forms of spelling). The cliffs rise steeply from the edge of the lakes and a small waterfall cascades down from the top. The Coumalocha, to the south, entails a longer walk from the carpark to this massive coum, the widest in the Comeraghs. The almost rectangular Lough Coumfea should also be visited, a short distance due west of the Coumalocha. The Knockanaffrin Ridge, to the north-east, can also be reached from the Nier carpark; Coum Iarthar and Crotty’s Rock lie almost due east through the Gap.
Comeragh & Monavullagh Mountains