Day 1: Clogheen to Crow Hill
Time: 4 hours 40 minutes including lunch breaks
The Clogheen to Crow Hill section of the Blackwater Way is a beautifully scenic route that takes you from the cozy little village of Clogheen up through Killballyboy Wood to the Vee and onto the foothills of the Knockmealdowns.
We parked a car at the base of Crow Hill, at a place called The Pens (marked on East West maps). To get there, take the road from Clogheen to Ballyporeen, turn left off the R665 for Shanrahan Cemetery and follow the road out until you get to the Pens on the right. You can’t miss them.
After parking our car at The Pens and leaving our spare shoes and socks in it, we drove back to Clogheen, parked our second car outside the church, and began to walk from there. There’s a great little shop in Clogheen where you can stock up on water, snacks, hot food or coffee before you head off.
The walk is well signposted, and part of the Blackwater Way crosses over the East Munster Way. That’s a route for another day though.
We followed a fairly easy forest track for a while before the path became quite stony and a little steeper. It’s not a difficult walk for anyone with any level of fitness, but in some places you’d have to watch your footing as water running down the path in wet weather has created shallow ‘gullies’ in places.
We reached Bay Lough where we stopped for about 15 minutes to admire the scenery. Although the lake is beautiful, it’s also very dark, and it’s easy to see how it is reputed to be bottomless. It’s also associated with the witch, Petticoat Loose, who was banished to it for eternity and ordered to empty it with a thimble. She hasn’t made much progress in the years she’s been there.
We were “blessed with the weather” that day as they’d say, locally, and it was lovely to take some time out to sit in the sun for a while.
Statue of the Virgin Mary
After a break of about 15 minutes, we continued walking up towards The Gap where a large statue of The Virgin Mary stands overlooking the hills and the pass through the Knockmealdowns that comes from Lismore and Cappoquin to Clogheen.
Just beside the statue is one of two buildings known as The Bianconi Station. The other building faces it on the opposite side of the road. During the years when Charles Bianconi operated his horse drawn carriage services, taking people between various towns in the south of Ireland, these buildings functioned as resting places for the horses. The horses had a fair climb to get up to these stone shelters, so they were probably delighted to stop there.
Inside the structure behind the statue of The Virgin Mary, there is an altar. Mass is said here sometimes, although the altar seems to serve as a shrine for people to pray and leave relics and offerings. Custom has it that if an ill or suffering person bathes in a holy well and leaves an offering behind, then their illness is driven into the relic and the sick person is cured.
We walked on, uphill and around the base of Knocknalogha, pausing to admire the magnificent views of the Sugarloaf and Knockmealdown behind us.
The trail was well marked and we followed a fairly well worn track along a fence for a while.
Then we climbed over a stile and continued to follow what we thought was the track as it was stony, and after a while the stones ran out and our track disappeared under wet and marshy ground. We hadn’t been watching the markers, just the ‘track’, and it’s worth remembering that, where there’s more than one track, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up following the wrong one. Because we had been up that way the previous week, we realised we were now following the Knockaclugga Way.
So we retraced our steps until we saw the way markers again and, from there onwards, we had no problems seeing the markers and their bright orange labels on them. The orange labels are a recent addition, from what I can gather, as the route was changed a while back.
Oddly enough, the way marker photographed below doesn’t have an orange sticker.
For the last two kilometres, we followed a lovely trail of grass and stones, and then a very small section of road back to the sheep pens to our parked car.
This was a fabulous walk, made all the more glorious by the fact that we had sunshine the whole day long. It’s not a difficult walk. There are no technical aspects to it. The steepest part is just after the Statue of the Virgin Mary for about two kilometres. We stopped for our lunch along this section and took about half an hour’s break. Make sure to stock up on water and provisions before leaving as there aren’t any shops along the way.