The MacGiollaPadraig Way links Durrow in Co. Laois with Gathabawn in Co. Kilkenny. This is a 17km linear walk that overlaps with other popular walks in the area such as the John Murray walk, the Leafy Loop or the Binninea Loop.
Named after the local ruling clan, the FitzPatrick’s, this walk has been developed by the active South Laois tourism group. A new tradition has also began where the group organises this walk from Durrow to Gathabawn on Easter Monday, with the return walk from Gathabawn taking place on the Monday of the October Bank Holiday weekend, which is gaining momentum and interest each year.
Although 17 km may sound daunting, once you are out walking, enjoying the different scenery and countryside, it really does fly! It is not tough in the sense that there are no great hills, this walk takes in mainly quiet country lanes so it affords you an opportunity to really get away from it all without really being too far from villages (or lifts back to your own car!!).
If you begin from Durrow, the toughest part of the walk is up the Ballagh, which is very short but may quieten the conversation just for a few minutes – unless you are very young or very fit! But for the rest of the walk, you find yourself strolling along lanes, passing Bishopswood and Ballykealy woods, crossing through Ballykealy crossroads and enjoying the stillness and peace of local horses and dairy herds munching the grass and looking back across to Durrow village where you have come from. Not long before you are crossing a stile and walking along the back of Cullohill mountain, soon to be taking in some of the most panoramic views in the area as you look across the landscape to the Slieve Bloom mountains on the Laois Offaly border. Before you know it, you find yourself crossing back over stiles and streams as you cross farm land and arrive to Gathabawn village where Richard Mackey will have his door open and a hot or cold drink ready to refresh you!
I completed this Easter Monday walk, which took a little bit more than 3 hours in warm sunshine with fellow walkers from age 7 to beyond 70! I think the beauty of this walk is that each junction is well signposted; the terrain is quiet roads, lanes and grassy paths with varying beauty spots and scenery to keep everyone interested and curious as to what is around the corner!
A good news story for the area is that with the development of these local walks, Mackey’s (Gathabawn) have introduced a short but tempting menu ranging from fresh sandwiches to more substantial salads and main courses.
In Durrow, Bowe’s café offer a selection of wholesome café fare, with Castle Durrow or the Castle Arms (all on The Square) serving food daily in their bar areas.
As this is a linear walk, you will need to organise a lift or to car pool with other walkers. Taxis can be arranged locally, just be sure to make arrangements before setting off to avoid any delays!
If you are in the area and want a shorter walk, you could do one of my favourite walks through Cullohill mountain (below)…