The view across the Glenregan Valley…still quite beautiful for a misty January day!
With New Year resolutions enthusiastically ruling January weekends, I found myself returning to explore the Slieve Bloom mountains following a lovely time spent there in the summer and eh… the warm sunny weather! Turning off the old N7 Dublin -Limerick road just before Roscrea at Killavilla, the road starts to wind uphill and on this misty, overcast Sunday, the views across the farm holdings was not as scenic as it was in June!
We arrived to Kinnitty village in the middle of mass time and zig-zagged our way through the cars scattered around the village green towards the Mountrath road (R440). Following directions from the Discover Ireland walking guide http://www.discoverireland.ie/Activities-Adventure/glinsk-castle-loop/71558 we drove along this road (R440) until we spotted the car park to the left and squeezed our little car into a small space – nice to see that these walks are getting visitors!
The naked trees of winter at the Pigeonstown section of the Glinsk Castle looped walk
An unseasonably mild day, we set off with the threat of a light mist hanging over us. Following the blue signs, this route was very clearly sign posted and made for a very relaxing walk as there was never any doubt as to which direction to take. This Glinsk Castle walk is approx 8km and there is a slightly shorter route of 5km that will bisect through the longer route if you wish to ease into your Slieve Bloom walking adventures!
Is it just me, or does this look like the perfect place for the fairies to hide – or Alice in Wonderland!
With clear paths all the way, with some stepping over exposed tree roots, overall, this is a very accessible walk. About two-thirds of the way along the route, upon reaching the highest point, you will soon spot Glinsk Castle after which the walk is named – but! – don’t look out for turrets, flags & imposing walls… how you will recognise Glinsk Castle is 2 mounds of stones to your left just on the crest of the hill, that are so un-imposing that my little border terrier, Daisy, skipped over them!
Beginning the descent from Glinsk Castle with shelter from the mist
We were glad to begin the descent into the forest just as the mist started to flutter down so we stayed dry under the pine needles and cones. As we emerged from our shelter, the Glenregan valley stretched out before us and we had a chance to take in the beauty (just imagine what it looks like in better weather!) before we descended among some fragrant baby Christmas trees towards the end of the loop at the car park again.
Once Daisy was dried off, fed and watered, we now had to get ourselves fed and watered. Kinnitty village was far less packed now than mass time earlier and on this quiet winter afternoon, the local publican pointed us in the direction of Kinnitty Castle for food.
Well! What we should have done, had we been wiser, was to meet and park at Kinnitty Castle car park and complete the loop from here as it seems to be an informal meeting point for locals and walking groups. This seems to be a great option as the official carpark on the R440 was quite full when we arrived earlier. The grounds of Kinnitty Castle is perfect for smaller walkers to run around and explore among the mature trees, burning off excess energy in the fresh air! Or making friends with Woody & Wood-Ella, see below!
Tree trunk art along the drive way to Kinnitty Castle
At the moment, the upper floors of the castle are undergoing renovations but the Monk’s Kitchen was open and doing a brisk trade with families, couples and walkers. Staff couldn’t have been nicer and while the menu is traditional pub grub – it really was delicious, tasty and most importantly for anyone after being outdoors – piping hot! While I am usually not a big chip fan, the chips in Kinnitty Castle really are irresistible!
I left my day out in Kinnitty, looking forward to returning soon to explore more of our local mountain range!
If the misty weather doesn’t put you off, you may like to bag the highest peak of both Laois & Offaly also found here in the oft-overlooked Slieve Blooms…