In December 1602, in the wake of the defeat of Gaelic forces at the Battle of Kinsale, Donal Cam O Suilleabhain, the chief of the O’Sullivan clan, was isolated and surrounded by his enemies in his territories in West Cork. He resolved to seek asylum with his ally, O’Rourke of Breifne, and so he gathered his entire clan and set out on a forced march through hostile territory in an attempt to reach O’Rourkelands in what is today County Leitrim, 500 kilometres to the north.
A thousand in all set out, and after many skirmishes with enemies and many severe hardships in the winter weather, only fifteen made it to Leitrim. The terrible journey has become one of Irelands great epics, and the Ballyhoura Way was laid out along part of the route O’Sullivan took with his clan all those years ago, from St Johns Bridge to Limerick Junction.
The route crosses four upland stretches, one long one over the Ballyhoura Mountains (highest point Seefin, at 510 metres), two short ones over Benyvoughella Hill and Slievereagh, and then a long traverse on the southern flanks of the Slievenamuck ridge, overlooking the beautiful Glen of Aherlow. The aggregate ascent over the route is just over 1700m, and apart from a few short steep sections there are no significant climbs.
Along the way walkers might want to linger at the great Norman castle at Liscarroll, in the pretty villages of Kilfinane, Ballyorgan, Ballylanders and Galbally, or the storied town of Tipperary. The terrain consists mainly of tarmac roads, forestry tracks, and open moorland and field paths. Some of the road sections are busy and should be used with care: some of the upland sections can be very wet.
The Ballyhoura Way is best accessed at one of seven key trailheads, which provide information map boards and car parking. These are located reasonably close to other services and facilities, such as shops, accommodation, restaurants and public transport. The trailheads are located as follows:
Trailhead 1 Johns Bridge
Johns Bridge is located on the R576 to Kanturk. A shop and filling station are located at the road junction.
Trailhead 2 Near Ballyhea
This trailhead is located at Kennedys Pub, just off the N20, and is 1km south of Ballyhea.
Trailhead 3 Green Wood Car Park, Glenosheen is 1km from junction on R512 to Glenanaar.
Trailhead 4 Kilfinane
Kilfinane is located on the R517 and is 10km from Kilmallock, 15km from Mitchelstown, and 18km from Tipperary. The trailhead is located at Barrack Street, Kilfinane on the R517.
Trailhead 5 Ballylanders
Ballylanders is on the R513 and is 10km from Mitchelstown. The trailhead is located at the Commemoration Monument, Main Street, Ballylanders on the R513.
Trailhead 6 Lisvernane
Lisvernane is located on the R663 and is 10km from Tipperary. The trailhead is located at Christ the King Monument on the R663.
Trailhead 7 Tipperary Town
Tipperary Town is located on the N24, approximately 40 km from Limerick. The trailhead is located at the Esso Filling Station on the Limerick Road.
A baggage moving service for walkers and cyclists on the long distance paths and mountain bike routes in Ireland is now available. The Pathway Porter will pick up your bags to allow you a trouble free walk or cycle to your next destination where your bags will be dropped off.
Visit The Pathway Porter