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This Tipperary Walking Trail Is The County's Best Kept Secret

By Megan Cassidy

August 27, 2019 at 1:25pm

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You won't regret taking on this beautiful Tipperary walking trail.

Trail: Rock an Thorabh Loop, Glen of Aherlow, Co Tipperary

Distance: 6km

Terrain: Forest track, woodland trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: 90 minutes

Trailhead: Christ the King statue, Gortavoher West, Co. Tipperary. There is parking at the trailhead.

Recommended Gear: Hiking boots, rain jacket, water, snacks, phone

Anyone who has been reading the site of late will know that walking trails are having a serious moment, and when we heard about this hidden gem we knew we had to explore it and report back.

The Rock an Thorabh Loop is nestled in the Glen of Aherlow Co. Tipperary, a lush valley tucked between the Galtee Mountains and the wooded ridge of Slievenamuck with epic mountain views everywhere you turn.

The landscape exudes myth and magic - so it's no wonder it’s the setting of some of Irish mythology’s most dearly-held stories. Legend has it that Diarmuid and Grainne spent a night here during their flight from the jealous Fionn MacCumhaill. It’s said it was the man MacCumhaill who split the eponymous Bull Rock or Rock an Thorabh itself in two out of anger at the fugitive pair.

The Rock an Thorabh trailhead, at Christ The King statue, is actually the starting point for a number of National Looped Trails including the 9km Millennium Stone Loop and the 4km Bianconi Loop.

Our chosen loop will take us through forest track and woodland trail along the old red sandstone ridge of Slievenamuck. All along the way, you’ll sneak breathtaking peeks of the Galtees through the trees, and the summit at Bull Rock is where you’ll find awesome views of Tipperary Town, Silvermines and Keeper Hill.

Getting there?

The Christ the King Trailhead is easily accessible from Tipperary Town.

From Dublin, take the N7 towards Limerick/Cork/Waterford, continuing on to the M7 and then M8 to Cork, exiting at Junction 9 onto the N74 exit to Tipperary. Continue following signs for Tipperary.

From Bridge Street, Tipperary, continue onto Station Road and at the roundabout take the 2nd exit onto Seallagheen Road. Follow the signs for the Glen of Aherlow Nature Park. You’ll pass Tipperary Golf Club on your left before passing through Ballyglass. After about four minutes you’ll arrive at the Christ the King carpark.

Distance?

6km

The trail itself

Good beginnings make for great endings - and this trail starts as it means to go on quite literally. The view from the Christ the King trailhead at the Glen of Aherlow Viewpoint is absolutely breathtaking, and you’ll find yourself stopping to take it in before you’ve even started.

You won’t miss The Christ the King statue which marks the start of the trail. This holy monument is described as Ireland’s answer to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. The 16ft statue was erected on the road between Tipp town and the Glen of Aherlow in 1950, facing the Galtee mountains with one hand raised to signify a blessing to everyone who passes.

From here, you’ll see incredible panoramas of the Galtees across the valley - Ireland’s highest inland mountain range that stretches over 20km from Mitchelstown to Cahir.

Interesting fact - the border of Tipperary and Limerick actually detours over the summit of Galtymore, meaning you can be at the highest point of the two counties at the one time.

From Christ the King trailhead, you will follow the red arrows past the barrier into forestry where you’ll begin your ascent.

After about 50 minutes you’ll notice the blue (Millennium stone loop) veer down right, while you continue on uphill on forest track surrounded by colourful, untouched wildlife.

It’s a subtle incline for the first half of the walk - and if you fancy a challenge, you can certainly work up a sweat if you up the pace towards Bull Rock.

Us? We decided to ramble slowly and enjoy the surroundings. There was a heavy rainfall the morning before we took the trail, so the smell of petrichor as the sun reflected off the droplets added to the experience. The only sounds were our footsteps on the soft soil and the birdsong alongside us. Bliss.

After roughly two kilometres, you’ll reach a crossroads where the Blue Loop rejoins the path, and you take a sharp left, continuing to follow the red arrows.

As you continue to ascend, it’s time to keep an eye out for the imposing Bull Rock (Rock an Thorabh) to your right. This is the highest point of both the Rock an Thorabh loop and the Millennium Stone Loop, and offers stunning vistas of Tipperary Town. To the west you’ll see the Golden Vale and to the North is the Devil’s Bit. Legend has it that the devil took a bite out of the mountain and spat it out to become the rock of Cashel, just 25km from here.

Once you’ve taken in the impressive views and are ready to continue on the track, look for the red arrows again which will take you along more forest track towards a surfaced road near Stafford O Brien Well. You’ll take a left onto this roadway and follow along for roughly 500m before turning right into forestry again.

There’s an abundance of wildlife inhabiting this forest land owned by Coillte - including goats, badgers, rabbits and woodland songbirds - so keep your eyes peeled for little friends beside the path!

Following more dense woodland trail, you’ll rejoin the other loops as you pass through Nature Park back towards the Christ the King trailhead - the perfect way to finish the walk.

A truly beautiful walk that seems undiscovered beyond locals and people in the know. Tipperary and the Glen of Aherlow area has an abundance to offer for all forms of walkers and plenty of opportunities for a short break.

Accommodation?

If convenience and ease of access is a priority, you can’t look much further than Aherlow House Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the trailhead. The terrace is the perfect place to chill after your walk with breathtaking panoramas of the Galtees - it’s no wonder this romantic setting is a popular wedding destination.

Ballinacourty House is another great option just five minutes down the road. This beautifully restored 18th-century building offers cosy cottage-style accommodation, with a beautiful Victorian walled garden - the perfect escape from city life.

If camping is your thing, make sure to check out Glen of Aherlow Camping and Caravan Park. This four-star park is renowned for its peaceful, relaxing atmosphere and is in walking distance from the Nature Park and a range of Loop Walks.

Other options include Homeleigh Farmhouse B&B and Ballyglass Country House - you won’t be stuck for hospitality in this neck of the woods!

Nearest towns?

Tipperary: Tipperary Town is just a fifteen-minute drive from the Rock an Thorabh trail, and with an abundance of options for food and drink as well as great shopping. Known as “the home of the stranger", you’re sure to get a warm welcome here.

Cashel: Home of the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland’s most spectacular tourist attractions, this town is heaving with history and cultural events. Make sure to stop in at the Cashel folk village - a museum commemorating the 1916 rising, the Irish War of Independence, and the Irish civil war.

  • Cahir: Just 18km from the Rock an Thorabh loop, the town of Cahir boasts a wealth of things to see and do. Cahir Castle is one of the most well-preserved medieval castles in the country, while the Michelstown Caves just South-West of the town are a must-see. Limestone caverns are home to spectacular rock formations and prehistoric fossils, and the larger caverns are the setting of some truly atmospheric music concerts.

Local attractions?

Galbally Moor Abbey: Just a mile outside the village of Galbally, this Franciscan friary sits overlooked by the magnificent Galtees. Dating back to the 1400s, only the church and tower remain of what was once a busy convent. There’s a picnic area just across from the ruins for the perfect family day out.

Athassel Abbey - Cashel Walk: A storied medieval road connects the town of Cashel to the town of Golden, home to the ruins of Athassel Priory. This road was traversed in famine times when the once luscious ‘Golden Vale’ saw the potato crop fail, and played a part in both the War of Independence and the Civil War. Athassel was once one of the country’s most extensive monasteries, sprawling nearly four acres, and remains a treasure trove of discovery for visitors.

Swiss Cottage: This fairytale thatched cottage is just a 30-minute walk from Cahir Castle and is a perfectly preserved example of Regency architecture dating back to 1810. There are regular guided tours of the cottage that was restored in the 1980s under the watchful eye of Irish designer Sybil Connolly.

Food and Drink?

Aherlow House Hotel boasts a great range of dining options, from slap-up pub grub paired with amazing views in the Hunting Lodge Bar, to fine dining in the award-winning Tree-Top restaurant.

The recently refurbished Tree-Top is described as a “home from home” with low ceilings and intimate lighting serving as a backdrop for a menu full of delicious local, fresh produce.

For something a little more casual, Ballinacourty House offers two dining room options, with the upstairs room perfect for intimate dinner for couples, and the ground floor space providing the perfect comfortable setting for large family gatherings or private events.

We’ve heard on the grapevine that Ballinacourty’s Sunday lunch is not to be missed.

Ballyglass Country House is a small family-run hotel nestled at the gateway to the Glen of Aherlow,  and their recently re-vamped restaurant is well worth a visit, with local produce taking centre stage thanks to the many excellent food producers of the area.

For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break in Ireland’s Ancient East. Before you go, make sure you check out our 10 Genuinely Useful Tips For Going Hiking In Ireland to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable walk

It’s always important to be respectful of the wildlife and surrounding environment, so make sure to leave the trail as you found it. Visit leavenotraceireland.org for more information.

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