Galtee Loop

Galtee - Part 1 : Galtee Mountains
Galtee - Part 2 : Open Moorland
Galtee - Part 3 : The Stone Wall

Galtee Mountains

The Galtees are the highest inland mountain range in Ireland, and can be seen from afar as you travel between Cork and Dublin. The range seems to suddenly rise up from the surrounding plains, from almost sea level to just over 900-metres high. The highest mountain is Galtymore (elevation : 919 m), which is Ireland's 14th highest, and just manages to make the list of 'furths'. The hike up to the Galtees will reward you with superb views of the plains of County Tipperary and County Limerick, as well as wooded foothills that are flanked by crystal-clear streams, open moorland, and corrie lakes that are nestled underneath the peaks.

The view of the Galtees from Mitchelstown (looking north-east). Temple Hill (elevation :
838 m
) is on the far left of the image, Galtymore (elevation : 919 m) with its summit
plateau can be seen as the tallest peak on the right, and the conical shape of
Galtybeg (elevation : 799 m) on the far right

Lenticular clouds above the Galtees.

Difficulty Rating : 4.0 / 10.0 (Class 5 - Moderate)

*Click here to learn more about the difficulty rating.
**This rating is for the Galtee Loop. The normal back-and-forth route from Black Road to the peak reduces the difficulty rating to 3.0 (Class 3 - Straightforward) due to the reduction in the duration and ascent, and the huge reduction in distance.

Getting There

For the loop, instead of parking your car at the Galtyway Climb carpark along Black Road, it is best to park at the secluded car park of Galtee Castle instead. This way, the loop can be followed in an anti-clockwise direction via Kings Yard, and your car is not too far away by the time you finish the hike and start walking along the roads. Galtee Castle is only a 13-minute drive from Mitchelstown along the R639. Turn left at the junction for Loughananna Road and head north towards the castle. There will be signposts at the side of the road that point the way to both the trail head as well as King's Yard.

Directions to Galtee Castle from Mitchelstown

Wooded Foothills

The sun had come through in the end and had lifted the heavy, low-lying mist that had hugged the base of the mountains early that morning. I left the carpark just after 09:00, with the sun bright and strong, and the birds actively twittering away. The road led north towards King's Yard, which was just over a kilometre away, and ran parallel to the Funshion River. The road also passes large pastures of grazing sheep on the right on its way to King's Yard.

A picnic table on the grounds of the Galtee Castle

Just before King's Yard, the route veered to the right, past a yellow barrier, and continued along a dirt road. The road made its way north-east, still running parallel to the Funshion River, and straddling the county border as it did (with county Limerick to the west and county Tipperary to the east). The soft trickling of the river and its occasional cascades over moss-covered boulders were irresistible, and I spent a fair bit of time by the river just appreciating the surroundings.

Funshion River cascades

The sunshine was fairly bright outside of the shade of the mixed forest, and rays would occasionally pierce through and send beams down to the forest floor. As I peered outside to the fields beyond the foliage, I could see the sunlight lighting up the bright yellow patches of furze bushes (Ulex europaeus), making them shine like yellow beacons, which seemed quite apt given that they seem to grow like wild fire. Furze (also known as 'gorse') blooms all year round, and because of this has given rise to a famous saying: "When furze is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion". The petals are in fact edible and for centuries have been used to make 'gorse flower wine'. Furze can be considered a little too invasive for some farmers, and its growth used to be frequently burned back to also help fertilize the soil. There are now limitations that have been put in place for unlicensed burning.

The furze flower (Ulex europaeus); Vernation of the scaly male fern (Dryopteris affinis)

About 2.6 km in, the road swung to the left and towards a bridge that crossed the river. I instead chose to follow a small, and very overgrown, path that continued straight ahead. This was because I was planning to cut east to join the Galtyway climb route in order to loop around to the peaks from the side, instead of approaching them straight on from the south. Seefin Hill had been left behind on the right, and the path was now climbing up and out of the valley, and away from the river and the Limerick-Tipperary borderline. Just under a kilometre from the bridge, I spotted a small opening in the trees that I decided to follow. The trail turned out to be a dried-up river bed, and climbing up the boulder-filled incline proved to be a refreshing change of terrain.

The light glinting through mixed forests

Next : Galtee Loop (Part 2) - Open Moorland

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