Christopher Moriarty takes a trip along road to nowhere.
Most of roads in Ireland go to meet other roads. But byway to Nire Valley in heart of Comeragh Mountains goes nowhere else. People spend days wandering around these beautiful hills – but valley also makes a very good base for discovering exciting parts of neighbouring counties of Tipperary and Waterford. Our route takes a day and a half to explore seaside, mountains and historic towns that go with them. Having set out from Dublin we started circuit in Clonmel but people coming from southern ports could begin by seaside in Dungarvan Ardmore.
Clonmel is clearly signposted from M9 motorway. An ancient town with an ancient street layout, best way of visiting it is to make your way to one of riverside car parks – and walk. What makes it especially exciting is survival of a substantial piece of 15th century town walls together with a selection of buildings from most of centuries in between. And it’s a thriving, busy bustling town with a peaceful riverside walk and a view to south to mountains.
The highlights are clustered around centre within old walls and you don’t have to be especially energetic to find them. In particular look out for 17th century Main Guard, which houses a helpful Tourist Offi ce, 14th century town walls with their restored West Gate and rebuilt Franciscan church which contains brilliant modern stained glass and a particularly fine 15th century effigy.
The old town was built entirely on left bank of River Suir but it spread southwards across water in 19th century. Take most downstream of three bridges that cross it and follow R678 road which takes you high up into Comeragh Mountains. Four miles out of town look for a signpost which encourages you to go even higher and find way to Hanora’s Cottage. It is second of two such signposts. Both lead to wonderful hilltop roads, but second is even more wonderful than first. They take you into very heart of mountains, past sheep pasture and then through heather moorland before going downhill again into Nire Valley.