You meet River Nire and cross it by a black-and-white bridge at bottom of hill. Then turn left and re-cross river over a beautiful old two-arched stone bridge, overlooked by a guest house called Hanora’s Cottage and a church built in 1861 from same honey-coloured local stone as bridge displays. We made Hanora’s Cottage our base – it is a most delightfully welcoming establishment with rooms far beyond normal level of comfort – each has its own Jacuzzi. The proprietor Mary Walls happily imparts her prodigious knowledge of region to all and is full of ideas and advice on how to enjoy it.
Cottage and church are set in a narrow part of valley, in shadow of Shauneenabreaga Mountain and look at first glance as if they are at end of road. And so they are in a way because it is only way for cars to enter or leave higher parts. But in fact it goes on for another mile and a half and valley, surprisingly, instead of growing steeper and narrower opens out into a prosperous landscape of green pasture, hedges and farm houses. The road ends at a car park and an enticing foot-path which goes through heather over Knockanafrin – Mountain of Mass – and down other side to Rathgormuck.
But we were not so enticed and turned back down valley in search of seaside. The mountain road leads to village of Ballymacarbry where a left turn brings you on to road for Dungarvan. This ancient seaport lies at head of an immense shallow bay where tide falls to reveal sand flats spreading for miles. Like Clonmel, it is a place to park your car and walk around. There is a castle claiming to be a foundation of 13th century King John of England and a 17th century market house.
Take coast road from Dungarvan for two miles and then turn left to find village of Ring and little harbour of Helvick Head. Ringville, officially An Rinn, is centre of a remarkable outlying area of Gaelteacht, where Irish survived as a living language and remains preferred means of communication of many people, both old and young. It houses Irish-speaking schools and enjoys a great influx of students attending summer courses. Farther out is remote headland of Helvick with its busy little fishing harbour and a stone obelisk commemorating heroes of Fenian Rising of 1867.