There are three mountain ranges north of Cork of which the highest is the Galty Mountains, beautifully formed and rising to a peak on Galtymore at just over 3,000ft. There are two other ranges, the Comeragh mountains and the Knockmealdown mountains. Both are well worth exploring.
Further east lies brooding Mount Leinster, a hard summit to reach the base but one of the easiest to climb. Blackstairs Mountain, a similar summit nearby, narrowly fails to reach the height required for a Top 500 Summit. Finally there are four summits in the Wicklow mountains, rolling hills south of Dublin looking out over the Irish Sea.
There are 11 Top 500 Summits in the south and east of Ireland.
1 Lugnaquilla (Wicklow Mountains) 3,039ft 2 Galtymore 3,018ft
3 Mullaghcleevaun (Wicklow) 2,788ft 4 Tonegalee (Wicklow) 2,680ft
5 Greenane (Galty Mountains) 2,631ft 6 Mount Leinster 2,610ft
7 Knockmealdown 2,605ft 8 Fauscoum (Comeragh Mountains) 2,597ft
9 Temple Hill (Galty Mountains) 2,575ft 10 Kippure (Wicklow) 2,484ft
11 Knockanaffrin (Comeragh Mountains) 2,477ft
There are a number of interesting and varied walks when climbing these summits together with the excitement of visiting places in Ireland that you may never have been to before.
I have featured three walks, The Galty mountains, in my view the best walk in this group, the heart of the Wicklow Mountains and a trip to Mount Leinster, a remote and brooding mountain in a part of Ireland that is rarely visited.
10 miles. 3,500 ft of climbing.
The Galty Mountains rise in splendid isolation from the green fields of Munster. The ridge which runs east to west, from Caher to Baurnagurrahy, is 16 miles long much of it over 2,500ft. If two cars are available the whole ridge would make a magnificent walk taking about eight hours. I have focussed on a shorter walk from the car park three miles to the south of Galtymore near the Attychraan River.
If driving from Cork follow the M8 motorway towards Dublin, turn off at Junction 12 and continue north east along the R639. After two miles there is a sign to Galtymore and a minor road leads north to the car park.
From the car park a track leads north onto open hillside. Climb north and follow a broad ridge which leads to the main (16 mile) Galtymore east west ridge. This is joined just west of the summit of Galtymore. There follows a magnificent walk east along the ridge passing over Galtymore and Galtybeg with superb views in all directions. After Galtybeg the ridge descends to 2,100 ft before ascending to O’Loughnan’s Castle. The ridge is now wide with some peat bogs. Continue east to Greenane to tick off a second Top 500 Summit.
To return to the car, retrace your steps over O’Loughnan’s Castle and down to the col at 2,100ft. Contour round Galtybeg until you are south of the summit then descend south to pick up the track beside the Attychraan River which is followed back to the car.
Temple Hill, the third Top 500 Summit in this group is a short climb from the minor road which runs past its west side. I suggest starting from the road as it passes the north west of the summit.
8 miles with two cars, 2,000ft of climbing.
The Wicklow mountains lie south of Dublin. They are rolling hills with much of interest to see and do. A trip to see the ruins at Glendalough would make an excellent addition to this walk.
The walk over Tonelagee and Mullaghcleevaun is beautiful on a summer’s day with the sun shining but can be boggy, particularly on the saddle between the two mountains. However, with a high start at Wicklow Gap, it is not too strenuous. If starting from Wicklow Gap, it is best to have two cars available to allow a short descent from Mullaghcleevaun south east to the Old Military Road from Laragh to Sally’s Gap. If a second car is not available, it is best to start from the Old Military Road at the car park near Glenmacness Waterfall. From here a path climbs south west to Tonelagee.
Assuming a second car is available park at Wicklow Gap (1,550ft), which is a popular spot, then climb north east to reach the top of Tonelagee in less than one hour. The lower slopes can be boggy but this is a straightforward climb. From the top of Tonelagee, Mullaghcleevaun can be seen three miles to the north. Head directly towards it along a path which goes over Stoney Top. Continue north crossing a boggy area and continue to the summit of Mullaghcleevaun, the high point of the day.
From the summit of Mullaghcleevaun a path leads east to Mullaghcleevaun east top. Now descend south east to the Old Military Road just east of Carrigshouk to the second car. Otherwise it is a walk of 2.5km down the road to Glenmacness Waterfall.
Mount Leinster lies almost equidistant between Dublin and Cork. The nearest big town is Kilkenny, an interesting and charming medieval town. This is a part of Ireland that I would never have visited if it had not been home to a Top 500 Summit.
The start point for the short climb to the summit is Nine Stones car park, situated between Borris and Bunclody, on the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive. Mount Leinster has a near neighbour just to the south, Blackstairs Mountain, which is 200 ft lower.
Assuming you are able to find Nine Stones car park, the 2.5km walk south to the summit of Mount Leinster is straightforward up a single track road. It used to be possible to drive to the summit but there is now a locked gate. The summit has a telecommunications mast and other paraphernalia as well as a trig point and cairn. The cairn is supposed to be the burial chamber of the King of Leinster killed in 693AD.