NOW that the season of over-indulging is behind us and we’re all set to get back into our exercise regimens, there’s no better way to get back into – or indeed to start for the first time – your fitness journey by getting out into the fresh air and walking. Ballyhoura Country, at the crossroads of Limerick, Cork and Tipperary, is a walker’s paradise, with walking trails to suit everyone from absolute beginners to seasoned walkers – young and old. With Newstalk’s Dr Ciara Kelly this month once again kicking off her popular 100 Days of Walking initiative, there’s no better place than Ballyhoura to pop on your runners and get out and about walking.
If you’re not sure where to start or feel you need some walking buddies, then look no further than the Ballyhoura Bears, a long-established hillwalking group based in Kilfinane, Co Limerick, from where several of their walks start.
As well as being very knowledgeable about the region and the many walks meandering through the picturesque villages and hamlets of Ballyhoura, the Ballyhoura Bears are always eager to introduce new members to the joys of walking and benefits of spending quality time with Mother Nature.
They have Saturday morning walks, Thursday evening walks and on Sundays, they organise level A and B walks close to home or further afield – these suit all levels and range from 1 to 4 hours.
For more information: http://ballyhourabears.com/index.php/walks/walking-lists
However, you can also just as easily walk around Ballyhoura yourself, on any of the many walking trails throughout the region. The Ballyhoura Trails Guide App (free from the App Store or Google Play Store) is your personal guide to the loop walks of Ballyhoura Country, where a world of outdoor adventure, history and cultural heritage is waiting to be explored. There are 11 walks ranging in distance from 5km to 18km, varying from easy strolls to challenging hikes through sandy roadways, woodland trails and forest paths.
To get the app: https://visitballyhoura.com/pages/get-app
For example, families with younger kids who’d like to get out into nature and enjoy the stunning countryside will love the Ballyhoura Nature Trail, a 2km walk where kids can explore over 20 creatures hiding in the woods. Or they can explore around the Lough Gur Native Tree and Fairy Trail, where children can go eco-hunting around the grounds to spot tree species, insects and wildlife….and to keep an eye out for Fer Fí, the King of the Fairies, who reportedly lives close by in the hill of Knockadoon!
For more information: https://visitballyhoura.com/explore/lough-gur-native-tree-fairy-trail
There are plenty of gentle yet picturesque walks around the region to cater for those who are dusting off their walking shoes. The easy 5km Knockduv Loop, starting from Ballyhea, Co Cork intertwines with the mountain bike trails, so you can catch glimpses of bikers in the distance as gravity pulls them down the mountain; while in Limerick (and over the county border into Tipperary), the Attychraan Loop, also 5km, affords spectacular views of the Galtee Mountains while you gently wend your way through the easy forest and woodland terrain.
More experienced walkers will love some of the more challenging walks around the region too. For example, the strenuous Black Rock Loop Walk incorporates a climb of Seefin Mountain, the highest point in the Ballyhouras at 528m; Seefin (the seat of Finn) is said to be the spot where the giant Finn McCool would sit washing his feet in the River Shannon, no mean feat as the nearest point of the Shannon is 50km away! Meanwhile, the 18km Benard Loop, taking 4-5 hours and taking in Anglesborough – the highest village in the Galtee Mountains – is certainly one for the expert walker to enjoy.
All of Ballyhoura’s walking trails can be found on https://visitballyhoura.com/explore/category/walking-hiking-trails as well as on the app.
So, with the stretch in the evenings at last peeking through and the beginnings of spring not too far away, walking yourself to fitness has never been easier or more enjoyable in the heart of Ballyhoura.