The Slieve Blooms and the Galtees – two brief encounters

Ridge of Capard, on the Slieve Bloom Way

 SLIEVE BLOOMS

This area of upland bog and conifer forest, cut by river valleys, is known as the Slieve Bloom Mountains, but really they are best described as hills. The highest point, Arderin, is 527 metres, (1729 ft.), high, and the 399th highest ‘mountain’ in Ireland.
They rise out of the central plain of Ireland, a sandstone prominence more resistant to glacial erosion than the softer limestones of the plain. 
This is an area of national and international importance for its upland blanket bog ecosystem, a globally rare habitat that in Europe is mostly found in Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom. It is an extensive wet heathland that supports rare plants and birds, such as the hen harrier.
Travelling south from Dublin we had one day to take a brief look at these hills, and decided to walk up Glenbarrow and then up onto the Ridge of Capard, returning via woodland trails, to give us an overall flavour of the area. We would also sample some of the Slieve Bloom Way, a 60 kilometre trail that circles the hills and takes around 3 days to complete.
The Barrow ,(An Bhearu), river
The path up Glenbarrow was initially well made, but later deteriorated into a muddy track crisscrossed by tree roots. However, the river, and the Glenbarrow waterfalls, made for a pleasant walk, and the banks and open spaces were full of spring flowers, the white oxalis and wood anemones, the yellow celendine and primrose and the blue of violets.
60% of these hills are conifer plantations, mostly Sitka spruce and Lodgepole pine, and large areas were being felled, leaving a wasteland of discarded branches, tree stumps and brash. This was being replanted with the next crop of timber, and we followed forest tracks through the young trees until we reached the ridge.
Slieve Bloom Way on the Ridge of Capard
Here we encountered some of the protected upland blanket bog habitat. A wet heath of sphagnum mosses, deer grass, bog asphodel and cotton grass, sundews and butterworts can also be seen later in the year.
Grouse live on these uplands along with Meadow Pipit and Skylark, Snow Bunting frequent the area in winter.
This area is also designated as a Special Protection Area, (SPA), for the rare Hen Harrier, and is one of the birds strongholds and one of the most easterly in Ireland.
As we descended the ridge we were lucky enough to get a sighting of a pair of these lovely birds, swooping low over the heath in search of a meal of voles or Meadow Pipit.
We returned through beech woodland, the floor of which was covered in bluebells just about to come into flowers, and along recently erected boardwalks, put in to protect the undergrowth from trampling feet.
Violets peeping out from the verges in the April sun.
The Slieve Blooms are only one and a half hours from Dublin, and make for an interesting variation on the usual Wicklow Mountains hikes.
GALTEES
The next day we headed further south to the Galty Mountains, and in contrast to the Blooms, this range can definitely justify the title, with Galtymore, its highest peak, a respectable 919 metres, (3015 ft.). Galtymore translates as ‘the big hill of the Galty’s’, and that is what it is. It is also one of the 13 mountains in Ireland over the magic 3000ft mark, and therefore a ‘Furth’.
The Galty’s, (or Galtees), is an upland area of sandstone in the county of Tipperary. Nearby are the Knockmealdowns, another small mountain range.
Substantially unforested, these hills are mainly dry heath, a mix of Ling heather and mountain grasses. 
The Black Road heading towards Galtybeg
We decided to use our one day to approach the mountain via the ‘Black Road’, a track that runs into the range from the south, from the village of Skeheenaranky.
En route we passed a memorial stone to three occupants of a light aircraft who lost their lives on the mountain.
Galtymore from Galtybeg

The day was sunny, but cool and windy, as we headed up towards Galtybeg, a subsidiary peak at 799 metres, its summit area littered with boulders of conglomerate rock, a mix of sand and pebbles typifying the  semi arid, flood plain environment in which these rocks were lain down.

Galtymore

The ascent is straight forward, if a little steep towards the top, and the views offered north to the hills of Cush and Slievecushnabinnia are wonderful. The Galty horseshoe takes in these hills too, and next time we visit we shall definitely approach from the north and try this route.

We returned the way we came, passing a few folk making an afternoon ascent, and thus passed a few enjoyable hours on this rewarding range.





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