BLACKSTAIRS MOUNTAINS, COUNTIES CARLOW / WEXFORD
8TH - 10TH MAY 1998
The map in use is sheet 68 of the Discovery Series. This map was only published last November, which explains why this is the first MPC to be held in the Blackstairs Mountains.
Magnetic Variation: 8 degrees
Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs are a ridge of rounded granite peaks lying between the beautiful Barrow Valley and the rich lowlands of Wexford, a halfway stop between the Wicklow Mountains and the sandstone ranges of the South East, Comeraghs, Galtees and Knockmealdowns. They suffer from undeserved neglect just because they are halfway between better known neighbours.
However, these mountains are steeped in history, ranging from prehistoric burial chambers to modern day aeroplane crashes. Though they may not have majestic peaks, towering aretes or spectacular corries, they do have something else to offer - sleepy hillfarms, few people, good access and particularly for the most part dry underfoot conditions. Unfortunately though, the range is better known for the obtrusive television mast on top of Mount Leinster.
DIRECTIONS TO THE START
From Carlow, take the N80 towards Enniscorthy. Travel for 10km on this road, until you pass a pink pub on your right known as "The Fighting Cocks". Take the next right, about 1km after this, following a sign for "Smyths of Newtown". Stay on this road until you reach a small village called Fenagh (5km) and at the church, turn left onto the R724 and continue on this road until you reach Myshall (6km). Turn right at a sort of stone roundabout in Myshall and almost immediately take another right, following signs for "Mount Leinster Television Transmitter".
Take the next left (signposted) on to a small road and after 500m, turn right up a very steep hill. Continue on this road, ignoring a road from the right and take the first left at (S822 577) (1.6km), following a sign for Bunclody. Follow this road up a steep hill, and just after it emerges from forestry, you reach the top of Corrbut Gap (S834 567). On your right, there is a carpark with plenty of parking - the starting point for the MPC.
If arriving from Wexford, take the first left after the bridge in Bunclody and follow this road straight to Corrbut Gap.
FRIDAY NIGHT - CORRBUT GAP - CAMP 1
Corbat Gap (834 567) to Forest Entrance (832 555)
From the carpark, cross the fence by the stile and turn left. Follow a grass track, keeping the forest on your left. The track veers to the left and soon emerges on to a paved road beside a cattle grid (834 565). Turn right, following the road uphill. The forest entrance is the first track on your left.
Forest Entrance (832 555) to Forest Edge (840 539)
Enter forest by crossing a stile to the left of the gate. Ignore a track on your right, a fire-break on the left and a track on the left. Go straight through crossroads at 836 544 and continue downhill on a grassy track through younger trees. Emerge from Forestry and at a fork in the road (840 541), take the right fork, following a grassy track uphill. After about 100m, turn left off the track and walk downhill over uneven ground through newly planted forestry to reach a fence and stream (840 539).
Forest Edge (840 539) to Camp 1 (842 537)
Cross the fence and stream and make your way across boggy ground to the campsite. Check in with a member of staff and set up camp.
CAMP 1 - MOUNT LEINSTER - SCULLOGE GAP - BLACKSTAIRS MOUNTAIN - CAHER ROE'S DEN
Camp 1 (842 537) to S.H. 647m (849 529)
Leave Camp 1 and go uphill through deep heather to reach Craan at 852 534. Follow this spur uphill to the spot height. To your east, you should be able to see a stone hut in a col (856 527) which was used by peat cutters in the Second World War and is now 4 star accommodation for sheep.!
S.H. 647m (849 529) to Mount Leinster (827 525)
Pick up an obvious track on the ridge and follow this towards Mount Leinster, passing a small pool in the col at 841 527. The path becomes less obvious here and on the climb to Mount Leinster, the ridge becomes steep and boulder strewn, but flattens out again near the summit which is impossible to miss due to its monstrous television mast and supporting cables. Note on the map the mast (marked at 826 532) is in the wrong place. The mast, owned by RTE and transmitting radio, television and mobile phone signals is 122m high. Walk a short distance uphill to the northwest and you will reach the summit cairn, supposedly the burial chamber of the King of Leinster, who was slain at the foot of the mountain in 693 AD. On a clear day, one can see the Wicklow mountains to the east, the Wexford coast to the south and the Galtees and Comeraghs to the west, as well as the fertile plains of Carlow and Kildare to the north. Mount Leinster (827 525) to Shannons Lane (823 503)
This leg follows the broad humpback of Mount Leinster's South Ridge. However, the ridge actually starts about 300m east of the summit, so take care if its misty. Reach spot height 593m (827 513) and from here, drop into the col to pick up a definite track at 823 503.
Shannon's Lane (823 503) to Sculloge Gap (824 479)
Turn left on the track and follow it downhill, passing through an "automatically closing" gate and then through a second gate. Towards the end of the boreen, one passes a few houses, one of which has the unfortunate notoriety of having had a stray bomb dropped on it during the Second World War. A returning German pilot lost altitude and jettisoned his bombs, which hit a house and killed three members of the Shannon family. A small plaque on the wall commemorates the year 1941.
Sculloge Gap (824 479) to Forest Edge (819 474)
Turn left off Shannons Lane, cross Sculloge Bridge and reach the R702 at 828 477. Turn right to reach a forest entrance on your left at 823 477. Take extreme caution on this busy road. Follow the track to a turning circle at 820 475 and there cross a recently dug drainage ditch and follow a gap through the trees in front of you. Follow this wet track uphill to a bend to the right and just after this, follow a gap through the trees on your left, keeping a stone wall on your left. Emerge from the forestry and cross a fence and old stone wall.
Forest Edge (819 474) to Blackstairs Mountain (811 448)
From the forest edge, climb on to the spur at 811 468 and continue uphill over rocky ground to reach Blackstairs Mountain, marked by a small cairn hidden among peat hags. A short distance to the east there is a small iron cross marking the site of a plane crash in 1983 in which 4 people died. It was this accident that prompted the setting up of the South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association. Blackstairs provides a great view of both the surrounding area and earlier part of the walk.
Blackstairs Mountain (811 448) to Camp 2 (799 428)
Leave Blackstairs and descend over Caher Roe's Den, passing its impressive granite tors, into the col at 796 432. "Caher Roe" was Cathaoir na gCapall of the O'Dempsey family in Laois. The family lands being forfeit in the 17th Century, he turned rapparee and ran a large organisation from this area which stole horses and sold them at distant fairs. He was caught and hanged at Maryborough (Portlaoise) in 1735. From here, descend slightly to Camp 2 at 799 428, checking in with a member of staff before setting up camp. Take a well earned rest and admire the extensive views of County Wexford.
BANTRY COMMONS - ASKONVILLAR STREAM - KILTEALY
Camp 2 (799 428) to Col (817 435)
Contour carefully beneath Caher Roe's Den from Camp 2 into this very flat Col. Be careful not to lose height.
Col (817 435) to corner of forest (825 460)
Contour beneath Blackstairs mountain across a slope of burnt heather to cross the streams at 823 456 to avoid a deep gully below the junction. From here, go straight for the corner of the forest, crossing the Askinvillar stream to reach it.
Corner of Forest (825 460) to Kiltealy (850 467)
Cross a fence where its broken on the right of a stone wall and then cross the wall on to a small, overgrown track that runs between the forest edge and wall. Walk on the track and not in the adjacent field. At the corner in the wall (827 462), follow a grass track downhill to the right and shortly afterwards, climb over a small rusty gate. Follow the track through thick gorse, and then on to a bigger track, ignoring a track from the right at 832 465. At end of track at 836 467, turn left on to a tarmac road. At 839 473 turn right, cross a bridge and turn right again on to the R702. Again, take great care on this busy road, and be sure to walk on the right hand side. On arrival in Kiltealy, turn left and almost immediately left again, into a large car park.
Check out with staff here and well done!! We hope you all enjoyed the MPC and look forward to seeing you in Connacht and Ulster.
Transport will be available to bring your drivers back to collect their cars at Corrbut Gap.
N.B. Water is extremely limited on this route, with no point to refill bottles being crossed on Saturday. Don't forget to make sure you take adequate water with you on Saturday morning to last all day. And as always, be sure to drink plenty en route.