The Nore Valley Way is one of Ireland’s more unusual National Waymarked Trails. It is a 20km trail in two parts, the first section taking walkers from Kilkenny Town – Bennettsbridge, and the second half running from Thomastown – Inistioge. What links these two separate walks together is that they both follow the banks of River Nore, one of the three major rivers in the south east of Ireland. All three of these rivers, known as the three sisters, has a trail along their banks – The Barrow Way follows the navigable sections of the River Barrow; and the East Munster Way criss crosses and follows the fast flowing River Suir.
My name is Ellie, I’m one half of Tough Soles. Tough Soles is a project between myself and my partner Carl that started off with the goal to hike all of Ireland’s National Waymarked Trails. Between 2017 – 2019 we did just that, quitting our jobs every summer to live on the trails and walk our way around the country. Today I’m sharing my experience of the Nore Valley Way, our 13th out of the 42 National Waymarked Trails of Ireland.
The two halves of the Nore Valley Way are each roughly 10km long, and the gap in between the two sections is also about 10km long if you walk by road. These unusual aspects aside, this is a really beautiful trail. The trail follows the River Nore as it twists and turns, all in quiet, nature-rich woodland. We passed old mill ruins, walking through fields of sheep and horses, and twisting our way up and down the valley.
Walking out of Kilkenny the trail follows the Lacken Walk, a raised wooden walkway along the riverside. Passing under the N10 the Way brings you into a deciduous forest full of trails and desire paths, a place that feels a hundred miles from the small city streets of moments ago. The whole trail wanders back and forth from forest like this, to brief stretches of farmland or boreens, until it reaches the village of Bennettsbridge.
The Thomastown stretch begins at the GAA pitch, passing a huge ruin of what once must have been a formidable house. The trail then leads back into the woodlands, this time passing through Dysart Forest. The farmland afterwards allows the trail to pass under some of the wide arched bridges that have stood above the Nore for 200 years.
The final stretches into Inistioge give beautiful views of the village, nestled between two bends in the river.
If you’re looking for a trail to relax along, skip stones in rivers, and spend an afternoon outdoors, this is the route for you. There is limited difficult terrain, following grass river banks, dirt trails with twisting roots, and stepping stones. Personally, one of the highlights was a swing we happened across on the river bank. Each section takes roughly two hours (depending on how often you get distracted by swings).
The Nore Valley Way connects with The South Leinster Way in Inistioge, a 105km trail that is part of the Irish section of the E8 walking route. Because this route crosses a lot of farmland, dogs are not allowed.
This is one of 42 trails that Carl and I have walked across Ireland. Thanks to Hiiker for sharing our adventure along this particular Way. If you want to hear us talk about our adventures, we’ve been on the Hiiker Podcast.