A mountainous trail steeped in history
The moderate 90 km point-to-point (Thru-hike) Ballyhoura Way takes you from County Cork to County Tipperary, on a way marked trail that allows hikers to get the most from an escape into the mountains whilst never straying too far from picturesque villages and towns along the way.
The Ballyhoura Way forms part of the longer, historically significant 500km Beara Breifne Way, Ireland’s longest national waymarked trail, considered by many to be a Celtic Pilgrimage.
The trail typically starts at John’s Bridge, County Cork, Ireland but it can be hiked in either direction and takes you through four highland areas. The trail has steep sections but no serious climbs so depending on your fitness level, the trail can be completed in as little as 3 days, but most tend to take between 4 – 6 days.
Leaving the start at John’s Bridge, the route takes you via the village of Liscarroll, known for its 13th-century castle, and then onto the village of Churchtown before heading into the mountains.
Forming a natural border between the counties of Cork and Tipperary, the Ballyhoura Mountains are wild, unspoilt, and rich in wildlife, flora, and fauna. Here the trail takes in range’s second highest peak of Carron Mountain (1440 ft) before flanking its highest, Seefin at 1732 ft.
Then, up to Benyvoughella Hill and Slievereagh, visiting pretty villages including Ballyorgan and Kilfinane on route before the path traverses the lower edge of the Slievenamuck ridge. From here you will be rewarded with breath-taking views over the Glen of Aherlow, the lush valley that follows the River Aherlow, and views across to Ireland’s highest inland mountain range, the Galtee Mountains.
The route then makes its final descent down through Tipperary, and to the end of the trail at Limerick Junction Train Station, County Tipperary.
The Ballyhoura Way offers a variety of terrain, but is predominantly an easy-going mixture of pastureland, forest track, moorland, and mountain trail, with some road sections.
The history that forms part of the Ballyhoura Way is what makes the route particularly special, as it follows in the footsteps of Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare on his fourteen-day march to Leitrim Castle, County Leitrim.
On New Year’s Eve in 1602, after a series of battles, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare had lost his cattle and stronghold and had no option but to flee Dunboy with his people; one thousand men, women and soldiers, on a march that would take them fourteen days, covering 500km. Plagued by exhaustion and battle along the way, many dropped out but finally, thirty-five of them made it to the stronghold of O’Rourke of Breifne.
The Ballyhoura Way follows 90 km of this Celtic Pilgrimage that to this day has been shaped the towns and communities it touches.
- Country Cork is famed for having the second largest harbour in the world and was therefore the Titanic’s last port of call before it set sail. Cork is also known for its Blarney Stone, which legend tells gives the ‘gift of the gab’ to anyone who kisses it. So, pucker up and head to Blarney Castle, where the Carboniferous limestone was set into its tower in 1446.
- County Tipperary is known for the landscapes, food, and fortresses. Whilst you’re there, discover its medieval history and visit the 13th century Gothic Cathedral, the Rock of Cashel or the 12th-century fortress of Cahir Castle that sits on an island in the River Suir, and is one of Ireland’s best-preserved castles.
Things to know before you go
- The route ventures through many towns and past several trailheads so refreshments and rest stops along the way are in abundance, however, it is always best to carry provisions and water with you and check ahead of time what is available to you on route, as opening times may vary throughout the seasons.
- Due to the frequent visits to towns and villages, there are accommodation options on the trail, bed and breakfasts in the smaller towns and more options for camping, hostels, and hotels the closer you get to Tipperary.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on a leash.