One of my favourite days on trail coming up here. Carrick on Suir was very, very kind to me with a night of rest, good food and drinks, friends, a comfy bed and a warm bath. It’s impoirtant to plan ahead with these things, I’m quite the planner as anyone close to me will tell you but, if I do say so myself, the planning for this adventure was particularly top notch. Spreadhseets were involved. But it wasn’t just for logistical reasons, emotionally and mentally I was acutely aware that I was not going to complete this task without the help and support of my friends and loved ones. I planned easy access points for those who wanted to join me and laid out distances for those unsure of their desire to walk 40km plus per day, some walked full days, some walked 3km but I was grateful to have each and every one of my companions with me. From Carrick on Suir, myself and two friends, all three of us full of croissants might I add, departed and continued along the River Suir stepping off the South Leinster Way and onto the East Munster Way. Beautiful weather thankfully bathed us in sun and a gentle breeze cooled us from across the water. Stumbling upon the Blueway Cafe was an added bonus, a gorgeous little caravan converted into a cafe for those travelling along this stretch of the Suir. Onwards we travelled, the path comfortable and easy underfoot making the 13km between Carrick on Suir and Kilsheelan a breeze. There’s plenty to take in on this stretch, the Suir itself is stunning with ample shade for hot days and plenty of opportunities to refill water bottles en route. Just outside Kilsheelan you’ll catch views of Poulakerry tower house protruding amongst he fields along the bank and you’ll find a Marian shrine just off route upon entering the village.
It’s an ideal place to stop for lunch and refreshments after a stunning morning of walking. Once replenished, my friends and I parted ways. One good friend left me with the sentiments ‘I’ll drive back home, go to bed, get up and go to work for the week, do my week’s work and you’ll still be walking’. If the enormity of the task hadn’t set in by day eight, those thoughts hammered it home for sure! Departing Kilsheelan, I followed the waymarkers across the beautiful stone bridge across the Suir, leaving Kilsheelan behind and once again flying solo. Again on road, I took a sharp right and entered the canopy of Gurteen Wood, following the road for a time before entering the pathways which meander through the wood itself. Steep and secluded, the woods took me away from the flat, friendly terrain of the morning and into a more challenging leg.
Note that the East Munster Way has been rerouted in parts when exiting Gurteen Wood, which throughly confused yours truly. It would be wise to research this before embarking on this section of the walk as it may add time to your journey. Thankfully, it does take the walker off road for 2.7km which is always a positive!
After my brief and confused sojourn into the woods, I found myself descending into Clonmel, where I was aware I had the most beautiful two words ever spoken on a thru hike awaiting me ‘rest day’. I followed the waymarkers back onto the blueway along the banks of the Suir, thinking fondly of the morning spent with friends only a few kilometres downstream, before entering Clonmel and the well earned rest ahead.