There are certain days on trail that tend to become a big mess of the same old, same old country road and forestry track just repeating themselves over and over again until eventually you get to where you need to be. A metaphor for life or what, dear reader? Day six on the trail begins with great promise in beautiful Graiguenamanagh, the River Barrow hugging the banks as you proceed beyond the bridge and onto Main Street before a swift left sees you ascend up and through residential rows before a right hand turn takes you away from this domesticated section, across an overpass bridging the Borris Road and left towards the lovely Brandon Hill Camping.
With the campsite behind you, you’re now ascending Brandon Hill. Steep roads guide your path upwards, leaving both Graiguenamanagh and the Barrow glistening in the crisp morning below you. Passing a farmyard with somewhat nonplussed dogs and a barrier, you’ll find yourself on the Brandon Hill loop. A truly lovely jaunt, you’ll follow its gentle curvature around the foot of the hill, often zig zagging along pathways and amongst high forests before being deposited on a descending track. Upon reaching a relatively flat portion of this track, turn left at a fork and follow the way markers as they guide you towards Monasilloge, crossing a number of stiles along yet more forest tracks. Remember the big mess of road and forestry tracks I mentioned? Follow the way marked trail through the often steep and sometimes mucky pathways around Monasilloge. You’ll ascend along an open and exposed climb before entering another stretch of winding forestry tracks. Fun fact, I met a man in full on army gear here. And I thought my pack was heavy. As you exit the forest via another barrier, turn right and onto a rocky path before a sharp second right turn sees you begin your descent. The trail follows this type of rocky route for quite some time before suddenly linking with a more favourable, less fall inducing road. Follow the road for a distance before it drops away into the Nore Valley at a fork in the road. Soon you will be greeted by the stunning Inistioge which is the perfect place to stop for lunch. A banger of a village. Quaint enough that it hasn’t been spoilt just yet but with just the right amount of amenities for those passing through. Crossing the River Nore, turn right and avail of the many cafes, pubs or restaurants in the village, the riverside park is an ideal place to rest and refuel. Honestly, as you get deeper and deeper into thru hiking trails, good coffee, the odd ice cream and bottled water (you don’t have to pump and filter it yourself!) become such lifelines.
Anyway, onwards, and into the lush walkways of Woodstock Estate. Following the trail left at O’Donnells pub, continue onwards along a path and onto the Woodstock Loop. Here find rising wooded slopes to your right and the River Nore babbling along to your left. Enjoy the flat terrain underfoot for more than an hour’s walking, the trees cooling you in hot weather. Continue along the path before it begins to turn and rises into Woodstock Forest, again, you’re on forest tracks but don’t fret, despite the apparent repetition of your surrounds, this section is a beautifully secluded joy. Eventually, meet a road at a small dwelling at forest’s edge, turn briefly right onto the road before taking an immediate left and beginning a steep descent up the slopes of Mount Alto. Here you’ll note the forest becoming wilder and less manicured than the gentle pathways below in Woodstock Estate, this area is the evil twin of Woodstock Estate, wild and unruly. Like that time Bart had a twin, Hugo, in The Simpsons. Follow the way markers beyond Mount Alto, climbing steeply in parts before exiting the forest and turning left.
Here follow somewhat overgrown pathways of heather, rising for breath from this often dense challenge, take in the views around you as vast expanses of County Kilkenny roll away to your right. Eventually reaching a sparsely forested area, turn right and follow a slight incline. Twist your way through this area before joining a road at a junction, passing farm houses to your left. This is a tediously long road section, especially after quite a portion of your day has been spent on unforgiving terrain. The trail contains so many of these moments but as I said at the beginning of this section, it’s all about getting to where you need to be. Are you gonna give up? After coming this far? Absolutely not. Step by step, you’ll conquer the road. And a good podcast helps. I’m a massive advocate for silence in nature but at times, you just need something to break up the monotony of the day and that’s absolutely fine! Follow the road until a way marker guides you right, turn onto a winding section, look out for genuinely the largest bull I’ve ever seen en route, and take the left at the fork in the road, passing by a bundle of farm houses before rising slightly. Beware that there is a confusing upcoming marker indicating to turn left, this area has been restricted by either a landowner or for deforestation purposes, continue straight on and take the next available left, it’s at a T-junction. Keep an eye out for a right hand turn and where you rejoin the intended trail. This next section is arduous as you are now approaching your 40th kilometre of the day. Persevere onwards and traipse along forestry tracks before dropping onto a road, turn left and follow the road for a long period before it passes beneath a bypass. A slight fork sees you joining a main road, turn left and cross the beginning of the River Blackwater (which you’ll meet again later on the trail). Take a left after Reades pub and reach Reades B&B which i situaterd about 3km outside of Mullinavat, the rest spot of choice for yours truly after covering a total of 42km on day six. A note for a day like this, I had intended on wild camping but a combination of weather and unsuitable terrain meant I never found the ideal spot. It was the first of a number of days this occurred and it can be worrying to not know where you’ll rest your head, especially when reliant on your own steam to get you place to place. Always keep a spare power bank or solar charger with you, it’ll enable you to search for B&Bs nearby and, more often than not, they will be happy to collect you.