COMERAGH MOUNTAINS MAGIC

This blog by Mick O’ Donoghue hopes to inform people of the beauty of the Comeragh Mountains.

New articles are posted every fortnight about some aspect of these special mountains.

 

 

  •  The MonavullaghsView from Farbréaga south-west across Crohaun to Dungarvan Bay and Helvick HdWhere are the Monavullaghs?The name Monavullaghs comes from “Móin an Mhullaigh” – the turf or bog of the summit. The name interestingly could also have come from "Móin an Bhuaile" which means the turf of the herding place. Some people say that it is just another name for the Comeraghs, as the name was used in the past to refer to the boggy ground on the top of the Comeragh Plateau. Others argue however that the name refers to the south-western Comeraghs. So which is it? Whatever the answer, today the 300 metres wide neck of high ground between the backwalls of the Coumalochas and Coumtay is considered by many to be the frontier between the Comeraghs and Monavullaghs if there is one! Everything west and south of here is considered Monavullagh country.   Carrigbrack and Milk Hill Ridges with the Colligan Valley in between from near Seefin The Northern MonavullaghsThe northern Monavullaghs consist of a few short ridges that snake west towards the Colligan from boggy Leacathimlay above Coumtay - namely Milk Hill to Tooreen Mountain, Carrigbrack, and forested Barracree Mountain. These three small ridges surround the Colligan Valley (from “Coll Logáin” – hazel hollow). The Colligan and its tributary, the Coumduane flow south from… Read more »
  •  A Special Comeragh Place - GlenaryThe unusual Carey`s Castle Where is Glenary?Nestled in the north-west corner of Waterford near Clonmel is Glenary, the name originating most likely from “Gleann an Aoire” – the valley of the shepherd. Canon Power thought it may have come from “Gleann Aimhréidh” meaning uneven/rough valley. Some people say the name means crooked valley, and the valley does take two very definite changes in direction. The valley, running mainly from west to east and lying between Boolabrien Ridge and Long Hill, is drained by the Glenary River which rises on the slopes of Lachtnafrankee to the east and flows west into the Suir near Kilmanahan. A little-known area this but it is well worth a visit. Getting thereFrom Clonmel take the R671 towards Dungarvan. Less than 1 kilometre after the turn-off for Dungarvan take the first left and continue uphill for about a kilometre to a forest entrance on the left signposted “Carey`s Castle”. There is plenty room for parking here.A Special PlaceSome places reverberate strongly with echos from the past and Glenary is certainly one such place. First off there is the mysterious Carey`s Castle. Who was Carey? When was the castle built? And why does it have a strange mix of architectural styles – a Celtic round tower, Gothic windows,… Read more »
  •  The Gap and Bóithrín na SochraideLooking along Bóithrín na Sochraide towards the Head of the GapThe Gap - Glacial ColAt the southern end of Knockanaffrin Ridge lies the Gap – at 466 metres it is the highest pass in county Waterford. It separates the ridge from the Comeragh Plateau. It is without question one of the most recognizable features of the Comeraghs, its “saddle on the horse`s back” profile being easily identified from many corners of the county. In geomorphological jargon (landforms) it is classified as a “col” – a dip in a ridge in a glaciated mountain upland area, usually created by the movement of ice or melt water across the ridge. The steep ground to the east of the Gap has named rock prominences such as “Carraig na Sean Éan” (the hump on the right of the photo) and “Carraig na nGabhar” (a little higher up) jutting out from the Comeragh Plateau.Funeral Paths in Mountainous AreasThe Normans gave us our parishes. In many mountainous areas peripheral parts of a parish were often cut off from the rest by high ground. Consequently, when someone died and needed to be brought to church and buried in consecrated ground, a funeral cortege would accompany the deceased across the mountain. There are a number of these funeral… Read more »
  • Comeragh RidgesA ridge is a long narrow stretch of high ground which for the most part separates river valleys. A spur or a shoulder or a “srón” is a sloping area of high ground which links a valley to a ridge. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate a spur/shoulder from a ridge. Where does a spur or a shoulder or a “srón” end and a ridge begin? Is there a minimum length of high ground before the term “ridge” can be invoked? Well, there you have me! At any rate, what most of us landscape lovers can agree on is that ridges often provide glorious walking in good weather because of the relatively dry underfoot conditions and the wide-ranging views usually available from their lofty heights.View from Knockanaffrin summit towards Coumduala and the Comeragh PlateauMain Comeragh RidgesUndoubtedly, the standout ridges on the Comeraghs are Knockanaffrin and Monavullagh. Both have a generally north to south running trend (like the nearby Blackstairs) which sets them apart from the west-east trend of Munster`s Armorican mountains. Evidence perhaps that the Armorican folding of nearly 300 million years ago didn`t quite extend across Munster to the Comeraghs, and that the more ancient 400 million years old Caledonian framework of mainly north to south running ridges was preserved here. Knockanaffrin RidgeLying… Read more »
  •  The Comeragh Old Red Sandstone Plateau792 - Highest Point on the Plateau - Looking towards Knockanaffrin and Slievenamon  A Real PlateauOne significant difference between the Comeraghs and other Munster mountain ranges is that the Comeraghs possess a plateau. Munster`s mountains from “Dungarvan to Dingle” are classified by geomorphologists as Armorican or Variscan – this essentially means that they were created as great east-west running fold systems between 270 and 300 million years ago. However, few of these mountain ranges have any large plateaux. The Galtees and Knockmealdowns don`t. Ditto the Nagles, Boggeraghs, Derrynasaggarts, Mullaghareirks, Ballyhouras. Even in Kerry, apart from around Mangerton perhaps, there are no great areas of plateau to be found on the McGillycuddy`s Reeks, the Brandon Range, the Slieve Mish etc. Like the Kingdom, Cork has many hills, humpy bumpy ridges and rocky mountains, but few areas of high plateau – the lake strewn area of Glaslough Mountain in the Cahas possibly, but here the average elevation is only about 450 metres.  The Comeraghs have in fact a truer plateau profile than most mountainous area in the country, displaying those two defining characteristics of a plateau – flattish rolling topography at a high elevation and encircling steep cliffs. The Comeragh Plateau is in fact of national importance, being the best example of… Read more »
  •  A Special Comeragh Place - Ned Curran`sPath leading into Ned`s with Coumtay on the rightWhat and Where is Ned Curran`s?Situated in the beautiful cradle of the south-western Comeraghs, Ned Curran`s has a most idyllic location on the banks of the Tay in the jaws of the coum of the same name. Coumtay is Coum Mahon`s westerly neighbour. But Ned`s is about much more than scenery. Abandoned just three generations ago, Ned`s is one of the most evocative mountain ruins you will ever visit. One visit is all it takes to understand why.A Scenic Walk to Ned`s from Mahon FallsMahon Falls car park is a good spot from which to start an out-and-back walk to Ned`s. From the car park follow the meandering road uphill in a southerly direction for about 500 metres to a sheep grid. The scenery is spectacular here. In the distance is Helvic Head while the Monavullagh Ridge is directly ahead. Dry Coum Éag is the hole in the ridge on the left, the dip in the ridge is Bearna an Mhadra saddle or col, while the highest point on the Monavullaghs, Seefin, lies directly to its right. Further right again two glacial holes beckon, Coum Knockaun and Coumtay. The grandeur of Coum Mahon is largely blocked out behind you as you… Read more »
  •  Coumaraglin with its Bronze Age MonumentsFulacht Fia in the Upper Araglin ValleyWhere is Coumaraglin?Coumaraglin is situated close to the small village of Kilbrien in the south-western Comeraghs. Specifically, it is the broad bowl-shaped valley that sits to the west of the southern ridge of the Comeraghs (the Monavullagh Ridge) that sweeps south from Seefin to the Mauma Road. The Araglin River, a tributary of the Colligan, rises on the southern slopes of Seefin and drains the northern part of the valley, creating a small gorge in the process, while the much smaller Monavar drains the southern part. Between the two lies the archaeologically significant Cnoicín, literally little hill. Archaeology in WaterfordArchaeologists believe that settlement in county Waterford goes back 7000 years to the  late Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age). The Sites and Monuments Record (S.M.R) for the county was issued in 1988 with over 1200 sites identified dating pre 1700. A team of field archaeologists led by Michael Moore next inspected these sites to confirm their validity. This resulted in the issuing of the Recorded Monuments Register (R.M.R) in 1995 and the Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford in 1999. Over 60 monument types were identified and Coumaraglin was picked out as an area of particular archaeological significance.  Looking north-east towards Bearna an Mhadra across Coumaraglin from the… Read more »
  •  Knockanaffrin (Hill of the Mass) and An Bearna (The Gap) from the NireComeragh Place Names Part 2 Now to the Root Words Physical Features: Let`s start with the Celts` liking for naming places after physical features. Probably the most common root word on the Comeraghs is “com” which means marshy hollow. Since there are at least 14 large marshy hollows on the mountains scoured out by glaciers, it`s not surprising to see the name “Comeraghs”, which means marshy hollows, applied to the place. Coum Knockaun means the hollow of the hillock, Coumduala the hollow of the black cliff, The Sgilloges the hollow of the skillet, the Comalochas the hollow of the lakes. “Cnoc” meaning hill and “Carraig” meaning rock are two other important physical feature root words. Knockavannia means hill of the milk, Knockanaffrin the hill of the mass. Carrickaruppera means the rock of the robber, Carrignagower the rock of the goats, Carrigeen the little rock. Resistant rocky ribs are represented by the words “stuaic” and “cruach”. You have Stookeenmeen (smooth rock cone) and Stookeengarriff (rough rock cone) above Coumshingaun. You have two Cruacháns on the Comeraghs, Cruachán Paorach near Clonea (where the Powers of Curraghmore are buried) and Cruachán Déiseach above Dungarvan. “Cluain” meaning meadow, “Gleann” meaning valley, “Cúl” meaning recess or corner, and “Currach” meaning marsh… Read more »
  •  Comeragh Place Names - Part 1 The study of place names is called “Toponymy” from the Greek words “Tópos” meaning place and “Ónoma” meaning name. The Irish word used is “Logainmneacha” which means the names of the hollows. This may seem a strange word to use, but when you consider that most Irish place names come from the Irish language which evolved from the language of the Celts, and that the early Celts were animal herders who often gathered at watering holes, it may be a most appropriate word to use to describe the study of place names!What`s in a Name? What`s in a name indeed. The Comeraghs, like everywhere else in Ireland, has a variety of place names. The vast majority of the names are gaelic in origin but many have changed over time. We all know how frustrating it can be to peruse place names on a map. What does this mean? Where did that name come from? Here in Waterford we owe a great debt to the amazing Canon Patrick Power from Ballygunner (pic) for the trojan work he did in researching, recording and explaining so many of our local place names. Canon Power well understood the importance of place to a rural people and accordingly our fascination with place names. In… Read more »
  • The Boolas Pater Noster/Ribbon Lakes from the Comeragh PlateauA Special Comeragh Place – The BoolasThere is no doubt that we humans have special places that affect us in indefinable ways. As Nicholas Crane puts it in his book “The making of the British Landscape” - “We have a predisposition to invest locations with attachments”. Why do we become attached to certain places? Now there`s a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question! Do these places fire our imagination or lift our spirit? Do they help us accept if not understand our place in the cosmos? Howsoever it works, we seem to have a need as humans to switch off from the treadmill of modern life and visit our special places to experience the tranquility and pleasure they give us. It is not surprising to my mind that many of these special places are found in mountains. Mountains have a sense of timelessness and permanence about them that make us all too aware of our own mortality. They seem to speak to our souls and draw us back time after time. As a lover of the Comeraghs, the Boolas is one of my special places.Outermost Boola with moraine blocking inner coum behindWhat are The Boolas?The Boolas (Coum Iarthar on O.S. maps) is, at 1km in length, the longest coum in the… Read more »
  •  Crotty the RobberRappareesThe word “ropaire” in Irish has come to mean robber but in the late 17th century the term “ropairí” (the verb “ropaim” means I tear) referred to short pike wielding guerrilla fighters who fought on the side of the Jacobites against the Williamites and who continued to harass the forces of the law well into the 18th century. They came to be known as rapparees and loosely they equated to the highwaymen of English tradition of that period. The rapparee was often regarded as a type of social bandit, officially an outlaw but not seen as a criminal by his own community. In fact, many rapparees were admired by the Irish peasants. They were seen as brave opponents of the oppressive colonial system. They were often lauded in verse, think of the song “Brennan on the moor”, praising the deeds of Willie Brennan around the Kilworth mountains. They would often show up at fairs and funerals, sometimes sharing their spoils with members of their community. Were they as black, as portrayed by the British, or as white, as portrayed by the Irish? They were probably somewhere in between - some were undoubtedly rebelling against social injustice while others were merely opportunistic criminals.View across Crotty`s towards Knockanaffrin RidgeWho was William Crotty?Was he a legendary… Read more »
  • Comeragh Glacial Features Outside of Kerry and Wicklow, the Comeraghs is one of the most spectacularly glaciated areas in Ireland. The nine square kilometre area of the Central Comeragh Plateau is encircled by no less than nine coums. Surely this makes it one of the most glaciated pieces of real estate in Ireland! Here is some information on some of the glacial features to be found on our local mountains. Dramatic View down to Coumduala from Knockanaffrin RidgeWhat is a “coum”? A Coum (“com” in Irish, “corrie” or “coire” in Scots` Gaelic, “cirque” in French and “cwm” in Welsh) is the birth place of a mountain glacier (a river of ice). How old are the Comeragh coums? Hard to be definitive but, according to Frank Mitchell, one of Ireland`s leading authorities on glaciation, most of the ice sculpting was done between about 300,000 and 130,000 years ago with some reshaping in more recent times. How many coums in the Comeraghs? Debatable but there are at least 14. Here goes: Lough Mohra, Lough Coumduala, Crotty`s, Coumshingaun, Fáscoum or Kilclooney, Coum Mahon, Coumtay, Coum Knockaun, Coum Éag, Coumfea, The Coumalochas, The Sgilloges, Coumlara and Coum Iarthar or The Boolas. How many have lakes? Nine. Mohra, Coumduala, Crotty`s, Coumshingaun, Coumtay, Coumfea, The Coumalochas, The Sgilloges and The Boolas. What is… Read more »
  • Geography, Geology, Geomorphology, GlaciationA Little GeographyThe Comeraghs stretch from the Suir Valley and Kilsheelan Woods in the north to the Mauma Road in the south, and from Ballymacarbry in the west to Mahon Bridge in the east, and cover an area of almost 200 square kilometres. They are visible from most corners of the county from Clonmel in the north west to Tramore in the south east. The mountains consist of two main ridges - the northern ridge called Knockanaffrin and the southern ridge sometimes called the Monavullagh - separated by the Central Plateau. There are some outlying hills such as Cruachán Déiseach in the south, Cruachán Paorach in the east and Lachtnafrankee in the north-west. The highest point is located on the Central Plateau a little west of Coumshingaun and is simply known as “792”. The range acts as a watershed for the surrounding catchment areas of the Suir Valley to the north and the Waterford coastal plains to the south, with the main streams being the Glenary and Clodiagh draining into the Suir, while the Colligan, Dalligan, Tay and Mahon flow south to the sea.Sandstone Conglomerates on Coumshingaun backwallA Little GeologyFour geological periods are relevant for pretty much all of Waterford`s geology. The Ordovician Period from about 500 to 440 million years ago… Read more »
  • Above Coum MahonHow many coums on the Comeraghs?I mentioned the word “com” or “coum” in the last article. So, how many coums are there on the Comeraghs? Now, that`s a good question! Some people say 13, some say 14. In a recent book “Corries, Caves and Coast” by geologists Matthew Parks, Robert Meehan and Sophie Préteseille, the authors claim there are 18 or 19. There`s a big difference between 13 and 18. So which is it? It all comes down to definition, I suppose. How do we define a coum? Many geography textbooks tell us that a coum is an armchair shaped hollow with steep back and side walls gouged into the mountainside by a glacier. It is in essence the birth place of a mountain glacier. The defining characteristics of a bona fide, card carrying coum are:Vertical Cliff Walls: These are found at the back and sides and are created by plucking of the rocks by the ice as gravity encourages it to move downslope. Marshy Hollow sometimes occupied by a lake: Nivation or snow/ice patch erosion in sitú deepens the hollow over time as the sheer weight of ice and the constant freezing and thawing shatters the underlying bedrock. Whether a lake (which the Vikings called a “tarn”) develops or not depends on factors such as… Read more »
  • The origin of the word ComeraghsWhere does the name “Comeraghs” come from? When did it begin to be used widely as the placename for the mountains of north Waterford? Now there be two 64,000 dollar questions! Let`s look at the two main ideas out there as to the origin of the name.Com na Locha in the NireThe main language spoken in Ireland from late prehistoric times down to the late 19th century was Irish or Gaelic. This of course is a Celtic language and linguists tell us that the Celts were fond of naming places around them with words from the natural world. The word “com” in Irish means marshy hollow (often created by glaciers) and since there are at least fourteen marshy hollows hewn into the mountains of north Waterford, perhaps the name “Comeraghs” evolved from this Celtic/Gaelic root word. The Welsh (also Celtic) word for a glacial hollow is “cwm”, very similar to the Irish one. Given that many Déisi emigrated from Waterford to south Wales in the early centuries A.D., and that there was much trade between the two areas at the time, some historians suggest that the present name of the main mountains of the Déise may have evolved at this time and may be very much connected to the word… Read more »
  • Mahon Valley Magic Road A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn ÓWritten over a hundred years ago by gaelic scholar and abbot of Melleray Maurus Ó Faoláin, this song is undoubtedly the “Anthem of the Comeraghs”. A native of Kilrossanty, Father Maurus eulogises the Comeraghs in the first verse, heaping praise on its bright streams, leafy woods, honeyed glens and clear meadows. Mo bheannacht óm chroí dod thír is dod shléibhte A Chomaraigh aoibhinn ó, Is dod mhuintir shuairc ar dual dóibh féile A Chomaraigh aoibhinn ó, Do shrutháin gheala is do choillte craobhach, Do ghleannta meala is do bhánta léire, Is grá óm chroí dóibh siúd le chéile A Chomaraigh aoibhinn ó. Click on the link and enjoy Karan Casey`s rendition of the song!A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn O (Sweet Comeraghs) -Karan Casey - YouTubeLough Mohra from Knockanaffrin RidgeIndeed, Father Maurus was speaking for most of us, for nature has certainly blessed us here in Waterford, bestowing on us the magical mountains that are the Comeraghs. For walkers and nature lovers they are an absolute treasure trove with so much to choose from – windswept ridges, squelching peat haggs, towering cliffs, interesting Bronze Age sites, secluded valleys with their whispering streams, brooding coums on cold winter days etc,etc. Where are the Comeraghs?Stretching from the Suir Valley and Kilsheelan Woods in the north… Read more »
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