On the move

Car­rick- on- Suir to Kil­shee­lan, Co Tip­per­ary

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE - Michael Fewer

This is a glo­ri­ous walk at any time of the year along the ma­jes­tic river Suir as it sweeps along through rich agri­cul­tural land, form­ing the bound­ary to coun­ties Water­ford and Tip­per­ary. Fol­low the river­side path along the north bank head­ing west­wards from the old bridge, of which lo­cal poet Michael Coady wrote the lines: “Boys are fish­ing from a bridge Built be­fore Colum­bus raised a sail.” This ven­er­a­ble struc­ture dates back to the mid- 15th cen­tury, and, al­though 30 miles from the sea, it was – un­til 1793 – the low­est bridge cross­ing the Suir.

As you leave the town be­hind, look out for some of the last re­main­ing tra­di­tional fish­ing cots moored along the river, shal­low, wooden fish­ing punts of a type that date back to the time the bridge was built. If you are lucky you will see one of these prim­i­tive craft be­ing guided along the river by its owner, who stands in the stern like a Vene­tian gon­do­lier and poles the craft along.

Across the river the hori­zon is lined by the steep wooded hills that char­ac­ter- ise the south­ern side of the Suir Val­ley. The river­side path is lined with a rich va­ri­ety of wild­flow­ers in­clud­ing a plant with a long- stemmed yel­low flower called Stink­ing Tut­san, that grows out of the stone- walled bank. It was much used by herbal­ists in the old days as a treat­ment for sci­at­ica and gout, and a salve for burns or wounds.

Soon a round tower with goth­icarched win­dows comes into view on the far side of the river. It was erected in the 19th cen­tury by the Davin fam­ily to

guard the salmon weir that once was strung across the river here. Mau­rice Davin was a founder mem­ber of the GAA and a na­tion­al­ist, but that didn’t pre­vent the weir be­ing wrecked, and the roof blown off the tower, dur­ing the War of In­de­pen­dence.

At the time of the Norman con­quest, the Suir was used as a ma­jor high­way into the rich agri­cul­tural lands of Tip­per­ary from the port city of Water­ford, and tow­er­houses were built along it at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals to reg­u­late trade.

One of these, Poulak­erry Cas­tle, af­ter nearly 600 years, is still in­hab­ited. It was built by the But­lers in the 15th cen­tury, and the lit­tle stone- con­structed har­bour be­low the cas­tle was prob­a­bly used dur­ing a law­less pe­riod in our his­tory when armed skiffs were launched from here to de­mand tolls from pass­ing mer­chant gal­leys, a prac­tice which led to these par­tic­u­lar But­lers and oth­ers Suir­side landown­ers be­ing dubbed ‘ rob­ber barons’.

When I passed here there were thick bunches of yel­low lady’s bed­straw grow­ing along the path. Dur­ing Norman times it was com­monly used to fill mat­tresses, pro­vid­ing a fra­grant bed and the ori­gin of the phrase “in the straw”.

The river now turns through an S- bend, and around the corner Land­scape House, an el­e­gant bow- fronted dwelling of the 1740s, can be seen be­tween the trees on the far side of the river. It is re­puted to have as­so­ci­a­tions with the in­fa­mous Cap­tain Boy­cott. Soon the grand old arched bridge at Kil­shee­lan comes into sight. You can turn up right to reach the award- win­ning vil­lage, or walk on to the bridge where there is a grand grassy area to sit and en­joy the sight of the river sweep­ing un­der the dark arches.

The main at­trac­tions of the vil­lage are the old church with an in­ter­est­ing Ro­manesque door­way, prob­a­bly dat­ing from the 11th cen­tury, and the re­mains of a 12th cen­tury Norman motte over­look­ing the river, which has been re­cy­cled, and is in use today as a shrine to Our Lady of Lour­des.

Map: Dis­cov­ery se­ries Num­ber 75. Dis­tance: 11km. Suit­abil­ity: Suit­able for all. Ter­rain: Mainly grassy river bank. How to Get There: The walk be­gins at the his­toric old bridge in the town of Car­rick- on- Suir, County Tip­per­ary.

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