The first time I heard of the Knockmealdown Mountains was the first morning in Ireland at breakfast. We were sitting next to an English couple and they were discussing the previous day’s tour. We must have had that ‘where do we start’ (a.k.a., deer in the headlight) look and took pity on us. One thing that they mentioned a drive they took through the Knockmealdown’s and the rhododendrons.
Let’s make sure everyone understands a basic premise here … I am not a gardener. I have a black thumb and would rather do a million other things that spend time in flower beds or gardens. I do, however, enjoy macro photography, so I can occasionally be found in a garden. However, my tool of choice is a camera.
Our B&B hosts were patient and explained more than once the draw of the Knockmealdowns and the Vee scenic. I was still ignoring, but my friend had her curiosity piqued. So, we decided to head that direction on one of our ‘slow’ days. Located between Cahir and Lismore, the Knockmealdown’s are a great transition between counties Tipperary and Waterford. The landscape … simply breathtaking!
Since that day, I have driven through the Knockmealdown’s five times; four of those via R668 which is known as the Vee scenic route. (The Vee is a switchback that when looking at a map it is very noticeable as it looks like the letter ‘V’.) The other time I took the ‘road less traveled.’ Together, those drives also covered three seasons.
June 2012 … We missed the blooming season by just a few days. There was only a remnant of purple across the landscape, however, the lush foliage made for beautiful, landscape images. We were so drawn in, we went back a second time.
December 2012 … Taking ‘road less traveled’ through the Knockmealdown’s provided a very rugged backdrop to the winter weather.
September 2013 … There are a lot of pines, so the green color was still prevalent. But autumn was creeping in and the landscape was beginning to take on a golden tone.
June 2014 … We hit the tail end of the blooming season. While the rhododendrons were beginning to create ground cover with their petals, the mountain was, thankfully, still carpeted with purple flowers. I remember driving up the mountain and thinking – okay, I see more purple than before. But right before the ‘Vee’ there is a bridge and a carpark. As we entered this area, I knew at that moment was the fuss was about. Wow! We drove two and a half hours hoping to catch the sight and it was worth every mile. (Note: If you scroll lot the end of the post, there is a video that will give you a 365 degree view of the rhododendrons.
What is interesting about the Knockmealdown Mountains, is that as you drive from Cahir to Waterford you will go through three different type of landscapes. The first, green and purple of the Vee; second, a rugged stone and heather mountain top; and three, a heavy foliage area that receives plentiful rains from the south.
Oh … and keep your eye out for the sheep. They can be found napping on the side of the road, strolling along mountain paths or climbing the stone walls.
Regardless, don’t forget your camera. It is an area filled with photographic opportunities.
After traipsing through church ruins, muddy paths and centuries-old graveyards, as well as the history lessons, I decided that I wanted to explore more of the same. So, Sunday I loaded up and headed towards Ardmore.
The big decision is the best way to get there. The most direct route is through the Knockmealdown Mountains. There are about three primarary routes through the mountains: the ‘Vee’ (which we drove twice last summer), the route that I took to Lismore, or the more easterly route. So … East is was. The only problem is that I ended up on a less-than-local road. I never ended up on dirt, but there was a period of time I was seriously wondering what I was thinking. I was thankful that the one vehicle that I met was a tractor. I pulled as far to the side as possible; he moved up and over (wider tires … Amen!) and then I snuck around him.
I was looking for another local road … An unmarked one, at that, to take to a regional road. I actually found it and then was rewarded with a wider-than-normal regional road!
I had considered going to Dungarvan first, but decided on the way to bypass it and head across the bay. I ended up in a fishing village called Helvic. I had read a little about it, but I didn’t stick with me until I drove into the village … All of the signs are in Irish Gaelic! It drove home that I need to learn so Gaelic, not only to speak the basics, but to be able to read it.
From Halvic, I was back on the road to Ardmore. A other village located on the cost, it is positioned between Waterford and Cork. Ardmore is known for its origins. It is said that St Declan landed here and brought Christianity to Ireland; a few years ahead of St Patrick.
Once I located the church site (built on St Declan’s original monastery grounds) and found a place to park, it was up the hill. The first thing that I saw were the reliefs on the church wall of the ruins. There were three sets; the first two are shaped in a half circle and your eyes are drawn to them. After you digest the scenes, you then notice a series of squares telling a story. Upon research, the left relief is the Fall of Adam & Eve and the second relief is of Solomon’s Judgement & The Adoration of the Magi. The series of thirteen panels, nine can still be seen are of different figures. The church was built in the 13th century.
From there, it is off to explore the ‘high tower, located on the grounds. Standing over 90 ft tall, it dominates the horizon. They estimate that it was built in the 12th century.
Exploring the inside of the church, I was drawn to the Ogham stones. There are two of them; one has very clear markings. Ogham stones, about 300 have been found in Ireland, was the earliest form of Irish writing. Megalithic.com has a translation for the pillar-stones.
Also on the grounds, is St Declan’s Oratory. It is believed that the date may date to the 8th century and reputed to be the burial place of St Declan.
Here’s are some pictures of the day….
Location via Google Maps:
After a morning of driving through the countryside (and taking photos), I headed to Newcastle for some groceries. Since I am in a wandering mood, I continued my drive though the southwest side of the Knockmealdown Mountains to the town of Lismore. On the edge of town, sitting on the side of the River Blackwater, is Lismore Castle. The original castle was built in 1185 by Prince John, Lord of Ireland.
As with many castles, it has gone through many versions of ruin and reconstruction. What stands today was part of a large reconstruction phase of the 1800’s. It is closed to the public since it is actually a private residence. There is an art gallery on the premise that is open to the public, as well as its gardens.
On the way to the castle, I passed the ‘Holy Well and Spout’. It is tapped into a natural spring and was once used by estate workers who lived nearby.
One of the things that I am noticing is the large amount of moss. We are getting rain daily and it is staying warm enough not to freeze. There are places were the grass is still green and fir trees are plentiful. But I see moss growing everywhere, from the local roads to walls.
After spending Sunday ‘sorting things out,’ I headed to Waterford today. There are a few places that I want to revisit … Mostly due to Christmas markets/festivals. I want to see how towns/cities are decorated for the holidays. It also allows me to regain my ‘driving on the left’ skills. This puts me on familiar roads. Waterford is one of those places.
I made my way though the shopping district. The places were busy as people were rushing in and out of department stores and small shops. The Christmas market was beginning to open up; the wooden buildings reminded me of those at German Christmas markets. The festival is called Winterval. These buildings lined different streets around the ‘Viking Triangle,’ a historic area in Waterford.
The main reason that I wanted to return to Waterford, was the Medieval Museum. It was not open when Sara and I were there this past summer. I was very interested in the contents. I spent more than two hours there and would highly suggest it to anyone visiting Waterford.
The first floor focused on the Great Charter Roll of Waterford which provides chronicles on life and rule by England in Waterford. The charter, started in the 1300’s, continued until the reign of William Cromwell in the 1600’s. Part of the Charter is available for viewing, as well as numerous other documents from different English rulers. There was one by HenryVIII … I need to try to track down a picture of it. There is a Celtic knot just calling to be made into a quilted wall hanging.
The second floor focuses on the vestments (ceremonial robes/garments worn by priests) that were worn in Waterford. There is a long history from their creation to their safekeeping by burying in a chest to their discovery. They are truly beautiful; embroidered with thread made of gold. All are available for viewing. Truly remarkable ….
From there, wandering the street, lunch at a small cafe call Le Blaa.
Here are photos from the day.
Location via Google Maps:
Our first morning at breakfast, we sat near an English couple. They had mentioned that their previous day was spent along the southern coast. On their way back to Cashel, they drove along the ‘V’. So, as we were gathering information and heading towards Cork, we asked our hosts. They gave us basic directions and off we headed.
South of Cahir, off the major highway and expanding through two counties, is a scenic road call the Vee that meanders through the Knockmealdown Mountains . The is called the Vee due to the road’s switchback that looks like the letter ‘V’ on a map. It is absolutely stunning and I would highly recommend the drive. We drove the route twice. The first time we ended up with rain and very little sheep. Our second drive, we had some sunny skies and the sheep were out and about.