- Report on Boherquill Ramblers 2023 Walking Festival
The Ramblers 2023 Walking Festival opened in Castlepollard on Friday 12 May with an evening walk out to Tullynally Castle and through the castle grounds. The main drive was lined with beautiful mature trees and beyond the castle itself the old stone estate workers cottages and farm buildings created an appropriately old-fashioned scene
The walk down the farm road to the back gate and along the Coole to Castlepollard road back into the village was a delightful summer evening stroll with bright sunshine on the woods and fields on each side.
Back in Castlepollard the walkers were welcomed into the stylish surroundings of the Castle Varagh Hotel which has recently re-opened after extensive renovations. There was a relaxing end to the evening with everyone tucking into tea, coffee and scones Thank you to the staff and management of the hotel, we wish them well in their new venture.
There was a little light drizzle when the walkers met again in Fore on Sunday 14 May to register for the day’s 21 km walk but the refreshments in Fore Coffee shop raised spirits and the rain had stopped by the time all had boarded the bus to the start of the walk at Ballymanus About a kilometre of farm track and fields led to the parting of the ways where the party split with about half taking the 16km option and the rest heading for the steep climb to the top of the Hill of Mael through Bigwood where slippery fallen leaves and mud made for slow progress.
The effort was worth it, though, when the wonderful views from the summit to the south and west were revealed. After a short break the group headed down across the fields to Whitegate where they turned right onto a side road to Foyran where Frank Higgins was waiting with water, fruit and words of encouragement. Another right turn and the walkers headed for the back entrance to Mullaghmeen Forest. A large convoy of tractors passed by and it was a contrast to get away from the busy road and turn into the peace and quiet of the forest at Tonyowen. The half a kilometre of forest trail was a welcome cooler interlude after a couple of kilometres of road. Frank was waiting at the main entrance to Mullaghmeen, ready to direct the walkers onto a side road towards Hilltown and a break for lunch with Frank in attendance again.
Lunch didn’t take too long as there was still a long way to go, starting with a narrow trail through sun-dappled woodland near Hilltown, possibly the most attractive part of the whole walk.
The route continued on roads lined with cow parsley and other wild flowers to the White Lough, well known from previous Walking Festivals. Yellow gorse and whitethorn blossom covered large areas of the hills around the Lough framing the peaceful scene with just one angler’s boat and a couple of swans out on the water. The group skirted the Lough and took the access road from the fishermen’s landing area out to the Oldcastle road. Across the road the last climb of the day began, leading first to great views of the three Ben Loughs with a profusion of yellow gorse and whitethorn and higher still to the shoulder of the Ben of Fore.
From here it was possible to look back to the Hill of Mael and Mullaghmeen as well as a large area of the surrounding countryside. A steep descent through woods down to the road into Fore left only a short walk to the welcome refreshments waiting in Fore Abbey Coffee Shop. The walkers gathered in the Coffee Shop relaxed as they looked back on a tough but very enjoyable day’s walking.
Many thanks to Frank, John, Barry, Shea, David and Aoife Higgins for all their hard work in devising and guiding such an enjoyable walk. Frank was also frequently on hand with fruit, water and lifts back to base when needed. Thank you to Jane O’Reilly in Fore Abbey Coffee Shop whose endless pots of tea, cups of coffee and assorted goodies perked up everyone before and after the walk. Thanks also to Salmon’s Coaches who provided the bus.
A special thank you to all the landowners who gave access to their property on the day.
A larger selection of photos can be found on the Gallery tab of the Ramblers website.