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Cappoquin, County Waterford, Ireland

Blackwater Valley Heritage Trail

From Youghal to Lismore, hear about the Blackwater river's rich heritage.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 13.0 miles / 21 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
 
Overview: Youghal is the last port of call for the mighty 104 mile Blackwater river that has come all the way from North Kerry, famously swinging south at the dog leg in Cappoquin.

We won't be telling you the full story, but as a precursor to any planned boat trip you take with Blackwater Cruises's Tony Gallagher, we've got a selection of stories from Tony himself, Mick Hackett, Kieran Groeger and Glenribbeen Eco Lodge's famous Peter O'Connor that will captivate. A special thanks to these raconteurs for helping to bring the stretch from Yougal to Lismore to life with such aplomb.

We guide you through some of the most magical verdant countryside in the country, along the banks of the famous Blackwater river where salmon and trout are in abundance. Famously turning southward at Cappoquin for its final 15 mile journey, enjoy the history and stories around the bend area of this famous fishing river.

A famous neighbour of Peter's, travel writer Dervla Murphy, wrote in her book 'Wheels within wheels' that 'my first journey took me through countryside that had scarcely changed since Thackeray described it in 1842':- "Beyond Cappoquin the beautiful Blackwater river suddenly opened up before us..driving through some of the most beautiful rich countryside ever seen'. She added 'the road since then has been widened and picnic areas have been added and rhododendron has taken over a lot of wild areas, but the landscape hasn't changed'. This from a woman who has seen all the sights and terrains of the world; that she made this valley her home says it all.

The author of 'Vanity Fair' was also right to be captivated by this section of the Blackwater valley. The countryside from Lismore right down to Youghal via Cappoquin and Villierstown is stunning and deserves plenty of time for photos, riverside strolls and maybe a picnic at one of those tables.


Tips: This Trail takes you on and along the banks of the famous Blackwater river and has a number of sites that deserve a stop off. This whole area has a whole host of things to do and see so booking for a few days is advisable.

Do not use this guide while driving or navigating a boat. The guide is offered subject to acceptance of the Licence Agreement, which is linked on the right hand column of this page. If you are downloading, we recommend the use of the EveryTrail Pro app, which allows for offline map usage of the guide.

Points of Interest

Water
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Strong tide to Ferrypoint

From your starting point, you can see Ferrypoint across the way - it may look close but Mick Hackett explains why swimming across to this promontory is not for the faint hearted - and is not recommended by this guide!
Audio
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Ferrypoint
Water
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Strength of the Blackwater

Mick Hackett tells us a bit more about the comings and goings of the flow itself and the full might of the Blackwater River.
Audio
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Strength
Junction
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Youghal Bridge

Rarely has a bridge had such a colourful history as this one. Hear legendary local Mick Hackett tell you about just how awkward things got as greater transport needs caught up with the bridge. The picture shows you just how difficult it must have been for the poor driver!
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BW Youghal bridge
Building
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Templemichael

In 1183 Raymond le Gros established a Preceptory of Knights Templar at Rhincrew, an out post of which was TempleMichael. The keep was built specifically to control the river crossing.

The now ruined Church of Ireland parish church dates from 1823 it was built with a grant from the Board of the First Fruits, and until about twenty years ago was used for worship. TempleMichael is open to the public during the spring and summer.
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Building
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Molana Abbey

We let Tony tell you about the Knights Templar's association in the area on the audio here.

Meanwhile, the always excellent historian Turtle Bunbury explains the wonder that is Molana Abbey: - 'on the island that stands in the Blackwater, directly in front of present-day Ballynatray House, is one of the most important churches in early medieval Ireland. Over 170 years after Patrick, an Irish missionary known as St Maelanfaid, or Molan the Prophet, founded an abbey here on an island known as Dairinis, the island of the oak-tree. It is known today as Molana Island. Maelanfaid's abbey soon became a great centre for learning and religious reform.

By the early 8th century, Molana was a major stronghold of the Céili Dé (Servants of God), a monastic order determined to reform the church. Its abbots subsequently played a key role in the subsequent introduction of Continental ideas to Ireland. Indeed, as Dr Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel noted in her thesis on the island, the Abbey's greatest hour came in about AD 720 when its Abbot, Ruben Mac Connadh of Dairinis, working with Cu-Chuimne from the island monastery of Iona, produced the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis. This was a profoundly valuable and important book for the church, written in Latin, effectively dictating the first rules of Canon Law. Its very title reflects its origin as a compilation of over two hundred years worth of canon law and synodal decrees. The text itself drew heavily upon previous ecclesiastical regulations and histories, all dating from the centuries prior to 725. It also included papal epistles, acts of synods, eccleiastical histories, a definition by Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, a compusticial tract by Pseudo-Theophilus, spurious 'Acts' of the council of Caesarea, the so-called dicta of Saint Patrick and several quotes from all but one of the works of Isidore of Seville.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that Molana Abbey may have been home to the first library in the south of Ireland. Unfortunately, none of these original manuscripts have survived but copies can be found in archives all over the Continent. Collectio Canonum Hibernensis was circulated throughout Western Europe for the next four hundred years.
Audio
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BW Knights templar
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Seismic Changes to the River

The course of the river has changed dramatically over the years. Hear Tony explain how a seismic change came in the 9th century to the river changing its route from flowing to nearby Ardmore to its present one of Youghal.
Audio
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BW Tsunami
Water
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Sold Down the River

Tony tells us of how Walter Raleigh sold the Blackwater to Richard Boyle - how many a fisherman would love to get this as a present!
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BW River sold
Information
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Beware of the Red Headed Woman

Mick Hackett tells us about one of the curious superstitions connected with the river - indeed a one that is prevalent throughout the land.
Audio
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BW Red headed woman
Water
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Meanderings of the River

Hear Peter tell us a bit more about how the river starts to meander here.
Audio
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BW Meandering of river
Viewpoint
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Drumore View

Just inland from the river at this point, Peter describes the scene from Drumore - a panorama of the valley and its surrounding countryside with the Knockmealdown mountains in the background from this viewing area. Be transported back in time to 1842 when Thackeray marveled at such unspoiled greenery.
Audio
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Dromore View
Landmark
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Kiltera standing stones

Not actually in view from the river are the Kiltera standing stones. With tongue slightly in cheek, Peter tells us about the stones and helps to clear up what all those signs saying 'Fogra' actually mean!

http://www.prehistoricwaterford.com/products/kiltrea-ogham-stones/
Audio
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BW Kiltera stones
Junction
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Villierstown

Villierstown was founded by the Villiers-Stuart family, from where the name is derived. The original village consisted of a church, a rectory, a school, 24 dwelling houses, a court, a police barracks and a quay on the river. Daniel O'Connell famously had a 'monster meeting' here in the 1830s with over 40,000 people attending.
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Building
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Strancally Castle

With a fine view of Strancally castle, Peter tells us about how the locals thought the pike was the king of the fish.

Strancally Castle was designed by James and George Richard Pain and built for John Kelly around 1830 and is now in private hands. It stands in front of the original ruin of a Desmond castle, which contained an infamous murdering hole, which dispatched those who incurred the wrath of a Desmond to the river below. The Earl of Desmond being one part of that nearby battle of Affane we just heard about.
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BW Pike
Building
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Dromona

Nearby Dromona was home to Katherine FitzGerald, Countess of Desmond (died 1604) was a noblewoman of the Anglo-Norman FitzGerald dynasty in Ireland. English writers of the Tudor period, including Sir Walter Raleigh, helped popularize "the old Countess of Desmond" as a nickname for her. One estimate placed her age at death in excess of 120 years. Another ranged as high as 140.
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BW Dromana oldest woman
Landmark
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Dromona Gate

Home to Ireland's only Hindu Gothic gate lodge from circa 1830 and also of the Battle of Affane in 1565, where the last private battle in Ireland took place between the Earls of Desmond and Ormond, Peter O'Connor tells us more about this fascinating heritage site.
Audio
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BW Dromana Gate
Information
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The Greatorex

Valentine Greatrakes (14 February 1628 - 28 November 1683), also known as 'Greatorex' or 'The Stroker', was an Irish faith healer who toured England in 1666, claiming to cure people by the laying on of hands. He hailed from this part of Waterford.
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BW Greatorex
Landmark
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Cappoquin

Cappoquin nestles at the foot of the Knockmealdown mountains in the Blackwater valley. West Waterford is one of the unspoilt areas of Ireland, with beautiful scenery, a variety of amenities and a range of activities for visitors and locals alike. The town itself is full of characters and character. Ensure you try the fresh bread in Barron's bakery.

http://www.cappoquin.org/
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BW Cappaquin
Water
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Cappoquin Bridge

Site of that most famous dogleg where the river suddenly decides to head a sharp south after going 90 miles east.
Audio
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BW Cappaquin bridge
Water
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The Henley of Ireland

See the 'Henley of Ireland' and the site of where the Lismore to London train used to cross the Blackwater - soon to be a walking trail.

http://www.blackwaterboating.ie/club.html
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BW Henley of Ireland
Hotel
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Glenribbeen

Peter O'Connor has been telling you about some of the amazing sites of the area. Why not stay at Peter's Glenribbeeen Eco Lodge and enjoy his many tales, his famous breakfast or sample archery, fiddle lessons, bat watching - the list is endless with this Renaissance Man!
Audio
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ED Glenribbeen
Landmark
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The Boyles of Lismore

Richard Boyle came to Ireland from England in 1588 with only twenty-seven pounds in capital and proceeded to amass an extraordinary fortune. After purchasing Lismore he made it his principal seat and transformed it into a magnificent residence with impressive gabled ranges each side of the courtyard. He also built a castellated outer wall and a gatehouse known as the Riding Gate. The principal apartments were decorated with fretwork plaster ceilings, tapestry hangings, embroidered silks and velvet. It was here in 1627 that Robert Boyle The Father of Modern Chemistry, the fourteenth of the Earl's fifteen children, was born. The castle descended to another Richard Boyle, 4th Earl of Cork & 3rd Earl of Burlington, who was a noted influence on Georgian architecture (and known in architectural histories as the Earl of Burlington).

Lismore featured in the Cromwellian wars when, in 1645, a force of Catholic confederacy commanded by Lord Castlehaven sacked the town and Castle. Some restoration was carried out by Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork (1612-1698) to make it habitable again but neither he nor his successors lived at Lismore.

The castle (along with other Boyle properties - Chiswick House, Burlington House, Bolton Abbey and Londesborough Hall) was acquired by the Cavendish family in 1753 when the daughter and heiress of the 4th Earl of Cork, Lady Charlotte Boyle (1731-1754) married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, a future Prime Minister of Great Britain & Ireland. Their son, the 5th Duke (1748-1811) carried out improvements at Lismore, notably the bridge across the river Blackwater in 1775 designed by Cork-born architect Thomas Ivory.
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Boyles
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