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Durrow, County Laois, Ireland

Dunmore Loop Guide

A fine walk through forest and over river in the heart of Ireland.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 9.0 miles / 14.5 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: The Dunmore Loop is a shorter version of the Leafy Loop walk which follow the same route until a divergence just before Clonageera House on the other side of the village. You get to see many of the fine sights along the way without the trek up the heartbreaking stretch known as the Ballagh!

This walk is well signposted with a variety of posts along the way. Bright green arrows indicate the signs for the Dunmore Loop and have been placed with thought and care by people who are keen to keep you on the right path at all times.


Tips: A sturdy pair of boots and raingear are recommended for this walk which is on grass and soft ground a lot of the time. Please observe the country code of closing all gates and taking your litter home. Bring some water to keep you healthy and binoculars to enjoy the abundance of fauna along the way.

Unfortunately, dogs are forbidden on the Dunmore looped walk. Our access to farmlands has been negotiated with land owners strictly on this basis. Even dogs on a leash can cause problems (for the walkers more than the animals) where livestock aren’t used to them, and while much of the walk is in woodland some stretches pass through farmland where horses, cattle and sheep are grazed and need to be kept free of dogs.

Be aware of catching Lyme Disease on the walk from our link on the right called Tick Talk Ireland.

PLEASE NOTE: each guide needs to be downloaded separately in order to work offline with the EveryTrail Pro app. Best to download only the ones you are likely to be using during your stay. If downloading when at Castle Durrow, make the most of the foyer area WiFi and download your chosen tour/s once you've reviewed the material. All guides are subject to acceptance of the navigatour™ Licence Agreement, the link of which is on the right hand column.

Points of Interest

Junction
map

Starting point of guide

Half way up lane to Castle Durrow, you'll see the signpost for the start of both the Leafy Loop and the Dunmore Loop walks. Go through the wooden gate and stroll down the lane to start either walk in earnest.
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A welcome from the rural recreation officer
Water
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Erkina stroll

The walk will take you down the gentle slope and left by the Erkina river. Fuller details of what can be seen here can be enjoyed on the shortest of the Durrow Guides walks, being the Castle Durrow Grounds Guide.

For now, you're embarking on something a lot more challenging, but rewarding - the 13.2 mile/21 kilometre Leafy Loop walk. It tallies with the path of the 10 mile/16 kilometre Dunmore Loop, but takes in the climb up the Ballagh to Tubberboe then down to Castledurorw demesne by the Bishop's Tree and back along the Erkina. At a pace, it can be done in 5.5 hours, but it should be enjoyed and plenty of stops to enjoy the flora, the fauna and the history of the place should be factored in.

Carry on along the river path - it is along here that some fine fishing can be done. Ask in Lawlor's shop in Durrow for details on angling licences. The local fishing club was founded in 1968 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. The rivers Erkina and Nore flow though the parish along with rivlets Goul and Gully. Over 90% of waters within the parish are controlled by the club. Visit http://www.durrowcullohillanglers.com/ for details on permits.

There's also a canoeing club that uses this river - ask Bob in Bob's Bar or Woodenbridge Paddlers Club for more details. Better still, hear about them on the audio piece.
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Woodenbridge paddlers
Water
map

Crossing the Erkina

You'll have a chance to stretch your legs before you need to cross over at the metal bridge. The Erkina is a river that is worth taking some time to enjoy or indeed to fish from here.

The Erkina River is the largest of the Nore river tributaries in South Laois and has it’s source at a point close to where Counties Laois, Tipperary and Kilkenny meet. It’s journey takes it past Templequain bridge and Clarney Hall bridge. At 1km west of Rathdowney the Quinn river joins the Erkina. This waterway serviced the old malt mill at Donaghmore near the current Donaghmore Agriculture and Famine Museum (formerly Donaghmore Workhouse). From Coneyburrow bridge at Rathdowney the Erkina makes it’s way past Rathdowney 18 Hole Golf Course and passes under Coolkerry bridge, Carrig bridge and Boston bridge.

The river then becomes slow moving as it approaches the wooden bridge. This bridge, as it’s name suggests, is made of wood and is one of a small number in Ireland carrying regular road traffic. The river then traverses an area known as the “Curragh”. This area is a bird-watchers paradise as many species of migrating birds flock here each winter. This was illustrated in Don Conroy and Jim Wilson’s book “Bird Life in Ireland”. The river then makes its way through the alluvial woodlands of Bishopswood and Knockanoran before entering the grounds of beautiful Castle Durrow.

After passing the ruins of Merciers Mill 1km east of Durrow the Erkina river has it’s confluence with the Nore river - we'll be passing by that point later on.

Song
Memory, hither come,
And tune your merry notes:
And, while upon the wind
Your music floats,
I’ll pore upon the stream
Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as the pass
Within the watery glass.

- William Blake
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Steel bridge
Information
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Information board

Not only is this looped walk well signposted, it also has noticeboards along the way to tell you what to look out for in terms of flora and fauna.

The ancient alluvial woodland site of Durrow area has a preponderance of native tree species. While the ash tree is certainly in abundance, also look out for alder – grey and Italian, sycamore, horse-chestnut, lime, yew, winch elm, willow, birch and pendunculate oak as well as hazel and holly.
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Purging buckthorn
Viewpoint
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The castle and obelisk

In what seems like no time, you'll see for yourself how far you've walked form the castle which can be seen in the distance looking every part the opulent country retreat. In front of it, you should be able to see the obelisk which stands some eighteen feet high on a hill.

On the audio, hear Sean Conroy tell you his take on the spooky White Lady obelisk - not for the faint hearted...
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The White Lady
Junction
map

Swan Road turnoff

You'll come to the R434 Swan Road here. Cross the road, turn left and take the next right some 100 metres on.

On the audio piece, Ann Lanigan tells of the early morning walkers out to hear the dawn chorus.
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Dawn chorus
Junction
map

Off the main road

Take this right to carry on to the Dunmore demense.
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Spindle 1
Animals/Wildlife
map

Into the wild

Climb over this gate to get yourself back onto softer ground - straight away you'll be transformed to a different place.

Of the shrubs you can expect to see along the loop, look out for guelder rose, elder, and whitethorn, blackthorn and spindle with the hawthorn being the most common. Herbaceous woodland plants on the loop include honeysuckle, ivy, enchanters nightshade and make fern. Pride of place goes to the rare purging buckthorn. In the summertime, you’ll see lots of fragrant meadowsweet along the riverbank.In the river itself you’ll find salmon, trout and pike.

Most interestingly of all, you’ll also find the endangered pearl mussel, Margaritifera Durrowvensis, more of which you'll hear in a later audio piece. For now, hear about the Dunmore estate on the audio piece.
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Dunmore estate
Parking
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Dunmore forest car park

Take note of the car park here if wishing to do this section of the walk again.

Hear from Ann and Sean as they tell us about the well loved family walk on this section of the Dunmore estate.
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Dunmore family loop
Landmark
map

The Big House

Dunmore House was a three storey gable ended house founded early in the 18th century by a gentleman named Drysdale. It was subsequently occupied by Dr. Maurice, Protestant Bishop of Ossory, who died here in 1756, and lies buried in Durrow. Dr. Maurice was succeeded by his relative Captain (afterwards Sir) Robert Staples, ancestor of the last proprietors. Nearly opposite Dunmore House, on the left bank of the Nore, is the ancient churchyard of Rathkilkeedy.

It's a sorry sight from its former glory with only a boarded up entrance to one of the cellars and some eery trees. To this day, stories are told of how the deceased members of the Staples family were all buried at midnight, the reason for which your guess is as good as ours. Hear more on our audio piece. Also hear about the demise of the Big House as such houses were known in rural Ireland.
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Staples' funerals
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The Big House
Water
map

Nore river

You're now at the famous Nore river - the strange apparatus keeps vital data on the river for the local authority. Resist the temptation to try and swing across! The Nore river is one of the finest rivers in the Irish Midlands. It has it’s source in the Devil’s Bit Mountain, in northern Tipperary county. The river crosses the Laois County line, 3km west of Borris-in-Ossory and continues it’s journey by the basin at Coolrain and Crannagh Bridge. At Castletown bridge it crosses the weir which serviced the old corn mill still standing at this site.

It continues through Mountrath Golf Course, Jeston’s Bridge, Newbridge all before entering “The Mash”. This location is a haven for wild birds and is close to the village of Shanahoe. From there it flows by Poorman’s bridge and Waterloo bridge before traversing the famous De Vesci Estate. It’s journey then takes it past Watercastle bridge, Dunmore bridge and the beautiful countryside around Durrow.

After passing the Tallyho bridge, the New York rapids and the remains of the Assmills, the river enters Kilkenny county moving by the old mill and broken weir at Ballyragget. It then continues by Threecastles before meandering through the Marble city of Kilkenny.

The river Nore meets the river Barrow northwest of the town of New Ross, Wexford county. At Cheekpoint they join forces with the River Suir to form the Three Sisters and continue their journey to the sea at Hook Head.
Audio
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Fish in the river
Water
map

Divergence of the Gully and Nore rivers

Having found it’s source from the many springs of Cuddagh Bog, the Gully river flows through more fertile land as it passes Gortnaclea Castle west of the village of Shanahoe. It then continues by Derrylahan bridge, Moyne Demesne and links up with the Nore river at Dunmore Demesne and Woodlands. A well known place to fish.
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Wildlife by the river
Water
map

Erkina joins in

As mentioned earlier, the Erkina river finally joins the Nore at this point. If paddling with the Woodenbridge Paddlers canoe club, this is a particularly enjoyable part of the journey.

In the audio piece, we hear from Sean Conroy about the pearl mussel that is unique to Durrow, the Marguretifora Durrowvensus pearl mussel no less. A great story well told - thanks Sean.
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Pearl Mussel
Building
map

Knockatrina House

As you walk along the Nore river, you'll see a big house with even bigger chimney stacks on a hill to your right..

On March 25th 1946, twelve months prior to the Rt. Hon. Frances Mary White's death, Knockatrina House and farm were purchased by Miss Mary Mooney. This magnificent nineteenth century house, residence of Robert Thomas Flower, Eight Viscount Ashbrook for almost fifty years, had by now succumbed to the ravages of time and to the family's changing fortunes. Except for the fact that the interior needed some refurbishing, the building was structurally sound. Perched on a hill just outside the town, fronting the Ballyragget Road to the south, and overlooking the river Nore to the east, its stately walls and tall chimney stacks are still admired by tourists today. The circumstances which lead to its demolition commenced when Ernest Mercier's wife, Amy, died in 1954.

Amy bequeathed her estate, which included Ormsby House, her Tinvier farm and other small holdings to her life-long companion Miss Mary Mooney. In the same year, Miss Mooney employed a steward to manage her affairs and this he did, until Miss Mooney's death on March 16th 1968. By this time, Tinvier had been disposed of, Knockatrina House had been reduced to ruins and the farm sold. In the late Spring of 1958, a county Clare demolition firm were given the contract of removing the roof and stripping the interior of this house, and during the wet summer of that year, its slates, lead flashing, pitchpine roof timbers, guttering, interior woodwork and fittings were laid out against the backdrop of its towering walls and sold by public auction.
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Knockatrina house
Water
map

Swans and on to Kilkenny

With the Gully and Erkina river added to its mass, the Nore starts to grow from here on. If you're lucky enough to get as far as Jerpoint Abbey in County Kilkenny, you'll hardly recognise the full flowing giant of a river. For now, look out for the swans along this section - if canoeing with the Woodenbridge paddlers, stay close to your guide!
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Swans on the river
Viewpoint
map

Woodland wonderland

The woodland has developed fen peat and the soil is base-rich and moist. There is an abundance of native tree species. The dominant native tree is ash but many other natives are found here including birch, pedunculate oak, alder and willow with some holly and hazel in the understorey. Among the shrubs the most common is hawthorn, with other species including spindle, blackthorn and guelder rose. A wide array of herbaceous woodland plants can be found such as enchanters nightshade, male fern, honeysuckle and ivy.

Animals you might spot along the way are Irish hares, badgers, red squirrels, pine martens, otters, stoats, hedgehog, smooth newt, frogs and bats. The loop has many birds to see and hear: treecreepers, goldcrests, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, sparrowhawks, widgeon, swans and kingfisher.
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Derry wood
Information
map

Durrow brick memorial

The Durrow Brick Company was established in 1890, and flourished for a time until its eventual demise and the dismantling of the works at Attanagh in 1922. This small memorial with genuine Durrow brick is a small testament to their once great status. Perhaps more fittingly, there are scores of buildings around Ireland and Dublin in particular that still stand having been built with Durrow brick.
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Durrow brick
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Nearly Kilkenny
Junction
map

Swing

Take time out from the walk to enjoy swinging from this homemade swing. It's great fun, if your weight can take it! If you had been in two minds whether to do the Leafy Loop walk, now is a good time to ask yourself are you ready fro another 6 kms with a big hill up the Ballagh in the next 300 metres?

After this swing you'll be making your way through the narrow path with big hedges on either side. When you get to the road, you'll be turning right to continue the Dunmore loop that takes you downhill and into Durrow village.

The more energetic will be turning left for the final stretch of the Leafy Loop walk.

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Autumnal smells
Junction
map

Turn right for Dunmore Loop walk

Well done - you're on the home straight. Turn right here to walk downhill and back into Durrow. When you get to the bottom of the hill, you'll be at aT-junction - turn left and you'll be back in Durrow proper. We hope you have enjoyed the Dunmore Looped walk and if so, please feel free to tell your friends of its many sights and sounds.
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Clonageara House
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist

Dunmore Loop Guide Map


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