The Galty Mountains: Hill walkers’ Heaven
The Galtys are redeemed, no longer associated with 2 women in jeans and trainers with Tesco carriers who appeared in the mist, confused, cold and utterly lost, hypothermic cases for the local Mountain Rescue. Nor of smelly, noisy quad bikes carving up the bog. And foul weather. No, in years to come I shall look back on the halcyon days of my hill walking career and recall the Galtys with fondness. These mountains are a hill walkers’ heaven.
In sunny, big skies weather, we followed the Blackrock River, enjoying the expansive views of sheep farming country with its ageless lichen covered old red sandstone walls. The shadows of big clouds gambolled across the hillside as we scaled the sheep nibbled heather and bilberry slopes of Knockaterriff. We then headed for Knockaterriff Beg, taking shelter from the wind behind a cairn to light our stove for tea. A hare thundered by at close range. Seeing us, it stopped momentarily then bounded off across the bog, weaving its way through the mazy peat hags below, its camouflage temporarily surrendered.
We then followed a thin thread of climbers steeply up Temple Hill to feast our eyes on 360 degree views, including the Knockmealdowns, Comeraghs and Galtymore reigning supreme on the NE horizon like a Mayan temple. Descending Temple Hill, we were spotted by Jim Holmes, fellow MVer and his companion, with whom we exchanged some great hill-walking banter before we set out for the grassy slope of Lyracappul.
They came from nowhere, hordes of them brandishing sticks and shouting loudly: jovial red-faced hill walkers. An army of them, pouring down Lyracappul as in a scene from ‘Zulu’. They were doing the Galtees Challenge Walk, all lung-bursting, thigh crunching 32 kms of it. I quietly removed my hat as they sped past, ready to engage in their final battle with Temple Hill. Gaining Lyracappul, we were treated to the spectacle of scores of common swifts cavorting and reeling on the thermals rising from below, whooshing overhead and catching insects on the wing. It was unbridled joy to see these summer visitors to our shores performing such aerial acrobatics.
Bagging Carrignabinnia and Slievecushnabinnia we continued on to see Lough Curra nestled in its rocky amphitheatre below Galtymore. There the cloud suddenly descended, jealously stealing the view of the mountain and its glittering lake. We returned across the ridge, the mist billowing like smoke, descending to the col below Monabrack, where it lifted. From its summit we could see the cloud, backlit by the fading sun, churning over the ridge and jigsaw puzzle of ancient peat cuttings, in a kaleidoscopic display.
A long descent over heather interspersed with bog brought us to a track leading to our car. We ended our climb with a wild camp in a nearby beech wood, lighting a fire to deter hordes of biting insects. Night fell softy, the wind whispering gently through the trees, while in the darkness a pair of long eared owls cried out to each other.