From the Gap Car Park ( Nire (S27684 12842)
) we followed the path signposted for the Nire Lakes crossing the Nire in clear spate after the recent snow, traces of which adhered to the cliffs surrounding the northern Sgilloge Lough making it appear like a terraced amphitheatre. The ground rose steeply and was absolutely sodden and wobbly to walk on for several hundred metres as we continued upwards to the melody of a skylark and plaintive cries of newborn lambs before patches of ice appeared making the turf firmer to walk on. Bog then gave way to heather interspersed with large conglomerate boulders on the steep lip of the corrie (height 501m). Sunlight danced on the surface of its inky water as we traversed the western shoreline past the ruins of a possible booley, admiring the waterfall roaring away and throwing up clouds of mist in the SE corner of the corrie. We located a gully which we climbed to take us onto the Comeragh Plateau some 730m above (described separately).
From here, the views north of the snow-capped Knockmealdown and Galty Mountains, the twin Sgilloge Loughs below and the spiky ridge of Knockanaffrin to the east were magnificent. Traversing a path eastwards along the edge of the cliffs we located the top of the waterfall (B (S300 112)
) marked by shimmering rainbows and the phenomenon, sean bhean ag caitheamh tobac. The spray blown back along the stream created strange ice encrustations resembling salt formations that shone like jewels from the surrounding cliffs, while nearby stood a frigid miniature ice-army seemingly guarding the old woman who was puffing her pipe somewhere below. I dared not look back as we left lest I was turned to a pillar of salt! Passing the gully we had climbed we headed above Curraghduff and ascended Coumfea North Top past frozen peat hags with icicles like wax candles dripping from them. From here we headed to the somewhat featureless summit of Coumfea (C (S295 097)
) across peat surrounded by patches of pink and white gravel enjoying views of Dungarvan Bay to the south and one or two other walkers in the distance.
We descended Coumfea traversing the path round the top of Coumalocha. The views down rocky gullies that looked climbable to the hummocky ground below set with deep blue loughs contrasting with verdant moss and russets of bracken and heather were splendid. Coumfea West Top with its minute pile of stones serving as a cairn was our next objective before we headed NW down the gentle slopes of Lyre Mountain before striking NE past the ruins of a former cottage, wondering what human dramas had once been played out under its roof. We carefully crossed a rushing tributary of the Nire at D (S276 117)
and followed a sheep path above it towards a gate leading onto a track that passed a deserted farm. Crossing the river via a makeshift bridge we followed this track up to the surfaced road some 500m from the car park, arriving there 6.5 hours and 14km later. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/81/comment/4588/