THE main entrance to Glengarra Woods, which lies in the shadow of the Galtee Mountains, recently reopened after being shut to the public for two years.
At this time of the year, the forest, which is a mix of conifer and deciduous trees, is awash with pink, red and purple blossoms, thanks to an abundance of rhododendrons that are lovely to look at despite their invasive species status.
The Burncourt River flows through the forest which is full of signposted trails and acts as a gateway to the mountains for hillwalkers. For me, Glengarra really is heaven on earth!
Memories made in Glengarra Woods
During my childhood, Glengarra in Co Tipperary was a favourite Sunday drive spot for my family and I can still remember begging to be carried by my father – something I’m no stranger to now as a mother.
As an adult, who loves fast walks, I would often go to Glengarra with my sisters, finding routes that would make the walk longer and harder and always finishing a loop with my nerve ends tingling.
There is something about the place that encourages positive thoughts and lively banter – and we still try and fit an occasional sisters’ walk in when schedules allow.
Now, I also take Ava (10) and Becca (8) to Glengarra and go exploring in the forest, less intent on breaking a sweat and more keen on finding wild treasures like pine cones and butterflies!
Good news for Glengarra Woods
After a couple of iffy years, 2016 is turning out to be a good one for Glengarra.
Firstly, the main gate recently re-opened after being shut to the public to allow the local waterworks to be upgraded. It was something that needed to be done but it meant that the usual car park could not be accessed and the alternative walking route did not compare to the original one.
Secondly, the local community is ploughing ahead with efforts to restore the Mountain Lodge, originally a hunting lodge and part of the Shanbally Castle Estate, which had served as a youth hostel from 1937 until its closure in recent years.
Unfortunately, shortly after the An Óige hostel stopped operating, it was targeted by vandals, who smashed every single window.
By coincidence, we had taken the girls to Glengarra that weekend, and saw firsthand the dreadful handiwork of a few mindless thugs. I found myself struggling to explain to the girls, then around 7 and 4, why/how people would do something so mean.
The windows were then boarded up, but a few months later, criminals struck again, this time stealing the lead from the roof, and exposing the interior to the elements.
People who knew and loved Glengarra were left horrified and angry, fearing for the lodge’s future, but the thieves’ actions only galvanised the will of Burncourt Community Council which set up the Mountain Lodge Conservation Project, with plans to restore the building, and hopes that it could serve as a stop for hillwalkers, a seasonal café and a community venue.
I visited Glengarra last week on three occasions – to collect Ava from a Cub Scout hike, to show my parents the rhododendrons before they faded, and to bring the two girls on an adventure walk after school.
There are some new picnic benches in the car park, and both wooden bridges have been replaced, while extensive work has been done to the lodge to safeguard it from the weather.
I’ve passed on a love of Glengarra to our girls and it would be wonderful to think that visitors would eventually be able to stay and enjoy the lodge at some point in the future. For now, it’s just good to see the good work that’s being done.
A map to Glengarra and coordinates are available here. And here’s some information about nearby Mitchelstown Caves – also well worth a visit.
If you fancy reading more about my musings and antics then see my blog here.