On the Blueway to Tipperary: nature and history on Ireland’s new kayaking routes | Cycling holidays

On a small weir by the riverbank, a heron stands immobile. I really feel a quiet reverence as I glide previous in my kayak, propelled by the fast-moving River Suir. It’s a shiny morning and I’m getting a nature repair, kayaking from Clonmel to the village of Kilsheelan in County Tipperary.

I’m exploring a stretch of the Suir Blueway Tipperary – which runs between Cahir and Carrick-on-Suir – with a 53km paddling path and a 21km strolling and biking path alongside the river between Carrick and Clonmel. It’s considered one of three Irish Blueways that opened earlier this 12 months. The others are the Lough Derg Blueway (additionally partly in Tipperary) and the Boyne Blueway in County Meath.

Greenways – traffic-free paths, often constructed on disused railway traces or towpaths – have develop into fashionable in Eire in recent times for strolling and biking. A Blueway introduces the ingredient of water, encouraging using rivers, canals, lakes and coasts for actions similar to kayaking and paddleboarding, whereas partaking with nature and heritage.

There’s loads of each on the River Suir. The banks are lined with a riot of bushes, the branches of willows attain all the way down to the water and there’s birdsong throughout. We see swifts, and my kayaking information, Philip McCormack, explains how sand martins make their nests within the river’s mud banks. He tells me individuals typically see kingfishers right here for the primary time.

On a sunny day, the bridge over the river at Carrick-on-Suir Town, County Tipperary, Munster, Republic of Ireland.
Bridge over the river Suir at Carrick-on-Suir. {Photograph}: Alamy

Three mallards drift alongside as if escorting us. Later we’re accompanied by mute swans, which present the ability of their wings as they slowly – and noisily – take off over the water simply forward of us. We go extra gray herons; otters are sometimes seen right here too. I hadn’t anticipated the river to be so busy with life.

“It’s good to kayak right here for the tranquillity, seeing all the things from a distinct angle, on the stage of the water,” says Philip. “Nature is true in entrance of you. It’s the birdlife and the animals and an opportunity to de-stress. You possibly can simply sit there and let the river take you alongside and benefit from the views.”

This calm stretch is ideal for inexperienced kayakers. After three hours of relaxed paddling, we exit the water underneath one of many three arches of an outdated stone bridge at Kilsheelan village, and Philip tells me in regards to the Butlers, a strong Anglo-Norman household who owned land within the space for lots of of years.

Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir, 10 minutes by bus from Kilsheelan, was the house of the Butlers from 1309. It had a strategic location on the river. The Tudor manor was added in 1565 by Thomas “Black Tom” Butler, tenth Earl of Ormond and a cousin (and reputed lover) of Elizabeth I. The home nonetheless has a lot of the unique ornamental stucco plasterwork from the 1500s, so I drop in right here for a tour earlier than biking the Blueway path again to Clonmel (about two hours).

River Suir flowing through the countryside in County Tipperary, Irealdn.
River Suir flowing via the countryside. {Photograph}: Andrzej Bartyzel/Alamy

The towpath alongside the river dates from the seventeenth century. Earlier than roads, the river was the primary type of transport, and horses drew yawls – shallow barges as much as 18 metres lengthy – alongside the waterway, taking items from the tanneries, distilleries, mills and bakeries on Clonmel’s quay to Carrick-on-Suir after which to the port at Waterford, to journey to the broader world by sea.

Native information present that in 1835, there have been 93 boats using 200 males alongside this stretch of river. Now, its banks give walkers and cyclists entry to a peaceable world of nature. The trail is lined with woodlands – beech, ash, elder and elm bushes stuffed with singing birds. In summer time there are all types of wildflowers; in autumn it’s a blaze of purple and gold.

I cycle previous fishing huts with ladders main down into the river, every belonging to a distinct fishing membership. In the course of the season, fishers in waders stand in the course of the river within the shallow, clear water. They arrive right here for wild salmon and brown trout – fishing is finished on a catch-and-release foundation.

I see stone boathouses, church buildings and, throughout the river, spy Castle Gurteen de La Poer, an Elizabethan manor now house to Austrian-born artist Gottfried Helnwein, and the neat rows of apple bushes of the Bulmers (Magners) orchards. The corporate was based on this lush land in 1935 and grows 17 styles of apples over 101 hectares (250 acres) and on native farms to make its cider. The title Clonmel comes from the Irish cluain meala – meadow of honey.

Within the distance are the Comeragh mountains on the County Waterford aspect of the river, and Slievenamon (from the Irish, Sliabh na mBan – mountain of the ladies) on the opposite. Kilsheelan Bridge is an effective halfway cease, so I drop into Maher’s foodstore for refreshments. A restaurant has lately been opened, prepared for the brand new Blueway guests. Its proprietor, Miriam Maher, says the Blueway is a superb amenity for locals and guests.

Cahir Castle and the River Suir, Cahir, County Tipperary, Republic of Ireland.
Cahir Citadel. {Photograph}: Ian Dagnall/Alamy

The medieval city of Clonmel makes a pleasing base for exploring the river extra, so I keep over and wander its fairly streets. Phil Carrolls, a standard pub with muted lighting and cosy nooks and crannies stuffed with memorabilia, is an effective place for a drink. The subsequent day on the Tipperary Museum of Hidden History I be taught in regards to the 1650 Siege of Clonmel by Oliver Cromwell’s military, plus tales of native historical past and folklore, and the River Suir’s significance as a commerce route.

Different websites value visiting on the route embrace Cahir Castle additional west, which dates from the thirteenth century and was one other Butler household stronghold. It’s nonetheless nicely preserved, with unique towers and a portcullis and entice, and there are guided excursions. Simply upriver, Swiss Cottage is a rose-covered decorative thatched cottage constructed within the nineteenth century by Richard Butler for the gentry to spend leisurely summer time days in. There are excursions of the restored inside and forest and river walks exterior.

Connecting standout cultural sights, whereas winding via the most effective of the countryside and riverside settlements, this Blueway presents a laid-back approach of exploring. There’s are plans to finally join the Suir Blueway Tipperary to the Waterford Greenway and the South East Greenway (at present underneath building) – and a potential future hyperlink from Cahir to Cashel. This river as soon as performed an necessary function connecting locations like Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel with the broader world, and it’s good to suppose that this historic waterway has a future of recent hyperlinks and connections to proceed its fascinating story.

The journey was supplied by Tipperary Tourism and Blueway Bike Hire. Three-hour guided kayaking journeys price €50pp with Pure Adventure (out of season journeys on request, relying on availability); bike rent half day €15 and full day €20 with Blueway Bike Rent. For maps and pattern Blueway itineraries go to tipperary.com

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