Sunday 22 September 2019

Weekend Walk: Try the Knight's Walk in Limerick - it takes just over an hour

The 4km Knight's Walk rises gently from Glin to views of the Shannon Estuary... and it takes just over an hour.

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Did you know the Shannon Estuary lies along the Wild Atlantic Way?

That's just one of the surprises to unpack along this short, sweet, yet oddly aristocratic little trail slinking through Glin Castle estate in Co Limerick.

There are several heritage routes around here, but the 4km Knight's Trail should be first on your list - setting off from the local heritage centre, St. Paul's Church, which still stands spookily on a hill by the castle gate lodge.

Following the red arrows (the trail is really well-maintained throughout) to skirt around the church's surrounding wall, you quickly come to a colourful little Fairy Garden... in fact, a walk with toddlers or younger kids could end right here.

From there, push through the first of several gates stiles to cross the Race Field, a gentle hump that leads through the enchanting Rook Hall Wood to Lizzy Highe and a Beech Walk up to to the wooden viewing platform on Tullyglass Hill.

It's a sweet pay-off for such a short stretch of the legs.

Pól Ó Conghaile on the Knight’s Walk, Co Limerick
Pól Ó Conghaile on the Knight’s Walk, Co Limerick

To the west you can see plumes of smoke puffing from Moneypoint power station, perhaps even the ferry crossing between Tarbert and Killimer.

To the east, the vista follows the Shannon back towards Limerick, over an undulating patchwork of farmland fields and dividing hedgerows.

Following the loop, continue through Furry Hill Wood back towards the trailhead. I passed a couple of freshly dug burrows here - the pile of fresh muck from one was so big I had to lift my leg to get over it. Was it a badger's set?

So, why the 'Knight's' walk?

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It's named for Desmond John Villiers FitzGerald, the 29th Knight of Glin, who granted permission for trails to be opened through the estate.

The FitzGeralds have serious pedigree - the 'Knight of Glin' is an ancient Irish noble title that was handed down by chiftains, and the family can trace its ancestors back to 1169, when they first arrived in Ireland from Wales.

The title passed away with the 29th Knight when he died in 2011, but the family still owns the estate - Catherine FitzGerald is married to actor Dominic West (whose roles have ranged from Oliver Cromwell to Jimmy McNulty in The Wire).

Theirs isn't the only stardust sprinkled about the place. With 15 bedrooms, the castle (strictly-speaking, a Georgian house) is available for private hire, and this Christmas reportedly hosted Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn.

Limerick journalist Laura Enright tipped me off to her stay, during which the couple apparently followed the Knight's Walk and enjoyed a drink at O'Shaughnessy's old-school pub in the village... a neat Limerick layover.

The castle's price tag may beyond the reach of walkers like me. But a pint or cuppa in the village of Glin is an affordable reward...

Level: Easy (buggies will be tricky with the gates, though).

Distance: 4km

More info: glin.ie; limerick.ie; wildatlanticway.com.

NB: Your Walking Checklist

Safety comes first on a walk, no matter how easy. Check the weather, leave word of where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and pack smart.

A fully charged phone, water and snacks, layers of appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear are essential for all winter walks. Bring a bag for rubbish, and pop a pair of clean shoes and socks in the boot for afterwards. You can thank us later!

Responsible walkers always respect private property.

See irishtrails.ie for more great walks.

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