Ireland is well known for its walks. No matter where you are in the country, it's likely that you are near a marked way of some sort. County Offaly is filled with such walks. The Offaly Way, the Slieve Bloom Way and half a dozen Looped Walks weave across and through the county.
To combat our first-day jet lag, our hostess at Ardmore House B&B recommended a walk that wouldn't be too strenuous for the kids, but would get us moving and give us the energy to get through the day and adjust to Ireland time a bit easier.
Hiking the Nature trail Loop from Cadamstown
We very easily found the trail head just off R421 and parked. Deciding that we may not do the entire 7km trail, and on the advice that the most beautiful part of the trail was the end, we decided to follow the trail backward.
Following the map and written directions, we strolled down a short farm lane and into their pasture of cows. Most of the cows just lifted their heads and looked at us, though a few were a bit more wary and moved away. About 1 km into the field my girls experienced their first wooden stile, steps built over the fence. They were curious as to why people didn't just use the nearby gate and accepted the answer that not everyone was responsible enough to close it correctly and the farmer didn't want to take the chance of his cows escaping.
Just down the hill we entered into a beautifully green forest and began following the Silver River.
Time seemed to pause as we explored this magnificent faerie land which seemed to belong only to us. Everything around us seemed to pulse with life… The river spoke to us in a soft gurgle, calling us down to her crystal clear water to see the sparkling rocks at the shore line. Here my girls were delighted to find vibrantly colored snails clinging to rocks and spent long minutes watching their antennae twitch before slowly reaching out to touch them only to have their heads disappear inside the shells.
Soft moss climbed up rock walls, losing itself into a fertile riot of vines, ivy and huge ferns which created a verdant canopy before tumbling back to the ground.
Continuing our way along the trail we noticed markers for the “blue way” and the “Slieve Bloom Way” overlapping our “green way”. We crossed Purcell's Brook, saw a herd of deer atop a hill less than a mile away, passed a picturesque waterfall, and strode up a steep forestry track. Doing our best to follow our own trail- backwards- I thought we were doing quite well. Until we came to a forest. The path was clear, and marked with the now familiar “yellow walking man” of the Offaly Way, but our “green way” marker was no where in sight. Knowing that part of our path overlapped the Offlay Way, we entered the forest.
The forest could have come straight from the tale of Snow White. Old trees stretched tall, blotting out the sky, while younger trees, planted in perfect rows, seemed to notice our presence, their bare limbs seeming almost to be ready to grab us if we took a wrong step. As we made our way through this enchanted area we found patches blanketed with shamrocks, a small ruin and even a forgotten piece of equipment wedged into a stone and forgotten. Was it possibly used for planting the rows of trees?
As we exited the forest we saw the familiar “yellow walking man” of the Offaly Way and continued on, still following what we thought was our path.
About a mile on I was forced to admit that we had lost the path we should have been on. And while we weren't exactly lost, we weren't where we needed to be.
So, turning back, we again entered the forest, now growing dark with the setting sun. We hurried through, passing the beds of shamrocks and trying not to notice how the low tree branches seemed to be trying to catch us as we strode briskly through, hoping to be in a friendlier environment before the sun dipped below the horizon.
Breathing easier as we exited the forest, we traced our steps back the way we had come. As we walked I watched, carefully, to see where we had missed a sign or a path that marked our turn. I never did find it.
Had time and energy allowed, I would have followed the Cadamstown Nature Trail Loop correctly, passing the ruins of St. Lugna’s monastery and the abandoned Letter House. Unfortunately that will have to wait for a return trip.