Ireland began on two separate continents: 450 million years ago the northwest was in Laurentia, and the southeast lay in Gondwana the other side of the Iapetus Ocean. This ocean closed up, to squish the land masses into the super-continent of Euramerica, with mountain building along the joint or "Iapetus suture". The Slieve Bloom mountains were among those so formed, with a base of Silurian mudstone from the ocean floor, overlain by Devonian or "Old Red" sandstone; later came limestones. They initially towered over 3500 m, but sand- and mudstones erode much faster than granite or gneiss. They're now some 400-500 m, hikes not mountain climbs, but rising prominently from the lowlands. The highest are Arderin (527 m) at the southwest end of the range and Baunreaghcong (511 m) northeast. The ridge forms a natural boundary between Counties Offaly and Laois, with a corner in Tipperary near Roscrea.
The terrain is too steep for farming so the slopes are forested with commercial conifers, with lanes for truck access that are firm going but with views closed in by the trees. The upper reaches are a nature reserve open heath and blanket bog. The Slieve Bloom Way is a 70 km long distance walking trail which usually takes three-day to walk. There is also a wide variety of shorter looped walking trails from each of the trail heads in the Slieve Blooms as well asa variety of mountain biking trails at Kinnitty and Baunreagh. The mountains aren't a designated "park" but Slieve Bloom is the umbrella tourist promotion for this area.
- 1 Kinnitty is the main west-side base: it is the trail head for the Slieve Bloom Mountain Biking trails and the Slieve Bloom way. It has accommodation, places to eat, pubs, mountain bike hire and and, should you seek one, a pyramid.
- 2 Cadamstown nearby lacks accommodation but is the Start of the Offaly Way and an eco walking trail along the Silver river.
- 3 Mountmellick has a few visitor amenities and is near the north trailheads. .
- 4 Mountrath is the main approach from the southeast.
- 5 Portlaoise is a workaday place but as the county town has lots of accommodation.
- 6 Birr is a Georgian town with its own castle.
Get in edit
By road from Dublin follow N7 / M7 towards Portlaoise: reckon an hour, though the first section out of the city hasn't been upgraded to motorway. For north and west slopes, leave at Exit 15 at Emo and take R422 for Mountmellick and Kinnitty. For south slopes, stay on M7 to Exit 18 then follow R445 into Mountrath.
The trails start from above those villages.
Get around edit
You need wheels to reach some of the trailheads. Public transport. Trains or bus to Portlaoise. A new bus route Route 823 travels 5 times daily between Portlaoise and Birr and stops at Clonaslee Cadamstown and Kinnitty.
The ten highest peaks, from southwest to northeast, are:
- 1 Garraunbaun 406 m / 1332 ft
- 2 Farbreague 430 m / 1411 ft
- 3 Arderin at 527 m / 1729 ft is the highest
- A narrow public lane crosses the range through Glendine Gap between Arderin and Barcam, giving easy access to both.
- 1 Glenbarrow walks include a 4.5 km walk along the River Barrow taking in the Glenbarrow Waterfall and the 10.5 km Old Mill Loop.
- Kinnitty walks include a 4.5 km loop through Kinnitty forest passing Kinnitty Castle and the 6.7km Glinsk Castle loop and the 11k Glenregan Loop
- Clonaslee Looped walks include 6 km Ricket's Rock Loop,11.7km Glendineoregan Loop Walk
- Cadamstown walks include the 7km Silver River Eco trail, Paul's Lane Loop and the 11km Giant's Grave loop.
Loops are colour coded. Yellow is the long distance Slieve Bloom Way. Looped walks at each trail head are colour coded green shortest loop easy, blue medium, red longest most difficult.
Places to eat can be found at the trailheads at Glenbarrow, Clonaslee and Kinnitty village. There is also a variety of places to stay and some great pubs in Kinnitty, Clonaslee and Mountrath.
Wild camping is tolerated - the upper reaches of Glenregan above Kinnitty and The Cones above Glenbarrow. More information can be had from Coillte. The Leave no trace principles apply and ou may not light fires.
Go next edit
Near the east coast rise the Wicklow mountains, of similar height, and with a long-distance trail the Wicklow Way.