A SPECTACULAR road and track walk overlooking the beauty of the Lower Estuary. Just over 6km mainly on surfaced road but with a section of over 1 km on grass track which can be soft after winter rain.
Start and finish at Faithlegg National School one kilometre from the village of Cheekpoint. From the Faithlegg School car park head downhill towards Waterford taking the first turn on the left with road sign indicating Coolbunnia at about 150 metres. This is the Hurthill lane. Continue along this very quiet and paved lane with houses left and right. 350 metres along this pleasant lane you come to a track leading off to the left. This leads down to the river. Keep this for another day and proceed along the Hurthill lane, which eventually gives way to a grassy track which rises gently to offer magnificent views of the Estuary down to Passage and Duncannon and beyond (photo). The rocky outcrop here is home to heather, furze and wild blueberry also known as bilberry or hurts, which gives the name to the place.
The track enters a mainly coniferous woodland area that has lovely birch and hazel on the margins. The track emerges on to the main Waterford Passage Road where you turn right on to a short section of occasionally busy road. At the next junction, just after the obvious farm, turn right and take the Green Road back to the main Waterford/Cheekpoint road where you turn right and continue on past Faithlegg Church and then uphill on the new footpath to your start point.
Start/Finish: Faithlegg National School; Distance: 6km; Time: About 2 hours; Suitability: Easy but with a long but gentle uphill section.
The Ramble takes you through three townlands – Coolbunnia, Parkswood and Kilcullen. Coolbunnia was carved out of the townland of Faithlegg post 1600s whereas Parkswood is found as a townland in the 1656 Cromwellian enumeration. Cúl Buinne in Irish translates as Ridge Back of the Stream, referring undoubtedly to the stream that runs down to the river. Parkswood some think refers to a family but Canon Power gives it as coming from Coill na Páirce, the Wood of the Field. Kilcullen takes its name from a small early medieval church dedicated to Culann, the site of which was identified by Canon Power in his ‘Placenaes of the Decies’.
Bilberry or Hurts. (Vaccinium Myrtillus, Irish Fraochán), Whortleberry is another name for this sweet fruit of late summer. It’s believed that the name of this area, Hurthill or Whorthill, is derived from the plant which is also found on the nearby Minaun especially in more open ground. The word is a modernization of the Old English ‘horte’ and dates to 1578. Bilberry is a low-growing shrubby plant that does well on acidic soils and hilly terrain. Its leaves are small, oval and shiny. It fruits between May into August. It is the subject of much superstition, one being that it should not be eaten after August 1, the feast of Lugh who appears in Lughnasa, the Irish for August for it bears the curse of Crom. The latter is celebrated in the West of Ireland on the last day of July, the Feast of Crom, same day the Croagh Patrick climb takes place.
The abandoned quays of Waterford Estuary. A hundred years ago the quays and slips of Waterford Estuary were an important part of the local economy. A track has existed over the Hurthill for at least 200 years as it appears as a clearly marked road in the first ordnance survey map of 1839. Local history suggests that it was the usual route between Passage and Cheekpoint.
Under the Hurthill track there were a number of quays, the remnants of which are still visible. Whereas Ryan’s Quay, which was still in use 20 years ago, can be accessed from Cheekpoint and is seen on the Barn Quay Ramble, there are other quays or vestiges which are best accessed from the Hurthill Lane. They carry the names of those who built or fished from them – Power’s, Meade’s. Enough of the Barn Quay remains to indicate its size and structure. The name is puzzling as almost all of the other ruined quays and slips have family names.
Slates from a nearby quarry were probably shipped from the quay and we know that an entrepreneur named Barron had land in the area in the early 1800s. Could he have leased the quarry from Cornelius Bolton who advertised it in a local paper in the early 1800s and built the quay? And so to the spelling of the name – Barn or Barron.
Ray McGrath’s weekly ramble in conjunction with the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society, as published in the Waterford News & Star’s Well! magazine