Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Slievenamon - Running Up That Hill

Date First Walked: November 4th 2009
Range: n/a
Starting and finishing point: Kilcash (see map below)
Mapsheet: 67
Distance: 5km
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Mailyn
Height: 721 metres
County: Tipperary
My Dillon Count: 17

Slievenamon is yet another Irish mountain steeped in legend. It's Irish name, Sliabh na mBan, translates as 'mountain of the women' with the story going that Fionn Mac Cumhaill decided to choose his bride from a group of women racing to the top to meet him sitting at the summit. The first to reach the top of Slievenamon was another legendary Irish figure Grainne, albeit with some assistance from Fionn who showed her a short-cut.

Driving from Waterford to Clonmel, Slievenamon comes into focus after the village of Mooncoin appearing as a striking and isolated heather-covered dome standing over the low-lying green countryside. Even from a distance, the wide track that offers easy access to the summit of the mountain can be clearly seen.

Slievenamon can be reached from Waterford by following a series of by-roads but the easiest way is to get yourself onto the Kilkenny to Clonmel road from which you can take the turn off for Kilcash about 10km before Clonmel. From here, a drive along some minor roads leads ever uphill into the small village. Continue on through the village following the signs for 'Slievenamon Drive' until you come to a sign for 'Slievenamon Summit'. Park up here and follow the track leading off from the left-hand side of the road.

Starting Point for Slievenamon View Larger Map

Given the folklore surrounding Slievenamon and having recently read that it is regularly used as a venue for mountain races, I decided to throw on my runners and have a go at jogging up the mountain. After all, how hard could it be? The answer was that it was quite hard indeed and way beyond mere mortals like myself. Those mountain running folk must be made of stronger stuff than I am as it wasn't long after I'd crossed the gate at the top of the track and started up the open slopes of Slievenamon that I had to stop for water. After a couple of short bursts of jogging, I quickly downgraded my plans to a brisk walk to the top.

The walk up Slievenamon is as straightforward as it gets. From the road, take an initial path beween walls which leads to a gate providing access to the open slopes of the mountain. Even at this point, there are expansive views across the surrounding low-lying lands and over to the Comeraghs which appear to tower over Slievenamon. Simply follow the wide distinct track which climbs gently and eventually leads to a cairn at a false summit. From the cairn, pick your way along a vaguer track to the summit proper. The summit is marked by a rather folorn looking trig point as well as a mysterious standing stone and a huge cairn which is said to mark the entrance to the Celtic underworld.

Being November, my visit to the top was accompanied by very strong winds and cloud cover so I was only offered fleeting glimpses out at what looked like excellent and very extensive views across to the Comeragh and Galtee Mountains. A very vivid rainbow to the East hinted at moisture in the air and I was only starting into the descent when the heavens opened and threw down a prolonged shower of hailstones. The onset of more inclement conditions gave me an excuse to try my hand at running down the mountain and while this proved an easier task than running upwards, it presented challenges all of its own. I can only describe my running style as something of a 'semi-controlled fall' but it was great fun all the same!

The popularity of the mountain showed itself in the fact that as I jogged down the mountain, I was met by several different groups of people making their way up towards the now completely cloud-covered summit. Obviously the locals are a hardy breed!

All in all, a handy and safe walk which would be very suitable for children during the summer months. Don't bother with the rest of the 'Slievenamon Drive' afterwards as it really is a non-event consisting of a crawl around some increasingly dilapidated and narrowing roads without offering up any worthwhile views.

Slievenamon Cairn

The large cairn on the summit of Slievenamon, reputedly the entrance to the Celtic underworld

Trig Pillar, Slievenamon
Trig Pillar on the sumit of Slievenamon


  1. Im moving to Clonmel in the next few days and would as far as I know not be too far from Slievenamon. If I was going from Clonmel to the summit what direction should I take??

  2. Hi Graham

    I would say best to head towards Kilkenny and take the turn off N76 for Kilcash.


  3. Go to Kilcash and follow the signs for the summit.

  4. Sat nav coordinates please

  5. I have a 4 month old baby and I walk 8km daily with buggy on the road. Would I be able for this climb? Could I take baby in a sling or even better in the buggy if there's a path?

  6. Very useful article buddy keep it up I came to know a website that are having good motivational Books on Hill Running and other motivational contents