For summer 2019, we are partnering with the Journal.ie to bring you the 12 Great Irish Drives: the most amazing road trips in the country. Whether it’s with friends, family or by yourself these trips should give you the courage to get in the car and go explore.
This week, Paul Wilson takes a stunning spin through the hills of West Waterford.
In his book 'In Search of Ireland', HV Morton called the Vee Gap Road one of the grandest views in the (then) British Isles. West Waterford is sometimes considered an unsung and less-visited part of Ireland, apart from the popular resort of Tramore – but heading inland bears exceptional fruit.
The native Irish first drove the Vikings out of Waterford, but today you can simply take the easy-going N24 to the Tipperary county town of Clonmel (48km) and join the Vee Road further on at Clogheen. In 1847, during the Famine, The Vee Road was built as part of a poor law relief scheme and today winds its way through forest and fertile open land to the historic town of Lismore.
At the right time of year – mostly late spring or early summer – the Vee Road is dressed in purple rhododendron. It’s a quiet twisting road of sheep and tractors. Photo opportunities are plentiful, and a striking chain of hills, the Knockmealdown Mountains, rises to the south while the Comeraghs dominate further east.
For the especially courageous, signposted on the R668, two miles east of Clogheen is Grubb’s Monument. On Sugar Loaf Hill, it affords breathtaking views over the Suir Valley. A beehive structure of stone similar to those on Great Skellig, one Samuel Grubb requested burial here – standing upright! Other local tales abound. Major Eeles is said to be buried on Moloney’s Mountain, with his horse, dog and gun; and the spirit of the witch ‘Petticoat Loose’ roams looking for unwary travellers.
Lismore sits on the River Blackwater and the Vee Road descends on the town. The Riding House at Lismore Castle, built in 1631, is one of the oldest buildings and one of few surviving 17th-century gabled structures in Ireland. The piece de resistance is the castle, the Blackwater flowing below. The view of wooded hills and the Knockmealdown Mountains is spectacular.
‘The Vee’ itself is 2,000 feet above sea level, a dramatic hairpin bend above Bay Lough, the ‘Golden Vale’ between Knockmealdown and Galtee Mountain Ranges and offers panoramic views. Ireland’s most famous ‘magic road‘ is nearby.
At Carrolls Cross, a number of roads converge but staying on the N25 will take you to the seaside resort of Tramore. The 5km sandy Blue Flag Beach and the cliffs around offer breathtaking views of the rolling Atlantic. The Metal Man – a maritime beacon – stands looking out over Newtown Cove, dressed in British sailor’s uniform.
Name: The Vee Road
Where: Ireland’s Ancient East
The route: From Waterford to Tramore via the Vee Road. ’The Vee’ is famous for its views but the lesser-known Vee Road could be considered one of Ireland’s best kept driving secrets.
What makes it one of Ireland’s Great Drives? Worth getting off the beaten track for, it runs from Clogheen to Lismore taking in mountains, flora, fauna and falls. Stops to consider en route include Mahon Falls, ‘The Vee’ and a ‘hidden’ magic road. ‘The Vee’ is your photo op with panoramic views all the way to Cashel.
Journey time: 2hrs 30 mins, approx. Start at Reginald’s Castle in Waterford towards Grannagh Castle and join the N24 to Clonmel (72kms, 1hr 10mins) and join the Vee Road. Onwards to Tramore via ‘The Vee’.
For the courageous: Hike up to Grubb’s Monument, reminiscent of the Clochán – beehive huts – found on Skellig Michael.