The February Hill walk of the RTAI took place at Mt. Hillary in Banteer North Cork, and twenty nine hearty souls participated. Mt Hillary is known locally as ‘Cnoc an Iolar’, the Hill of the Eagle, although there have been no sightings of the golden eagle here in the last century. Mt. Hillary is part of the Boggeragh Mountains which lie between the River Lee and the Blackwater.
As there is limited parking at the trailhead most walkers met at The Wild Goose Restaurant between Dromahane and Mallow and carpooled from there.
The walk was ably led by Norah Farrissey. We set off from the carpark at the entrance to forestry in Knightfield on the northern slopes of Mt. Hillary at about 11.15 am and we followed the red arrows. This looped walk ascends gently through forestry roads and woodland trails. Swathes of spruce, pine and fir trees surrounded us as well as open ground with gorse and boggy terrain. We frequently had to pick our way around watery pools deposited by the rains of the night before in particular. Indeed, we were blessed with the mostly dry day and occasional glimpses of sunshine.
The summit is 391m or 1,283 ft high. We picnicked, finding slabs of concrete here and there to rest on, among the four telecommunications masts at the top. Oh, the peace and the freedom of it all to be out in the wide open spaces enjoying spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. In the plains below us the River Blackwater could be seen meandering its way through Duhallow. Farther away we glimpsed the mountains of Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick. Ancient and mystic names like the Mullaghareirk, Galtee and Derrynasaggart as well as the hills and countryside of Ballyhoura.
After a short rest we began our descent enjoying good company in the peace of the countryside. We reached the car park at around half past two and then set off for a spot of lunch at the Wild Goose, famished after the 10k hike.