To suit: All levels of fitness (also wheelchair friendly)
Min. gear: Walking shoes, fluids
Situated close to the geographical centre of Ireland, the Slieve Bloom region links the counties of Laois and Offaly and is made up of forests, blanket bog of a type which is unique to Ireland, and hidden valleys which will be of interest to lovers of archaeology and nature. In 2007, a series of looped walks were developed at various trailheads in the region following a mix of forest tracks, riverbanks, old roadways, and grassy trails. There are a few rough and rugged sections - but they rarely rise to high altitude and do not demand great stamina. This loop is one of three which start and finish at the Kinnitty Forest trailhead - key features include the grounds of Kinnitty Castle (now a hotel) and spectacular broadleaf woodlands.
Directions to Kinnitty trailhead
From Kinnitty Village, take the R421 following the signposts for Mountmellick and Clonaslee. After 200m veer right onto the R440 (signposted Mountrath). Continue along this road for 3km to reach the entrance to Kinnitty Forest on your left. Note: the trailhead is signposted from Kinnitty.
A-B Start from the trailhead at the forestry entrance. After 30m keep left at the Y-junction of forestry roads following the green arrow. You are also following the blue arrows of the Glinsk Castle loop, and the yellow arrows for the long-distance Slieve Bloom Way. After a little more than 1km you reach a 3-way junction with a wooden gate on your left. [Going through the wooden gate will take you into the grounds of Kinnitty Castle – well worth a visit.]
B-C Your loop turns right (uphill) here, and continues to ascend along a forest track for almost 1km before rounding a right bend and reaching a Y-junction. Veer to the right here – still following the Slieve Bloom Way and the red and green loops.
C-D After 500m the blue loop and Slieve Bloom Way turn left onto an uphill woodland trail – but you continue straight on here.
D-E Continue to follow the forest track downhill to reach a 3-way junction - veer right here.