As the weather takes a turn into autumn, it’s refreshing to consider a breakaway that isn’t completely dictated by the beach.
A view my surfer husband can’t seem to get his salty head around. So, with the two Johnnies’ silage song blaring and our hang sandwiches packed, we swap Dad for an aunty and a cousin and hit the road for a county I’ll admit to have overlooked as a destination, even though it’s only an hour away from Cork. Tipperary, hold on to your hat, here we come.
As any mother knows, especially one who’s been blatantly abandoned by her husband (yeah, he’s not going to get away that lightly) tiring the little darlings out early on is paramount to how much you can enjoy the evening (wine) part of any mini-break.
So we strike out for a light hike to Bay Lough at the Vee. As an ex-geography teacher, I decide to bone up on the lingo before we arrive. As we drive through the breathtaking Knockmealdown Mountains to get to the Knockaunabulloga side to park up, I regale my gang with tales of rotational slips and glacial erosion.
My children take inordinately large amounts of pleasure trying to catch me out in matters of geography. Just because I have no sense of direction, doesn’t mean I don’t know how a corrie lake is formed, you louts. The fact that before we left, husband told them, guffawing, that I was teaching in Cobh for a month before realising it was an island, doesn’t help my cred. (That’s two strikes, husband.)
We park up and hike down to Baylough. It’s an easy route, it takes us maybe an hour and a half for the round trip and that includes chilling out with those hang sangers, jazzed up with Cashel Blue Cheese and Rivesci Cashew Chillie Crush. It’s well worth it, the kids have great fun, the views are out of this world and the famed ‘bottomless’ lake proves perfect for practicing our skimming techniques. The trek is totally suitable for young and old, but I wouldn’t fancy trying to push a buggy back up the path, though we do pass two families doing just that. I end up giving the five-year-old a piggyback instead.
For the afternoon, we hook up with the affable Tom Tracey of Blueway Bike Hire to use our pedal power to explore the pretty cycle trail along the heritage blueway towpath from Clonmel through Kilsheelan and on to Carrick-on Suir. Aunty selfishly has broken her elbow just before our trip, by falling off a bike, funnily enough, so the four kids and I pull on our helmets and off we go. It’s a wonderful cycleway, with lots to see, from kayaks to castles. We speed over humpback bridges and stop to watch an egret take flight over the still river. Or maybe it’s a heron? Hey, I’m still working on my geography, give me a break on the ornithology.
Bike hire is €50 for a family of four, for more info email Tom [email protected]
We travel back to civilization and backwards in time, touring around the medieval riverside Ormond Castle with the very entertaining Robert. The boys are bedazzled by the tales of Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond, his filthy personal hygiene habits and the hundreds of knife marks etched in the attic. Entry is free, as are all OPW sites at the moment, but advance booking is a must, like most things in this time of Covid, access is by guided tour only, masks on, with a max of five people. See https://heritageireland.ie/places-to-visit/ormond-castle/ for more info.
Keeping plan ‘Sneakily Educate The Children Without Them Realising’ going, we head for Tipperary History Museum in Clonmel where we spend a really lovely hour trying on costumes, (which we’re assured are steamed after every use) puzzling out maths quizzes, cycling with an interactive Sean Kelly exhibition and finding out about borstals and a horse skull from the Iron Age. The death and faith section is particularly fascinating, especially the bit about how young children were put to work in the mills of Tipperary. Cue animated conversation about how great it would be to be allowed to work instead of having to go to school. I shake my head sadly. Our soft Cork fellas wouldn’t have lasted a day.
Admission is free, hand sanitiser is everywhere, do check it out. https://www.hiddenhistory.ie/
We’ve established my sense of direction is shocking, but I could have sworn Mitchelstown Caves were in, eh, Mitchelstown ergo, they belong in a lovely weekend break piece about Cork, but apparently, the actual address of the opening is Killavenoge, Co. Tipperary, postcode E21 H920. Yes, I checked, us Cork people don’t want to be just handing stuff over without a fight. Our wonderful tour guide, Katie, gave us a run-down of stalactites and stalagmites and columns and pillars and then scared the utter bejesus out of us by turning off all light sources and plunging us into darkness so absolute, it was like an out of body experience. Complete sensory shut down. Intense man, they don’t teach you that in geography school, caves 101. A family ticket for 4 is €22, see https://mitchelstowncave.com/
Hotel Minella is a gorgeous four-star hotel right in the middle of Clonmel, very central for all our gallivanting. We were able to pick up the bikes from the leisure center and be on the blueway trail in under ten minutes. It’s spacious, luxurious, immaculately clean, and has a fabulous family-friendly vibe. The playground that the kids are actively encouraged to visit while the food order is in is a highlight. Aunty and I drank that wine in absolute peace. The staff are friendly and efficient, everything is done with meticulous care and attention while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere, a balance that is very hard to pull off, but Elizabeth and John Nallen get it just right. Make sure to book everything in – your time in the pool, bar, restaurant, breakfast – and then enjoy a wonderful stay in the Ancient East.
In the end, we all feel sorry for husband, he missed out, big time.