A mountain biking expedition starting in Ballymacarbry takes place on Saturday
Mountain hikes and biking, dancing at the crossroads, a cycle along the roads Sean Kelly trained on and a banquet of local food in a traditional farmhouse are among the events taking place in Comeragh Mountains communities along the Tipp border this weekend.
The seventh annual Comeraghs Wilds Festival, which celebrates the beauty of the Comeragh Mountains, will be serving up a rich feast of cultural and physical activities in the Nire Valley, Rathgormack, Clonea-Power and near Kilsheelan between today Thursday, July 11 and Sunday, July 14.
Festival chair Mary Flynn from Rathgormack said the Festival has events for all ages and interests.
"Whether you’re into dancing at the crossroads, surfing, mountain biking, foraging, history, craft or food, we really have it all. This is a festival that showcases this region at its very best and celebrates our rich history, our deep traditions and this vast, unspoilt hinterland. We encourage everyone to take part."
Kicking off the action on the Tipperary/Waterford border will be the 25km Brake for the Border cycle today Thursday at 6pm. Cyclists will leave from the beautiful surroundings of Glencomeragh House near Kilsheelan. It will follow the Sean Kelly legacy cycle route until the cyclists break through the Co. Tipperary border at Kilsheelan.
They will continue pedalling for another 12km along the scenic River Suir Blueway between Kilsheelan and Carrick-on-Suir and cross the River Suir again in Carrick-on-Suir.
The cycle will rejoin the Sean Kelly legacy route at Carrickbeg and continue through rolling countryside, finishing at Glencomeragh. it will be a leisurely paced cycle taking up to two and a half hours.
It will be the turn of mountain bike enthusiasts to get into gear in Ballymacarbry on Saturday morning. The Festival's Nire Valley Mountain Bike Experience covering a 20km route of spectacular Comeragh Mountains scenery in Ballymacabry and the Nire Valley is for both beginners and advanced bikers. Most of the route is downhill. Bikers will meet at Ballymacabry Community Centre at 10am and will be led by experienced guides. It's essential to pre-book your place on this cycle via Eventbrite. The cost is €20 but early bird entrants cost €15. There will be a limited number of bikes available but if you have one, the organisers ask that you bring it along.
If mountain hiking is more your cup of tea, the Festival is hosting an 11km walk from the Nire Valley along the old funerary path through The Gap to Rathgormack on Saturday.
The walk will take between three and four hours and the final 4km is on road. Walkers will meet at Rathgormack Hiking Centre at 2 pm on Saturday.
Admission costs €5 and includes bus transport to the Nire. It also includes free admission to the Hoolie in the Hill, a ceili in Rathgormack Community & Hiking Centre that evening.
Michael Sexton's Ceili Band will be providing the music at the hoolie, which will also be part of the celebrations for the official opening of the new Comeragh Amenity Area - an all weather pitch and community walking route next to Rathgormack Hiking Centre.
The opening ceremony gets underway at 7 pm and will be followed by a barbecue, children’s games, music by the young musicians of Ceol Craobh Crotaigh and set dancing.
Elsewhere in Rathgormack on Saturday evening there will be a celebration of Comeragh Mountains food. Chef Decky Walsh of the Holy Smoke Fire and Smoke Restaurant will cook a six-course menu of locally sourced foods for guests at Nell's Farm House run by Festival chairperson Mary Flynn.
The menu includes fire-roasted butter nut squash soup, hot-smoked brown trout, slow roast leg of Comeragh lamb, locally-sourced free range chicken, beef tomahawk from a local farm and a dessert made with local fruits. All tickets for the meal are now sold out.
Over at the other side of the Comeragh Mountains, there will be a Dancing at the Crossroads evening in Doocey's Yard in Ballymacarbry. A great night of set dancing, music and singing is planned from 9pm. Admission is free.
Another festival mountain hike is the Coumshingaun Loop Walk on Sunday. It starts from Kilclooney Woods, located off the Carrick to Dungarvan Road near Rathgormack, at 10am.
This walk is for over 18s only and costs €25. Places are limited and pre-booking is essential by phoning 086 397 0568.
A more relaxing afternoon of music and song is planned at Clonea Power Church on Sunday afternoon. The concert will feature performances from Dúnaill Folk Group and Moylan Brunnock of Voice of Ireland fame. The concert starts at 3pm and tickets cost €10. They can be purchased on the door or via Eventbrite.
Comeraghs Wilds Festival spokesperson Bernadette Drohan, who works in Waterford Council's Economic Development Department, believes this year's programme is one of the best in the Festival's seven year history and there has been a great public reaction so far.
She said they could have sold out the Holy Smoke celebration of Comeragh Mountains food three times over such was the public interest in it and they are expecting a crowd of about 400 for the open air concert at Mahon Falls on Friday night (see below).
“The Council is delighted to work with the voluntary local committee to support what is one of the biggest community festivals in the south east," she said.