OSI Maps – OSI Discovery Series 68, 75 and 76. The Blackstairs, Mount Leinster and the Barrow Valley from East West Mapping www.eastwestmapping.ie
The Nine Stones Viewing Point provides an unrivalled vista of the rich and colourful Carlow countryside spread out like a tapestry before you. Eight counties can be viewed from this spot – Carlow, Laois, Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and the mountains of Tipperary, and on a clear day the coast of Wales, to the east. On the lower side of the road, you will see an alignment of nine small stones in the ground. These are said to commemorate nine shepherds lost on Mount Leinster in some distant winter storm, hence the origin of the viewing point’s name.
The area contains extensive tracts of forest, owned by Coillte, Ireland’s commercial forestry company featuring mainly spruce, larch and fir.
Mount Leinster is the highest point of the granite-cored Blackstairs Mountains which reaches a height of 795 metres. An older name for Mount Leinster is Suidhe Laighen which in Irish means “the seat or meeting place of the men of Leinster”. At the summit you will find an old monument in the form of a large cairn. The people who lived in these regions c. 5,000 years ago often sought out prominent hill tops on which to bury and commemorate important members of their communities. The mast on top transmits national television and radio (RTÉ) to the region.
Kildavin, the end point of your walk offers beauty, peace and unspoilt scenery synonymous with Ireland’s Ancient East as well as the opportunity to explore its rich and varied past in holy wells, church ruins and simple country life. The village enjoys strong associations with Cardinal Spellman of New York, whose grandmother Ellen Keogh emigrated from the Kildavin area in 1850.
Leaving the Nine Stones car park, the route now descends along the narrow mountain road. There are excellent views to your left down into the bowl of Coolasnaghta where winter snows persist until the final thaw. After three kilometres of gradual descent reach Carroll’s Crossroad.
Turn right at Carroll’s Crossroad and follow this busier road downhill with care for a short distance. Reach the Kilbrannish Forest Recreation car park on your left. This is the trailhead for loop walks through the Kilbrannish Forest. Turn left here and now follow a forest road as it slants uphill. Follow the yellow direction arrows, ignoring turns to the left for the local trails.
Reach the crest of the hill where there is an opening in the forest yielding fine views both north and south. Continue on along the forest road as it now falls back downhill. After 2.5 kilometres, reach a hairpin bend and junction, where you keep left and descend to reach the edge of the forest. Now descend steeply on a rough unsurfaced track to reach a tarmac road near the Mount Leinster Cottages.
Keep right and past Mount Leinster Cottages. Follow the narrow Ballypierce Lane downhill to reach the main N80 road. Cross this with great care and turn right. After a short distance, turn sharply left and follow the road downhill into Kildavin, passing the Spellman Hall on your left. The trailhead lies across the road.
‘Leave no Trace’ Principles
Practising a ‘Leave no Trace’ ethic is very simple. Make it hard for others to see or hear you and leave no trace of your visit.