This Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, I finally got to do a trip I’d been meaning to do for some time – the Munster Blackwater.
The Munster Blackwater rises on the Cork/Kerry boarder and flows nearly 170km to the Celtic Sea in Youghal, Co. Waterford.
It’s a big volume river but without a lot of gradient which makes it ideal as a canoe/touring kayak tripping river.
We put on late afternoon on the Saturday just outside the little village of Ballyhooly, just upstream of Fermoy. This was far from ideal as the road is elevated on both sides of the bridge which meant we first had to lower the boats over a high wall followed by all the gear. If you are looking for a leisurely 2-3 trip, I would recommend starting further up (the next bridge upstream is in the townland of Monanimy and access looks a lot easier). This is a lovely section of river with gentle rapids as the river flows around small islands. If you were looking for a longer trip, you could start in Mallow or even near Millstreet which could give you a five day trip, especially if you were to go all the way to Youghal.
Even though we started much later on the Saturday than we had intended, we made good time to Fermoy passing Michael Flatley’s modest mansion on the way. If there is one thing the Blackwater has in abundance apart from great fishing and beautiful scenery it is a vast collection of stately homes and castles.
For our first nights camp, we enquired at the local campsite in Fermoy, but they were closed to campers (don’t ask!). After a bit of searching, we found an ideal, sheltered spot on river right, just before the town on the edge of a walking path. There was plenty of space for our small group of 13(!) to spread out and Liam sparked up a roaring fire to keep us warm. Personally I preferred this over a designated campsite as it felt more “wild” and in keeping with the trip we were doing.
The following morning we had breakfast and decamped and ran the first of two weirs on the trip. The first weir is just upstream of the main bridge in Fermoy, which is a long diagonal with knarly fish boxes in the middle (see photos). We ran it half way along the diagonal, river left of the boxes which was the best line at this level (but still not the cleanest). If in doubt about damaging boats and gear, then a portage would be advisable.
A couple of miles of gentle paddling followed before we came to the second weir on the trip and pulled in for lunch.
This is another big weir, with many lines and shoots and quite a bit of decay leaving some vertical metal spikes exposed at the base of the weir.
Spikes were most exposed running from river left side.
Lowering the boats down the river left side.
JP, being in the one in the most delicate kayak on the trip, was the only one to run the weir!
Some nice stretches followed with small rapids around corners and islands before our next camp in Ballyduff.
Cruising along in the fine weather.
We pulled in under the bridge in Ballyduff just as the wind was picking up and the skies were darkening. My plans for a massive bar-b-que would have to wait for another day (again). Luckily there was a nice flat field just below the bridge on river right which the local land owner had no problem with us camping in and was only inhabited by some timid sheep. With the weather continuing to worsen, some of us made a quick dinner inside the tents and hibernated while others found the local pub for some freshly caught dinner.
The next morning we awoke to a stiff head wind and resigned ourselves to the fact that it would be a potentially long tricky paddle to our finish just past Lismore.
Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but the river being so wide left little chance of shelter especially on the long straights.
It was head down and constant paddling all the way until we reached the broken weir above Lismore.
The view of the castle coming into Lismore was worth all the hardship as it towered over us perched on the hillside.
Coming under the bridge in Lismore.
The view back upstream.
We continued the short distance on to a small picnic area about halfway between Lismore and Cappoquin. We had originally intended to end the trip at least in Cappoquin (from where it is tidal all the way to Youghal), but with the weather conditions the way they were we played it safe and pulled in sooner. We had a massive lunch at the picnic site where we tried to use up all our left over food and I finally got the chance to light the BBQ