Walking St Declan’s Way will bring you along the pilgrimage taken by St Declan 1,600 years ago. The Saint was a local contemporary of St Patrick and was said to have brought Christianity to the area. The walk is 115km of cliff paths, mountain ranges, coastal views, castles and holy wells. If you’re up for walking the whole thing, why not sign up with the Waterford Camino who will take the lead so you can concentrate on stepping back in time.
If you want to get a taste of the walk without the full 115km commitment, we suggest starting your trip in Cashel by setting up in the central and charming Cahir House Hotel or in Cashel’s Bailey’s Hotel.
Start Day 1 exploring the walk from Cashel to Ardfinnan. This 28km route takes an average of 5 hours each way, so, if you’re up for the whole trek, be prepared to take on a flat walk along the River Suir, past the Swiss Cottage then through luxuriant countryside, past large ringforts and several medieval castle ruins.
If tackling the whole thing isn’t for you, we suggest spending the morning taking a tour of the historic town of Cashel. From its iconic Rock to the Cashel Folk Village to the Heritage Centre, there is plenty of history to catch up on. Grab lunch at the wonderful Mikey Ryan’s or Café Hans which will set you up to walk as much or as little of the route as you choose. The whole trail is marked so you can plan out your desired distance and return journey.
Pick up the trail on Day 2 in the town of Ardfinnan at the foot of the Knockmealdowns. Spend some time at Ardfinnan Castle which was built in the early 12th Century to guard the access bridge across the River Suir. The trail will take you past a ruined 14th Century Abbey and across a picturesque footbridge over the River Tar, where you can access the route into the mountains. You can either continue the mountain path past the Liam Lynch monument through the Knockmealdowns or return to your car and drive to the peaceful abbey of Mount Melleray where you can take a tour and eat at their cosy little tearoom.
This would be a good time to change camp and check into the warm and welcoming Pilgrims Rest Hotel near Mount Melleray; or consider the fabulous Blackwater Eco Pods, a community established, not for profit enterprise in Villierstown
On Day 3, it’s time to take on the Mount Melleray to Lismore leg of the trail, which will take you right through the heart of peaceful, rural countryside. This is a short walk so can be easily done with time to spend in Lismore before heading back for the car. We suggest heading to Lismore Castle Gardens, said to be the oldest cultivated gardens in Ireland and to the Lismore Heritage Centre where you can book a virtual reality visit to get a real feel of its history.
Or you may want to take a gentle stroll along Lady Louisa’s Walk, which follows the river and trails through stunning woodland with great views of the Castle.
You’ll have definitely earned your lunch, so we suggest dropping into Foley’s on the Mall which has a range of really delicious, fresh dishes.
On Day 4, you’ll find the Lismore to Cappoquin leg of the journey by far the quickest, taking just 1 ½ hours through pleasant countryside and alongside the River Blackwater. When you reach Cappoquin, visit Cappoquin House and Gardens. The house has been home to the Keane family for 300 years and has a working farm, 100 acre orchard and a sunken garden which you can learn all about with the help of a tour guide.
Grab lunch at Cappoquin’s Barron’s Bakery and Coffee House which uses a rare Scotch Brick oven said to provide its bread with a unique flavour.
The last leg of St Declan’s Way on Day 5 is almost 30km and likely to take around 6 hours, so make sure you have return arrangements in place for when you get to Ardmore. There are some great sights on this part of the trail, including both Dromana House and Tourin House in addition to the strikingly beautiful Hindu Gothic Dromona Gate which marks the original entrance to the Dromana estate.
Alternatively, take the car and stop off for parts of the trail to get the best of the experience without the worn-out soles.
Once you get to Ardmore, head to the Round Tower where St Declan built his monastery, take a dander along the coastal cliff walk and treat yourself to a meal at the Michelin starred Cliff House Hotel.Back for more itineraries