Arguably one of the finest walks in Limerick, the Canon Sheehan Loop is well worth doing.
With its intriguing name (which we’ll get to later!) and a ton of rural beauty on offer, this ramble in Glenanair Forest is one of the county’s most alluring trails.
Throw in Ballyhoura’s mix of quiet country roads, charming riverbanks, rugged mountains and rich bogs and you can’t go wrong!
Some quick need-to-knows about the Canon Sheehan Loop
The Canon Sheehan Loop isn’t as straightforward as some of Limerick’s trails, so it’s worth taking 20 seconds to read the points below:
Situated just south of the Cork/Limerick border, Glenanair Forest is almost equidistant between the cities of Cork and Limerick. It’s a 20-minute drive from Mitchelstown, a 25-minute spin from both Mallow and Charleville.
There’s a gravel car park right at the trailhead when you turn off the main road and follow the signs (here on Google Maps). This is a pretty rural trail so the car park shouldn’t get too busy. It’s always better to arrive earlier at weekends, however.
This looped trail runs for 7km and should take around 2.5 hours to complete. Good boots or walking shoes will come in handy.
The Canon Sheehan Loop is classed as a moderately difficult trail due to its 2.5 hour completion time. Fully charge your phone and don’t forget to pack snacks and a bottle of water.
About the Canon Sheehan Loop
So about that name! As you might have guessed, the loop owes its name to a local Canon named Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852-1913) who was a cleric and writer.
He was often referred to as Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, mainly because he wrote almost all of his major works while he was there as Parish Priest.
In fact, the starting point of this loop takes its name from one of Canon Sheehan’s most famous works – a novel titled Glenanaar.
Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see some superb wildlife and enjoy lovely views of the Blackwater Valley and the Nagle and Knockmealdown Mountains.
An overview of the Canon Sheehan Loop walk
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 7km
- Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Format: Loop
Kicking off from the Glenanair Forest car park, follow the waymarks with blue arrows on a white background.
After around 300 metres you’ll come across a metal bridge and that’s where the loop proper begins.
Rivers, trees and footbridges
Follow the trail along the left bank of the Owgeen River through the charming woodlands before heading onto a forestry road for almost 1km.
Then cross the river by way of a footbridge and follow the loop along beautiful woodland paths where you’ll actually pass from County Cork into County Limerick!
Continue on for another few hundred metres where you’ll find another footbridge that’ll take you back into Cork again (and look out for the standing stone along the way!).
Getting into the belly of the walk
Follow the forestry road and then turn southwards through Glenanair Forest. Look out on the right-hand side for the Mass Rock that’s well preserved and still used on occasions today.
Shortly after the rock, the loop reaches a T-junction where it turns left and takes you eastward through Ballintlea, with stunning vistas of the Blackwater Valley and the Nagle and Knockmealdown Mountains.
Looping back around
On a left bend, keep an eye out for a woodland track on your right – follow this track downhill to meet with the footbridge you passed on the outward journey.
Turn right, cross the footbridge and enjoy the ramble back down to the trailhead.
Things to do near the Canon Sheehan Loop
One of the beauties of this walk is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Limerick and Cork.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Glenanair Forest (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-walk feed!).
1. Post-walk feed in Kilfinane (15-minute drive)
Just a 15-minute drive north from Glenanair Forest, the charming little village of Kilfinane is a fine spot for a post-walk feed! Park up and head to either Molly’s or Kellehers Pub for some hearty refreshments following your 7km trek.
2. Doneraile Wildlife Park (10-minute drive)
Made up of 166 hectares and a fine example of an 18th century landscaped park in the style of Capability Brown, Doneraile Wildlife Park is a beautifully lush spot that’s only a 10-minute drive from Glenanair Forest. Its deer herds will enchant families, while the onsite Tea Rooms are a lovely place to eat.
3. Kilmallock (20-minute drive)
Lying 20 minutes north of Glenanair Forest is the historic town of Kilmallock. Interestingly, the remains of medieval walls which encircled the settlement are still visible and make for a unique sight among Ireland’s towns. Oh and there’s a bunch of cracking pubs along Lord Edward St to enjoy when you’ve finished examining the surroundings!
FAQs about the Glenanair Forest walks
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is there much parking?’ to ‘How hard is it to follow?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How long does the Canon Sheehan Loop take?
You’ll want to allow at least 2.5 hours to complete this 7km walk and longer if you tend to walk at a slower-than-average pace.
Is the Canon Sheehan Loop hard?
This is classed as a moderately difficult walk due to its length so a decent level of fitness is required to complete it.