A hike on the Blackstairs Mountain
Cow House Studios is situated at the foot of the Blackstairs mountain, named for the range it belongs to. This stepped granite and slate rock mountain greets you as you drive up the road toward the studio. Although much of the hills and mountains of the range are now planted with Nordic pines by Coillte, interlaced with man-made roads, there are parts untouched, still belonging to the native landscape. And lucky for us, these roads provide many easily accessible routes to explore and experience breathtaking views and abundant wildlife, flora, and fauna.
To really appreciate the beauty of the granite Blackstairs Mountains with their rounded peat-covered uplands, we recommend that our residency artists and students explore on foot. Trail running is a fantastic way to experience the landscape.
It’s amazing to see how different times of the year, or indeed the day, change how you experience the landscape. From soft rain and low lying cloud first thing on an Autumn morning to clear blue skies and the crunch of frost underfoot in the Winter afternoon to the sweet smell of the damp Summer dew as it descends in the evening – there are many opportunities to reconnect with nature on a walk, run or hike on the Blackstairs.
The harmonious dawn chorus for an audience who is up early enough to hear it. The surprise of a pheasant or woodcock fluttering from the nearby heathers as they hear you approach. The blush of the beautiful pink Ling heather or the sunny yellow of the primroses on the road edge. The velvety green carpet of moss crept up the trees and along the forest floor—the whistle of the buzzard as it circles overhead or the shrill call of the merlin. The creak of the lob-sided trees, nearly tipped over by winter storms but still hanging on to wave in the wind as you pass by. The croaking chorus of hundreds of frogs as they return to their spawning pond in February. The bobbing tuffs of bog cotton in June that dot the heathered landscape. The tangy burst of a juicy September blackberry freshly picked from the many roadside brambles. All these possibilities, and that’s before you even look out to enjoy the incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
Students from our gap year and summer programs and artists who join us for residencies love to explore this ever-changing landscape, with it often becoming a source of inspiration for their work. Also, we periodically organize a hike with students, starting at Cow House Studios, taking the tarmac road to the mountain road, and then off the beaten track up the peaty heather-strewn mountain to Cahir’s Den – the rocky hiding place of the infamous Irish outlaw. On a clear day, your hiking efforts will certainly be rewarded with an extensive view across counties Wexford and Carlow. Starting from and returning to Cow House Studios, the total distance is approx 12 kilometers.
So leave the headphones behind, and engage with Mother Nature!