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, 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.
This area forms part of the South Leinster Way long distance walking route, a 102 km (64 miles) walk which runs from Kildavin in County Carlow to Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary. The area features some of the best walks in the county including the Kilbrannish Forest Recreation Area. Situated 3km (2 miles) from this viewing point at the Nine Stones, immediately adjacent to the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive on the Bunclody Road, the forest offers 2 looped walks (3 kilometres (2 miles) and 5 kilometres (3 miles)). Ample car parking, together with picnic facilities and a map of each route are provided.
Mount Leinster is also an internationally renowned location for hang-gliding and paragliding and a multi-directional site. Whether you are a spectator or enjoy participating, this venue provides a most enjoyable day’s entertainment with colourful take offs set against fabulous scenery. Most Sundays from March to October, weather permitting.
The area contains extensive tracts of forest, owned by Coillte, a commercial company operating in forestry, land based businesses and renewable energy. In all some 2,354 hectares (5,816 acres) of forest, mainly spruce, larch and fir are situated on the north eastern slopes of Mount Leinster.
The Blackstairs Mountains are a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive for its extensive areas of dry heath. The higher, steeper slopes are covered with a dense, tall carpet dominated by heather (Calluna vulgaris) and Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) with small amounts of Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Bell Heather (Erica Cinerea) and Cross-Leaved Heath (E. tetralix). Lower down the slopes, the heath is dominated by Gorse (Ulex europaeus). Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile) and Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is also abundant on the lower slopes. The Blackstairs Mountains are also the only example of moorland above 300 metres in counties Wexford and Carlow. Small numbers of red grouse have been recorded in the past. The most common form of land use in the area is grazing.
As you look from the Nine Stones, the hill to the right of Myshall is Croaghaun. St. Finian, known as the tutor of the Saints of Ireland and founder of the celebrated monastery at Clonard in County Meath, was born in Myshall ca. 470 A.D. and set up an establishment near to Croaghaun in Rossacurra. On the side of Mount Leinster between the Nine Stones and the head of the Burren River are the Cail Slipes, two tracks allegedly made by the feet of a giant’s daughter sliding down the side of the mountain. They are raised, peat-covered tumbled-down walls similar to those in the Ceide Fields in Mayo. (Source: Mr. Michael Conroy â€“ Carlow Granite: Years of History Written in Stone).
On either side are hills of schists and slates while behind us rises Mount Leinster, the highest point of the granite-cored Blackstairs Mountains at 795 metres. The nearby road has been used to access Mount Leinster and the transmitter, since it was first built in 1961. The mast on top transmits national television and radio (RTE) to the region. An older name for Mount Leinster is Suidhe Laighen which in Irish means “the seat/meeting place of the men of Leinster”. Set a little apart from the TV enclosure, you will find an old monument in the form of a larger cairn. The people who lived in these regions ca. 5,000 years ago often sought out prominent hill tops on which to bury and commemorate important members of their communities.
The rocks exposed around the Nine Stones are slates, preserving beds of quartzite and mudstone. These beds tell of a time when this region was covered by an ocean. The sediments were displaced from distant continents onto the deep seafloor by earthquakes or storms. This ocean shrank as the continents approached each other, driven by the Earth’s internal engine, and finally colliding with each other.
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