Running up Ireland’s “Mountain of the Women”

It’s impossible to resist running up a mountain that belongs exclusively to women. And Sliabh na mBan (pronounced Slievenamon) in Ireland’s Country Tipperary is definitely a ladies’ hill.

Slievenamon rising out of Irish fields. Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebyrne41/

IreIand’s mythical hunter-warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced Fin Mac Cool) once sat on this mountain’s summit. Legend has it that he organised a female only race to the top. The first one to the summit would win his hand in marriage.

The big wide trail up Slievenamon - can't miss it.

Now Fionn was already in love with Gráinne, so he showed her a short-cut up the mountain. She won the race and they were duly wed. The name of the mountain, “Sliabh na mBan” also literally means “Mountain of the Women”. The mountain rises from the plain of Femen, which is apparently meant to represent ‘woman’ or ‘femininity’.

The sign leading to Slievenamon summit from Kilcash Village.

Despite all the folklore, it was an easy little hill to get up and down. The carpark outside Kilcash village is already at 240 metres, and with the summit at 721 metres, there’s less than a 500 metre climb. There’s also a motorway of a track up the hill side, making it impossible to get lost. The only surprise was how quick it got cold the higher I ascended, the forested slopes up until 300 metres the only thing stopping me from being buffeted by the winds that were sweeping the mountain’s sides. On a clear day, you can see the whole of the Comeragh mountain range. And there are great views over the Counties of Tipperary, Kilkenny, and Waterford (if you get the clear weather for it).

Cold but happy to be at the summit.

We were up and down in less than an hour. And not surprisingly, there were many other walkers, mainly women, who were heading for the slope. They were probably looking to see if Fionn Mac Cumhaill was still hanging around looking for a spouse. They say Fionn never died, but instead sleeps in a cave somewhere beneath Ireland. And that, one day he will awake and defend Ireland in the hour of her greatest need. Those looking for an out from the economic recession might just be looking for him as we speak.

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