Situated close to the geographical centre of Ireland, the Slieve Bloom region links the counties of Laois and Offaly and is made up of forests, blanket bog, and hidden valleys which will be of interest to lovers of archaeology and nature. The Slieve Blooms is Ireland's only designated Environment Park. Knockbarron Woods are located close to the picturesque village of Kinnitty in County Offaly is nestled in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The woods preserve one of the finest and most intact esker systems to be found anywhere in Ireland. Here also is an area of old woodland with much of ecological interest at whatever time of year you visit. This loop is one of five Eco-Walks established by the Slieve Bloom Rural Development Society in collaboration with Coillte and the local communities – further details on the ecological aspects of the loop can be found on www.slievebloom.ie Perhaps the best time for a first visit would be early May, when so much of the woodland floor is a blue haze of bluebells.
A-B. The loop starts from the car park at the forestry entrance at Knockbarron and follows a surfaced road downhill to Knockbarron Crossroads. Turn right here and enter Knockbarron woodland.
B-C. After entering the woodland, the loop almost immediately climbs onto the ridge of an esker and passes EcoPoints 1 to 5 which are marked by yellow numbers and include a marsh (No.2) and earthbank (No.5). Shortly after EcoPoint 5 the loop joins a forestry road.
C-D. Follow the forestry road for a short distance before veering left and climbing onto another esker ridge.
Follow the ridge briefly and descend to reach a forestry road where you swing sharp right.
D-E. The loop crosses a short clearfell section before climbing onto an esker into woodland after EcoPoint 6. Following esker ridges in a northwest direction for over 1km the loop, briefly joins a forestry roadway and enters forestry again to pass a section of oak trees (EcoPoint 8). The loop reaches its highest point at EcoPoint 9 (120m). before decsending to pass a gravel exposure at EcoPoint 10.
E-A. After another short section along an esker ridge the loop joins forestry road for the return to the trailhead.