Hiking may put some folk off, so a walk in the woods is how I would describe this trail area.I do it all the time with my young children who like to examine every stone in the place as we go so it’s no problem. Just a very pleasant day out. A great way to get a feel for our forests and mountains, breath in the fresh air, as opposed to sitting in the car touring all day.

The 12 O’Clock Hills are part of the Slieve Bearnagh Mountain Range in East Clare, Ireland. The main peak Knockanuarha is 5k to the southeast of Kilkishen Village. Its height is 309m (1014 feet). Knockanuarha has a twin which is 400 metres to the west-south-west and about 10 metres lower. It is thought that the name 12 O’Clock Hills comes from the local tradition of telling the time by noting the position of the sun against these peaks. 

On a clear day all the high mountains of Munster can be seen as well as mountains in Connemara. Quite often the Shannon Estuary can be observed as well as Ennis town, Kilkishen and many of the villages of East Clare with West Clare and the Burren in the background. All around there is the natural tapestry of lakes, bog and woodland dotted here and there with the ruins of ancient castles. Many of the places of interest can be identified using the compass/sundial.

There are two main trails. The 5k Heritage Looped Walk is ideal for people with an interest in local history. My kids love it here as the fairy trail is special and the painted rocks of kindness is always a hit. The longer 8.5k Looped Walk goes all the way to the two summits and requires a somewhat greater level of fitness. This loop includes the old ruined cottages that have been restored so that you can see them and are no longer covered by green. The committee have done an amazing job with this work. I highly recommend taking the 20 min drive from here through the pretty village of Sixmilebridge to get there. There are lots of free car parking spaces and in the summer there is even an icecream truck to treat yourself after the walk,

Both loops are quite scenic including pine needle covered paths though the forest with river and stream features. My 5 year old son at the time likes to walk in the streams with his wellies. He said look mum you can use this as a hook and it was then I noticed he found an old clay pipe. Before the introduction of the cigarette to Ireland in the 20th Century it was common for men and women to smoke clay pipes. The long-stemmed pipes passed around at wakes and consequently became known as ‘Lord ha’ mercy’ pipes.

If you head in February time you might be lucky enough to catch the frogs breeding time. They are out in their hundreds there. Here’s my son Phoenix saying hello to one.

The vistas expand on reaching the open mountain side near the top with 360 degree views. There are information boards at the two trailheads with route maps, difficulty levels, safety information etc. All critical junctions on the routes are signposted.

There are heritage sites along all these trails such as the restored Crag river bridge and the partly restored Mary Anne’s stone cottage. Other heritage sites include the ruins of Dysart Lyons and Brohan’s homesteads, a famine road, Mion Rua bog and recreational areas known as Mass Place and the Stepping Stones.