Don Baldwin enjoys a hike on beautiful Mount Leinster, which straddles counties Wexford and Carlow, where the last authenticated case of a wolf being killed in Ireland occurred in 1786.


Tall and sombre, like an ancient monarch surveying his fertile kingdom, Mount Leinster (Stua Laighean) has long looked out upon the rich land of south east Ireland; watching impassively as each new wave of settlers came to claim this verdant land, before they, too, were swept away by the passage of time.

This is a lush land of gentle hills and generous valleys, a territory steeped in ancient history; blessed by temperate climes, it is a land worth having, a place worth fighting for, and many powerful Kings have vied for ownership of this coveted prize, all under the steady gaze of Stua Laighean, the ‘Arch of Leinster’.

Wexford and Carlow’s highest mountain can easily be approached from several suitable locations, with Bunclody being perhaps one of the nearest, situated eleven kilometres north east of the mountain. Take a sharp left off the N80 onto a third class road heading west out of Bunclody town marked ‘Mount Leinster’, which will take you towards the Corrbut Gap. This scenic route will provide you with excellent views of the well-tended countryside, and give you a real taste of the ancient east.

After eight undulating kilometres, you will arrive at Carroll’s Crossroads; here, turn left onto a well-elevated mountain road, which forms part of the ‘Leinster Way’. Another three kilometres will then take you to your final destination, the spacious Nine Stones carpark, where you can enjoy the stunning landscape which stretches out below, a mere fifteen-minute drive from Bunclody.

The origin of the ‘Nine Stones’ is uncertain – one legend connects the ancient monument to nine shepherds who had been killed on the mountain during a storm; whatever their real purpose actually was, only these nine stone sentinels can truly say, as they continue to quietly guard their secret near the foot of Slievebawn. (S: 817:546-Sheet 68, Discover Series).

Beside the carpark is a substantial metal gate, usually closed, blocking off access to the tarmac road which leads up to the large telecommunications mast, clearly visible in the distance. Do not be tempted to drive up the narrow road if the gate is open, public access is on foot only. Walkers can use the ample space between the boulders to the right of the gate: where a ‘No Dogs’ sign is blissfully ignored by dog owners, who seem unaware that lurking just beneath the fur of every domestic dog, is the wild blood and instincts of its not too distant ancestor, the wolf.

In fact, the last authenticated case of a wolf being killed in Ireland was ironically on Mount Leinster in 1786, by a John Watson from Ballydarton, near Fenagh in County Carlow.
The Watson family were landlords who had founded the Tullow Hunt. Watson, a sheep farmer who was Master of the Hunt, was so enraged by the killing of his sheep by a lone wolf who had its den on Mount Leinster, that he tracked the animal down with a pack of wolfhounds and brutally dispatched the sorry creature, thus ending, Ireland’s long association with the ‘Son of the Countryside’, Mac Tíre/Wolf.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own