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  • Writer's pictureKaryn Farrell

Heavenly hikes: Bohernabreena reservoir loop

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

The Bohernabreena Reservoir loop is one of South Dublin’s most picturesque walks and an unexpected treasure, a mere ten mins from our home in Terenure. Shameful really that this was my first visit though it certainly won't be my last. The full loop is an easy 9.5 kms on relatively flat terrain throughout and is suitable for most ages and fitness levels.

The route takes in two lakes, upper and lower, with forests on both sides. The reservoir sits low in the Glenasmole Valley with the Dublin Mountains as a backdrop while the River Dodder flows throughout. Even on a miserably wet day, the views are dramatic and quite spectacular. In fact, the descending mist and grey palette added somewhat to the atmosphere - it was eerily beautiful. We were treated to a 'four-seasons-in-one hike' extravaganza that day. Hard to believe that all of these photos were taken mere hours apart from each other.

The route is a diverse one and changes all the time as you complete the circuit. Start and end point is Ballinascorney car park (limited spaces available) - you'll walk along the road for about 1.5 kms, past this gorgeous cottage and a few other farmhouses, until you reach the first lake.

To follow the official looped trail, you need to continue to the right of the lower lake but if time permits, you may want to take a little detour temporarily to the banks of the lake to your left, bordered by forest. You can cross the bridge and either walk through the trees, though there isn't an obvious path here, or you can hop over the low wall straight down to the pebbled shoreline. It's inordinately pretty though I think we picked the worst possible day that week to go. At this point we were greeted with the most torrential downpour, and huge drops were falling through the trees down my back as we tried to shelter from the monsoon conditions.

I can only imagine how lovely it must be down here on a warm blue-sky Summer's day, or in Autumn when the leaves take on a symphony of colours. I have a feeling it would be a nice spot to sit, breathe and take a moment, listening to the sound of the lake lapping at the shoreline. You'll need to watch your step here, particularly as you make your way around to the curve in the lake. The ground is very swampy and silty and you may find yourself, as I did, up to your ankles in mud. You should wear something a little more sensible than trainers for this terrain, ideally hiking boots. As I mentioned, this section isn't part of the official loop and there's no access to join it from this side of the lake. You'll have to cross back over the bridge.

The route continues along a paved road until you reach a forest and there are signposts here to indicate the way. However, we wandered off the track briefly here too, and took a detour through a parallel forest path; lush, verdant and gorgeous. After a minute, we passed a series of steps to our left and curiosity got the better of us again. Down we went, emerging at a little haven of tranquility: the brightly painted bridge crossing the river was an excellent viewing platform on both sides to an abundance of greenery, plants and nature at its best.

Regardless of whether or not you take the detour as we did, the two paths eventually converge and you'll come out at the other side of the forest, in the vicinity of the giant and very impressive mechanical system which powers the entire water system for the reservoir. It was bucketing down as we ran up the hill so I couldn't even pause for a moment to take a photo as the water thundered somewhat hypnotically downhill into the Dodder. However, when the sky cleared on the way back, I took the image below.

At the top of the hill you'll arrive at the upper lake, around which you'll complete a full loop, finishing here at the top of the hill. The choice is yours - you can keep going as you were, straight ahead with the Dodder on your left, or do as we did, crossing the bridge here and entering the forest on the left side of the lake. By some small mercy, the rain had finally eased for a time and the sun made a brief appearance.

The forest path here is one of my favourite sections of this walk, in particular when the upper lake reveals itself through gaps in the trees on your right. A soft blue was creeping across the sky, the water shimmered with the after-effects of rain and the picture was completed by rolling hills in the background.

s we followed the track around to the top of the lake, the path briefly opens onto a minor road but we exited after a moment through a wooden gate and joined a second forest path to complete the loop. This time we had the Dodder flowing past on our left, framed beautifully by a ridge of forest, and with lake views on our right. Rural idyll at its best.

As you follow the path, there are a number of picturesque arched bridges which traverse the river. If you look far into the distance, on a slope on the opposite side of the lake, you'll see the ruins of a church and the headstones of St Anne's Cemetery in Glenasmole. The site is hundreds of years old but no longer in use.

The path terminates once more at the bottom of the upper lake where you'll see once again the stone outlet tower, linked to land by an iron bridge. From here you double-back on the route from which you came, staying left and following one of the forest paths which bring you to the banks of the lower lake and the second outlet tower. A final 1.5 kms along the road and you're back at the car park. Of course, if you're feeling particularly energetic, you could always keep going, following the banks of the River Dodder to Rathfarnham, or even further afield. It's a really enjoyable walk and not at all taxing, though the crazy weather conditions dampened (pun intended...) my spirits somewhat at the outset. Maybe next time I'll check the weather forecast before setting off.

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