The County Tops – Number 4: Corn Hill, County Longford

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series The County Tops of Ireland

In the latest article from the County Top Series, Paul O’ Connor heads for the midlands to take in Corn Hill in County Longford. The hill may be only 278 metres making it one of the lowest County High-Points in Ireland but it has been responsible for bringing such treasures as ‘Where In The World’, ‘Glenroe’, ‘Fair City’ and ‘Murphy’s Micro Quiz-m’ to TV screens in the midlands since 1978!

‘Longford Hill Walking’…. probably the first and last time you will ever hear that particular phrase! Longford is best known for its rivers and lakes and the associated fishing opportunities that they offer. It bears the second-lowest highest point in the country with Corn Hill (also know as Cairn Hill or Carn Clonhugh) topping out at 278 metres, just 18 metres higher than the summit of neighbouring County Westmeath. Corn Hill is one of a number of County High Points which houses an RTE transmitter – the 100 metre high structure atop the hill was opened in March 1978 to provide coverage to an area of poor reception in the midlands. Worryingly for anyone planning to climb the hill, the transmitter is the most powerful in Ireland with an ERP of 800kw…. whatever that means!!

I started my journey from County Louth and the biggest challenge of the day turned out to be driving the stretch of the N52 linking the historic town of Kells to Mullingar. Listed as a national secondary road, I can only assume it was constructed by a group of people in the midst of a particularly severe and heavy drinking session. The road doesn’t so much link Kells with Mullingar; rather it meanders aimlessly around a series of extremely hazardous bends in the general direction of the Westmeath capital. The children amused themselves on the journey by counting the number of signs warning of dangerous on-coming bends. With the final count coming to 19, we were glad to see the roundabout to take us towards Longford and it wasn’t long before Corn Hill, easily identified by its mast, came into view.

Getting There
From Longford, the market-town of Drumlish is signposted. The town is probably best-known for the rather irritating ditty by country-crooner Declan Nearney and it looked pretty much uninhabited on our arrival. Perhaps the locals are afraid to go outside for fear of hearing Mr. Nearney singing his songs. From Drumlish, the Ballinalee road will take you out towards Corn Hill but you do need to turn off this road prior to Ballinalee to get to the foot of the hill (a map or directions from an elusive local are helpful here).

The Route
As straightforward as it gets.. Park up at the gateway beyond which lies the access ‘road’ up the hill. A few concrete steps lead across the wall beside the gate and from there, it’s a very short but pleasant stroll up the moss-covered lane-way to the base of the transmitter. The lower sections of the transmitter are addled with numerous satellite dishes whilst the structure itself is supported on all sides by a myriad of intimidating looking stay wires which stretch out in all directions across the summit.

Lying inconspicuously just below the base of the transmitter under one set of stay wires is a large trig pillar, it’s outer case of concrete severely cracked by the weather and peeling off on two sides. The trig pillar itself sits atop a large cairn camouflaged by a thick covering of mossy grass. The mature plantation of trees ensures that whatever views were available from the hill are now very much restricted. The trees do however have the side effect of hiding the service buildings associated with the mast.

On my way back down the hill, I met an elderly couple making their way up the lane-way and was informed that a group of people led by the local parish priest had traditionally walked the hill on the first Sunday of each June but the current priest had discontinued that tradition. The cairn atop the summit was reputedly the burial spot of an ancient King and tradition dictated that everyone carried a stone up the hill for placing on the cairn in order to enlarge it. The present state of the cairn with its thick coating of moss and grass indicated that this was another tradition that had died in recent times.

As I commented on the trees atop the hill, the man lamented that the plantation was an affront to it. ‘You used be able see nine counties from up there, she used to be a lovely spot but she’s not the same with those trees there. They wouldn’t get away with it these days but it was different back then, they’d plant those trees in boggy ground anywhere to make a few bob. Sure they planted trees..’. Seeing the man building up a head of steam, the woman interrupted to take the conversation in a different direction and I decided not to mention the offensive mast which now dominates the hill to such a degree.

There’s not a whole lot to recommend for Corn Hill. It is another hill somewhat spoiled by a plantation of trees. The hill could be combined with Mullaghmeen in County Westmeath and Loughcrew in County Meath to take in the ‘3 Lowest High Points’ in one day and each of these hills are very-much child friendly. Despite the transmitter and the low hum from its service buildings, the hill does have a very peaceful and quiet feel to it, it’s just a pity that the views have been devastated to such an extent.

County Top Rating: 3.5/10

Useful Information
Height: 278 metres
Mapsheet: 34 (Other than to locate the correct road, not necessary).

This is the fourth article in the series on Ireland’s County Tops.
Click here to see all articles from the series