The River Blackwater is one of the largest rivers in Ireland 169 km, draining a major part of Co. Cork and five ranges of mountains, the Boggeragh, Nagle, Ballyhoura, Galtee and Knockmeldown ranges. It flows through Kerry, Cork, Limerick and Waterford and has freshwater stretches as far upstream as Ballydesmond and tidal stretches as far as Youghal Harbour. It enters County Waterford where it flows through Lismore, before abruptly turning south at Cappaquin and finally draining into the Celtic Sea at Youghal Harbour.
The Munster Blackwater river valley has significant heritage dating as far back as the Mesolithic period. In the 1980’s, in the district known as Lefanta (Grey Meadow), just south of Cappaquin, 7000 year old artefacts were discovered by an archaeological team from University College Cork.
Just north of Youghal sit the ruins of Molana Abbey, a 6th century monastery famous for its collection of Canon Law. Said to have been raided by Vikings, it is the resting place of Raymond (le Gros) Fitzgerald and the location of a Desmond Castle. It sits alongside the ruin of Rhincrew Abbey, a preceptory for the Knights Templar. Both are now part of the Ballynatray Estate, at one time owned by Walter Raleigh. Other estate houses and castles on the river include Strancally Castle, Camphire House and Tourin House.
Of particular interest is Dromana House and estate. Just north of Villierstown, it was once the site of medieval castle and remains the residence of the Villiers-Stuarts with a family history on this site dating back 800 years. The estate encapsulates extensive forest land and a unique Hindu-Gothic gate lodge build in 1825 to honor the marriage of the owners. It stands on the edge of a bridge spanning the river Finnisk, a tributary of the Blackwater.
The Blackwater also incorporates unique economic history that saw large boats traverse the river importing coal and exporting timber for props in the coal mines of Wales. It was one of the most celebrated salmon fisheries in Ireland and Europe, and the site of a linen colony which saw the establishment of Villierstown in the 1750’s.