A couple of weeks ago I was in Belfast attending a conference – the first one for a few years. Being good, sitting through the conference sessions and catching up with people I hadn’t seen face to face for some time, I didn’t have much time for exploring the city. However, on the second night of the conference one of the major equipment suppliers traditionally hosts a free shin dig and this year was no different, so with just about everyone one else attending the event I made my way to the Cathedral Quarter and the Dark Horse.
Inside it’s a very traditional Irish pub with lots of glass and polished brass.
But one of the main attractions is the courtyard behind the pub where all the walls are a gallery of street art depicting scenes of Irish history and culture – with a good helping of Irish humour too.
Before and after my walk around the two lakes at Glendalough I took the opportunity to look around the Monastic City, an early Christian monastic settlement founded by the Celtic saint, St. Kevin (Caoimhín in Irish) in the 6th century although mst of the surviving buildings are from the 10th to 12th centuries. It’s one of the most popular touristattractions in this part of Ireland being only an hour’s drive from Dunblin. I’d visited the site with my wife 9 years ago, but thought it was worth another look..
The view towards the site is dominated by the 33 metre tall Round Tower.
It was built almost 1000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery. Round towers are found all over Ireland and there are various theories about what they were for. However, the Irish name for the towers is “Cloigtheach”, which translates as “bell tower”. It is also thought that the towers were sometimes used as a place of refuge for monks when the monastery was under attack from Vikings and other raiders. They may also have been used as lookout posts and as beacons foe approaching monks and pilgrims. The Glendalough tower is a fine example, many others are partially ruined, although the conical roof had to be replaced in 1876 after it had been struck by lightning.
St. Kevin’s Church better known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen is a nave-and-chancel church of the 12th century. It is called St Kevin’s kitchen because people believed that the bell tower was a chimney to a kitchen.
The Cathedral is the largest of the seven churches around Glendalough. It was built in several phases from the 10th through the early 13th century.
Originally, the site was enclosed within a circular wall. Most of this has gone but gateway remains and is Ireland’s only surviving example of a medieval gateway to an early monastic city. The arch is built with Roman style columns and the stones were cut specifically to scale and they held themselves up without the need for mortar.
At the end of my weekend in Wicklow I was booked on the afternoon ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. I had to check out ofthe campsite mid morning so had planned to drive over to Dublin, park around either Merrion or Fitzwilliam square and have a mooch and visit one of the galleries in thecity centre. It didn’t quite work out like that, though. Driving in there were signs regarding a half Marathon and when I arrived in the city centre found that both Merrion and Fitzwilliam squares were closed off as the starting and finishing points for the race. So I had to change my plans.
I reckoned that with the half Marathon on it would be busy in the centre and parking might be difficult. I also thought I could get tangled up in traffic and diversions when it was time to drive across the city to the port. So what to do? I decided to drive over the Liffey and then across to North Bull Island, a low lying, dune covered sand spit in Dublin Bay off the coast of the city’s north side which I see every time I sail in and out of the port. It was a sunny day so a good opportunity to visit the island and take a walk on the beach.
The Island was created 200 years ago following the construction of the 1 kilometre-long North Bull Wall was constructed to prevent the port silting up. The surveying of the river prior to the building of the wall was done by a certain Catain Bligh of Bounty fame. Sandgradually accumulated behind the wall forming the island. Today it’s5km long by 1km wide and it’s still growing. It’s importantecologically and has been designated as a National Bird Sanctuary, a biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. That’s a lot of designations!
The island is easily accessible as it’sconnected to the mainland by the Bull Bridge, a one-lane wooden road bridge at the southern (Clontarf/Dollymount) end, and by a causeway, approximately halfway alongatRaheny. After cutting acoss the city centre, I drove along the front and then crossed over to the island via the causeway, parked up and wandered past the dunes to the sandy beach known as Dollymount Strand.
The strong wind was in my face as I walked along the beach towards the Bull Wall, but there were plenty of other people out exercising and otherwise enjoying the sunshine. There are views out to sea and over to both Howth Head and the port.
I could see right over Dublin Bay to the Wicklow Mountains. Completely free of cloud today. Typical!
It’s a popular spot for wind surfing and it seemed like a good day for it.
As I walked along the beach I could see the Stena ferry I would be boarding later sailing in. I got some good shots of it as I reached the end of the wall just as it sailed past. Good timing!
Although the sea was quite rough there were a number of bathers who’d taken the plunge. Rather them than me!
I retraced my steps aling the beach and then back to my car. It was time to drive the short distance to the port ready to board the ferry back to Holyhead.
I woke early on the Saturday morning during my stay in the Wicklow Mountains. I’d checked the weather forecast the night before and wasn’t very optimistic as rain was expected. It wasn’t raining when I got up, but after breakfast, when I popped down to the village to pick up some supplies, it arrived. I hung around in my pod for a while but there was no sign of it stopping. However, I had my waterproof coat and I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me from getting out onto the hills.
I’d plotted myself a walk from the campsite that would take me to the top of Scarr, a mountain 2105 feet high just a few miles north ofthe site. I’d worked out a couple of possible circular routes, but hadn’t any definite plans as to which I would follow, I thought I’d see how it went depending on conditions.
I set out along the Military Road (as the name implies it was built by the British to facilitate the movement of troops to keep the Irish under the imperial heel)
for about half a mile until I reached the point where the Wicklow Way crossed the road.
Turnng right I followed the trail up through a forest,
climbing on to moorland. The rain began to ease off and had more or less stopped by the time I came out of the cover of the trees.
I continued on the Wicklow Way for a while across the moor before turning off on a path that would take me over Paddock Hill towards Scarr. Views were opening up over the Glenmarcnass Pass to the Mullaghcleevaun, Tonelagee and Brockagh mountains, or at least they should have been! Low cloud was was covering the mountain tops.
I carried on over the moor and started the climb up Scarr,
up into the cloud that was covering the mountain.
I stopped to chat with some walkers on their way down. They’d been to the summit but as visibility was poor were making their way back down towards Laragh. I carried on.
It was a gradual climb; nothing too steep but due the cloud I couldn’t see the top. A couple of times I thought I was there but then realised that it was a false summit.
Eventually I made it to the top. I couldn’t see a thing!
I’d planned to carry on to another peak, Kanturk, a little further along the ridge, and then loop back. But given the lack of information on the maps I decided there was a real chance of getting lost so, reluctantly, turned back to retrace my route.
After turning round there was a break in the cloud – I could see the summit!
and some of the nearby countryside
I hung around for a little while to see if it was going to disperse so I could resume my original plan. But it was a false hope, it soon closed back in
I retraced my route back over the moor and then down through the forest
Reaching the Military Road, rather than walk straight down into Laragh, I crossed over and followed the Wicklow way for a while, down through more forest
Crossing over a recently constructed bridge over the turbulent river
rried on along the path I’d have reached the monastic site at Glendalough, but I cut down through a forest track back to the village where I picked up some supplies from the convenience shop.
Despite the conditions it was an enjoyable walk. I’ll have to return one day and repeat it when the weather’s a bit better.
After a shower and something to eat it was soon time to head down to the local pub to watch the match.
About 9 years ago, during a holiday touring around the south west of Ireland, we visited Glendalough – “the valley of two lakes” – in the Wicklow Mountains. The old monastery at the end of the glacial valley near Laragh is one of the most popular tourist sites in Ireland, as it’s an interesting monument about an hour’s drive from Dublin. We’d looked around the ruins but then went for a walk along the lake, up the valley as far as the old miner’s village which is just past the end of the Upper Lake. At the time I would have liked to follow the trail around the valley, climbing up to the Spinc, the hill that overlooks the valley to the east of the lakes, but didn’t have time that day. But I’d always wanted to go back. So while I was staying in Laragh I was able to fulfil my ambition.
After checking into my pod and unloading the car, I changed into my walking gear and set off from the camp site through Laragh and then joined the “green road” which would take me to the monastic site and the start of the glen; a very pleasant walk of just over a mile.
I diverted for a quick look at the monastic site, which was, not surprisingly, heaving with tourists of various nationalities. But I didn’t stop for long as my main objective was to follow the white route, one of several waymarked paths around the area. To reach the start of the route I followed the boardwalk which had been constructed across the bogs along the side of the Lower Lake.
There was also a continuation of the Green Road along the other shore, but I’d decided that I’d follow that on the return leg.
It was interesting to cross the bog and the boardwalk kept my feet dry!
I emerged at the bottom of the Upper Lake where there’s a car park, a toilet block, some vans selling food and drinks and an information centre. I picked up a trails leaflet and some information on the Wicklow Mountains National Park and then bought myself a brew which I drank sitting on the shore of the Upper Lake, taking in the view up the valley.
Refreshed, I set off on the White route. I decided to follow it in a clockwise direction, thinking that I’d rather go up the initial steep climb past the Poulanass waterfall and up through the forest to the top of the Spinc (from the Irish “An Spinc“; meaning “pointed hill”) than come down it at the end. The descent at the top of the lake was much more gradual and so likely to be easier on the knees. I think that was the right decision.
I climbed the steps, passing the waterfall.
A walk along a section of forest road then took me to the start of the trail up through the forest. It was a steep climb, made easier by the steps (600 or so of them), made of old railway sleepers.
The sleepers been used to create a boardwalk, a dry track all along the route on the east side of the lake, up to and along the Spinc. Much of the route is over boggy ground so it saves walkers having to yomp through mud and also protects the ground from erosion.
Large areas of trees had been felled leaving a desolate landscape to the east of the path.
But this did make the climb less claustrophobic and dark than if the trees were all still standing and it opened up the views
Eventually I reached the ridge and as I followed the path there were several viewpoints over the Lake and up and down the valley.
There were other walkers following the route in an anti-clockwise direction, some not really suitably attired, but, luckily, the weather, although cloudy and a little windy, wasn’t too bad. It deteriorated a little as I carried on up the valley, but although it started to rain it didn’t last long.
After climbing to the summit, the route started to descend down towards the Glenealo Valley. I’d noted that quite a few of the sleepers were beginning to deteriorate but I could see that work was taking place to renew them – it had already been done on a long stretch at the south end of the ridge.
As the path descended the wooden boardwalk ended and I found myself on a rocky path heading down to the bridge which crosses the river.
As I descended I spotted a herd of feral goats above me on the hillside. There’s several hundred of them living in the valley so There’s a good chance of encountering them on a walk here. It’s not certain whether they are descended from goats kept by the former miners or whether they were already here when the mine first opened.
After crossing the bridge the route turned north and continued to descend down towards the Upper Lake and the old Miner’s Village.
I spotted a couple of young men who clearly had spotted something and were taking photos. When I reached them I could see what was attracting their attention – a deer standing only a few yards away from them. I managed to take a few photos myself.
As with the goats, there’s a large number of deer roaming around Glendalough, mostly crossbreeds between native Red Deer and Japanese Sika (which had escaped from the Powerscourt estate). They’re used to walkers and, apparently, often get relatively close, as in this case.
Carrying on descending down the rough, stoney path – time to start using my walking poles – I eventuallyreached the ruins of the Mining village. There’s been mining in this area of the Wicklow Mountains since about 1809 and the mine high on the hillside operated between 1825 and 1925, extracting lead ores and some silver. It re-opened briefly between 1948 to 1957 but has been closed permanently since then. Spoil heaps are still clearly visible on the mountainside above the village.
I stopped for a little while to look around the ruins.
I carried on along the path which soon turned into a track along the west side of the Upper Lake,
so it didn’t take me too long to reach the end of the White Route at the bottom of the lake. I stopped to look up the valley where it was now misty as the rain was falling.
I took the Green Road path back along the Lower Lake, stopping briefly to take in the views.
Reaching the monastic site just after 6 o’clock I stopped for a while to take a look as the bulk of tourists had gone. The sun popped out of the clouds briefly, lighting up the round tower.
Retracing my steps back along the Green Road through the forest
I reached Laragh around 7 o’clock. I picked up a few supplies from the convenience store and headed back to the campsite. It was time to make myself something to eat.
It had been an excellent walk, which didn’t disappoint. I quite fancied trying some of the other trails but I had different plans for the next day so will have to return some other time. I’m due back in Ireland in September so may get the chance to stay for another weekend – we’ll see!
After eating I sat outside on the decking reading for a while, with a coffee and a bar of chocolate (after a 12 mile walk, I think I deserved a treat). When the night drew in I turned in early and settled down to sleep. I had plans for another walk the next day.
I missed out on the late May Bank Holiday this year. I needed to schedule a course in Ireland and the only week that worked was the last week in May. So on Sunday 26th I sailed over to Dublin and then drove over to Naas. This time, however, I’d decided to extend my stay and spend some time in the Wicklow Mountains, a range of hills to the south of Dublin in County Wicklow. Ever since we visited the area 9 years ago I’d always fancied getting up on the hills and with the long days of May, this seemed like a good opportunity, so I decided to book a couple of nights in suitable accommodation around the village of Laragh, do some walking and then return home on the Sunday.
What I hadn’t reckoned was that the first Monday in June is a Bank Holiday in Ireland, so I some trouble finding a B and B near Laragh at a reasonable price. However, I found a “glamping” site in Laragh that had availability, and having found staying in a “pod” quite good when I went for a sea Kaying weekend in Anglesey last year, I thought I’d book myself in for a couple of nights. It turned out to be a good call. Glendalough Glamping was a really good site with spacious pods (larger than the one I stayed in in Anglesey) and excellent facilities including a kitchen and dining area with cooking equipment available and even with cutlery and crockery provided. There were walks out in the hills right from the door so once I checked in I didn’t have to use my car until I drove home.
My course finished at midday on the Friday so I drove over to Laragh across the hills over the Wicklow Gap arriving an hour later. Although check in was 3 p.m. I’d arranged in advance to arrive at 1 and as my pod was ready was able to check in, get changed and head out for a walk.
Unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend was mixed, with some rain expected (the story of my life this year!) but I managed a couple of good walks over the weekend. One worry was that I’d miss the European Champions Trophy final. As a lapsed Liverpool fan I was keen to watch the match. But the Irish are generally pretty much football mad and I knew that Liverpool have a big following over there, so it was pretty certain that the local pub would be showing the match. The pub was crowded but I squeezed in amongst the locals, many of them wearing red shirts. So I felt quite at home, especially as the Reds managed to win the match.
Walking in the Wicklow Mountains is a bit of a challenge. I’d got hold of a good map, 1:30,000 scale, for the area. But paths aren’t well documented, so it’s difficult to plot a route just from the map if you’re not familiar with the area. However, I had a good walking guide to the hills and the internet, as usual, is a good resource for routes, so with a little homework I had some ideas on what I could do. The very friendly and helpful campsite owner (very typically Irish) also gave me some information on possible routes.
But I had one route in mind ever since my last visit 9 years ago – a walk around the two lakes of Glendalough, where there are a number of well marked trails. So on Friday afternoon I set off down the Green Road from Laragh to the monastic site at the foot of the “valley of two lakes”. (to be continued …….. !!)
I was only in Galway for a couple of days. I had a flight back to Manchester from Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, but I had the morning to have a bit of a wander around the city. The weather was a real mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but wrapped up warm I managed to have a decent walk around, even getting to a few places I hadn’t previously seen. Here’s a few photos.
Last Monday in Galway was a busy day. I met a friend for coffee first thing before heading over to NUI Galway late morning to prepare for my workshop in the afternoon. It seemed to go well.
In the evening I’d arranged to meet my old friend Veronica who was born and bred in the city and lives in Salthill. We always meet up when I’m over and go out for a meal. We both love seafood so usually go to one of the many great seafood restaurants in the area. This time Veronica had booked us a table at O’Grady’s on the pier at Barna, a few miles west of the city.
We had a most excellent seafood meal and I started, as usual, with a plate of oysters. Veronica said she didn’t want a starter but might pinch one of my oysters. In the end, they were so tempting she stole two!
As the name suggests, the restaurant is situated next to the pier on the harbour. Unfortunately, being late January it was too dark for me to take in the coastal scenery (I really have to go back during the summer!). But I could see the pier. It looked familiar and, indeed, it was as it features in the final scenes of the film starring Brendan Gleeson set in Connemarra – The Guard
Last Sunday I travelled over to Galway on the west coast of Ireland for what has become an annual trip to the “City of the Tribes” to run a workshop at the University. It’s a great opportunity to see some friends who live there and mooch around what is probably my favourite Irish City.
Only problem is that due to having to fit into the course timetable my visits have all been in the winter – normally February, but this year I was there a little earlier in the year. I really must make an effort to get over there when the days are longer so I can see this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way at its best. (I’ve promised my friend Veronica that I definitely will!)
I took the plane from my least favourite airport to Dublin and then caught the express coach over to Galway. It was windy leaving Manchester which meant a bumpytake off in the Aer Lingus twin engined turboprop. But the short flight wasn’t too bad. It was cold and sunny with blue skies in Dublin, but as we travelled west on the coach I could see clouds in the distance. By the time we arrived in Galway it was cold and grey and starting to rain. I checked into my hotel, and then set out for a mooch. It was just after 4 p.m and there was about an hour and a half to go before it would be dark so I wrapped up warm, and wandered across Eyre Square and down Shop Street and Quay Street down to the small harbour at the Claddagh (the streets in Galway do exactly “what they say on the tin”, by the way).
I stopped and took in the view over to the picturesque row of houses known as the Long Walk and then decided to brave the weather and take a walk along the coast to the seaside suburb of Salthill.
After walking to the end of the turbulent Corrib river, where it enters Galway Bay, I turned west and set out along the path that skirts the coast, passing Mutton Ireland and on towards Salthill. A little further on I diverted off the path to take a look at the Famine Ship Memorial in the Celia Griffin Memorial Park, Gratton Beach.
As I carried on towards Salthill I passed a plaque, engraved with a poem – ‘The One-Armed Crucifixion’ -by Paul Durcan, accompanied by an engraving by John Behan. It’s part of the Galway Poetry Trail which I’d used as the basis of a walk around Galway last year, but I hadn’t come across this particular plaque as I hadn’t wandered out this far.
There were a couple of more plaques further on along the coast road and I must have passed them, but wasn’t paying attention and missed them. Rather negligent of me, but there’s always next year!
Reaching Salthill I carried on along the coastal path, passing the Aquariam and various other seaside attractions in the small resort, until I reached the sea diving platform. It was dark by now so I couldn’t see too much and little point in trying to take photos! I wandered over close to the sea to listen to the waves breaking, and was startled by someone appearing from out of the sea. A brave soul, the water must have been freezing. I stopped for a little while peering into the dark and contemplating life and the universe as you do before turning round and retracing my steps back to the City.
Reaching the city centre it was time to get something to eat. In the past I’ve treated myself to fish and chips at McDonaghs chippie (it is the seaside, after all). But I’m trying to be good and lose a couple of kg, so resisted. Instead, I had a home made noodle dish in Xian Street Food, a rather nice little Chinese fast food place that had opened on Quay Street since my last visit.
Afterwards I continued wandering, taking the path along the Corrib as far as the Cathedral before cutting back across to my Hotel on Eyre Square where I settled down in front of the TV to catch the latest episode of Les Miserables on the BBC. (Yes, I know I was in Ireland but the hotels usually have the main UK TV channels).
It had been a long day so it was time to turn in for the night. Another busy day to look forward to on Monday.
I’m back in Ireland this week – working not on holiday, but I caught an early ferry over on Sunday morning, arriving in Dublin just after midday as I often do so that I can spend a little time exploring what has become my “second home”! The weather was looking reasonably promising so I’d decided to get out for a walk. I’d thought about driving into the Wicklow mountains but on second thoughts felt it would be nice to have a walk along the sea shore so decided to go for a walk on Howth Head, the headland to the north of the city centre that my ferry passes sailing into Dublin Port. It’s only a few miles from the port and it took me about half an hour to drive over there.
I’d done my research beforehand and knew that there were a number of way marked routes I could follow. I’d decided on the longer “Bog of Frogs” route, about 12 km long, that starts at the Howth DART station near the harbour and follows the coast round before cutting across country back to the start.
I’d planned to park up near the harbour as I knew there were plenty of car parks, but when I arrived they were jam full and it was clearly going to be a struggle to find a space. So I drove out of the town centre up inland and managed to find a spot on the Summit car park on top of the cliffs near the Baily lighthouse, part way round the route. There was no reason why I couldn’t start here as the route would bring me back, so that’s what I did.
I followed the path down the hill and after a short distance was on the route. All the routes are waymarked with different coloured arrows. I was following the purple route with a few minor diversions.
Straight away I was greeted with a view over the Baily lighthouse that stands at the end of a peninsula on the south side of the headland. I see it every time I sail into Dublin. It’s still a working lighthouse so it isn’t possible to walk right up to it.
The skies were dark and cloudy over Dublin to the west and as the lighthouse was in that direction it didn’t make for a good photo. But it was clear and bright over to the east, so this photo was taken after I’d walked along the path past the peninsula
Carrying on the narrow path was high up on the cliffs and there were good views down to the sea. It could be hairy on a windy day.
Looking over to Poolbeg and the south wall with the olfd power station chimneys dominating the view
There’s some nice houses up on the top of the cliffs looking over the sea
Turning a corner I could see a Martello Tower along the coast.
The marked route turned inland before the tower but I wanted a closer look so carried on along the coastal path for a while.
I carried on the coastal path a little further before turning inland and, passing lots of expensive houses, looped back along the road to rejoin the purple route which now cut inland heading towards the north side of the headland.
The path crossed the golf course (watch out for golf balls!!) and as I climbed I could see the sea on to the north with views across as far as the Mountains of Mourne over the border in Northern Ireland.
At the other side of the golf curse I entered the wooded area known as the “Bog of Frogs”
Fortunately after a dry summer it wasn’t so boggy (although there were boardwalks to keep walkers’ feet dry) and I didn’t see any frogs!
The route now climbed up into heathland before descending down into Howth
but I took a slight diversion climbing a hill to take in the views over the sea and the harbour and toward the small island known as “Ireland’s Eye”
The route continued down the hill, across some fields and passing another golf course and a Gaelic sports field, through a housing estate and then down a path arriving at Howth DART station, the “official” start of the walk.
However, I’d started part way round and so had only completed about two thirds of the route so I had a few more miles to go back to my car. Howth is quite an attractive town and harbour. I’d visited it some years ago during the winter when it was cold and quiet, but this day was quite different – sunny and warm and heaving with people walking around and enjoying a pint and sea food in the many bars and cafes that line the harbour.
I decided to take a break from the walk and explore the harbour. There’s actually two – one a fishing harbour where, being a Sunday, there were plenty of boats moored along the quays
then there’s the “pleasure boat” harbour. Didn’t look like there were many people out sailing!
I walked out on the harbour wall to get a better look at Ireland’s Eye
The beach to the east of the harbour wall
I spent about an hour looking round the harbour before resuming my walk along the purple route. It took me up past another Martello tower which overlooks the harbour and which today houses a radio communication museum.
The route now followed the narrow road on the side of the cliff as far as the Kilrock carpark and then back on to the cliff top footpath.
Looking back to Howth
and along the cliff path
After almost an hour after setting out from Howth harbour, the Baily lighthouse came into view – and there was the Irish Ferries boat Ulysees sailing past towards Dublin Port.
I’d also seen the Stena Line’s Adventurer sailing past in the distance about half an hour before.
It didn’t take long now to climb back up to the top of the cliff and the Summit car park.
This had been a grand walk. It had been busy in Howth and also along the cliff from the Harbour to the lighthouse – there were several large groups of young tourists who slowed me down a little as it was difficult to pass on the narrow path. But it was good to see them enjoying their walk too.
Back at the car I changed out of my boots and set off driving back through Dublin and on to Naas where I’m staying and working this week.