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17th trip to Ireland, this edition could have been called "the revenge". Two years earlier, unpredictable weather during the end of summer forbade me some very good walks : Mweelrea and Cummeengeera Horseshoe walks. This year I decided to try again my luck by taking the time needed.
Cette année j'ai décidé de tenter à nouveau ma chance en prenant le temps nécessaire. Observing the weather trend, I am invited to go to the south west counties (I recognize that is like a bet against the nature). The program :
  • Croagh Patrick (762m d'échauffement)
  • Mweelrea (814m) third try !
  • the Twelve Bens (a big challenge)
  • Nephin, why not ?
  • few geocaches
  • Brandon Mountain (952m) in the Dingle peninsula
  • Mullaghanattin (773m) the best horsehoe walk in Ireland
  • Cummeengeera Horseshoe walk, impressive
  • Sheep's Head
  • Kinsale
  • and some pints of Guinness !
A hearty and appetizing program for a dozen days.

For logistics :
  • transport : flight(146€) and rented car type A (182€ for 12 days), prices hard to beat
  • Bed and Breakfast (rate 35€/night for a single room)
  • M50 eToll 3€ (no barrier, just CCTV)

Recession effects
If in France the economic crisis is being felt, it started brutally during 2008 in Ireland and the result is clearly visible : unfinished house for sale, lower B&B rates, job offers... for Australia. The european measures to overcome the crisis are the focus of the political debates with the organization of a referendum.

Raft Spider, an amphibian spider.
Pictures for each irish square kilometer (also available for UK).

Full Moon
05/05 : Dublin - Castlebar
Finished in 2010, the airport's terminal 2 offers to travellers a pleasant arrival in Dublin, far better than Paris Charles-de-Gaulle in my opinion where everything is tight... After waiting for an hour to get my car - saturday is a bad at rent desk - I drive to Castlebar.
Connaugh province is linked to French history. In 1798, General Humbert and his soldiers helped irish revolutioniaries to fight british troops. The enemy fled so quickly that the event is known as "The Races of Castlebar". Unfortunately, the British returned to muzzle the Irish revolution. Today pink ribbons and balloons adorn streets and shops for the research on breast cancer. The event is organized around sports with running, cycling, golfing...
PS : may 5th is also the night with the biggest full moon of the year 2012.

06/05 : Mweelrea 2 - 1
The day should be sunny, that is why I have to take my revenge on Mweelrea Mountain. There are already some cars parked à Doo Lough Lake. I meet an irish man ready for the walk but unsure about the way to go. I am happy to speak with Peter for whom it is hard to believe a french man can guide him in the Mweelrea Mountain. While we are walking, I explain to him what geocaching is and I tell to Peter there is a cache at the summit. This game is played with a GPS and accurate clues. We
are lucky today : my irish friend finds the quickly the cache without GPS nor clue !
Back to the B&B, a wonderful diner is waiting for me. The menu is made of 100% organic food : a big fresh and crisp salad, a wild salmon steak with its vegetables, a very good homemade bread, and the famous porter cake (cooked with Guinness). The diner deletes my two past defeats on Mweelrea (In 2008, I stopped my walk because of a pain at ankle, 2010, an evil weather made the walk too hazardous).

Mweelrea 2008Mweelrea 2010Mweelrea 2012
september 2008                                    september 2010                                               may 2012

07/05 : Croagh Patrick (13rd)
After the exceptionnal walk the day before, a cold weather invite me to go on a well known and easy ground. I choose Croagh Patrick on which something is like an optical illusion on its top. While I am climbing to the summit, the illusion becomes the truth. I walk in the irish snow for the first time !!! On the top, a polar wind is blowing strongly. While I am eating my snack among clouds, an unexpected rainbow appears in a sun spell.
The walk finished, I try to localize an easy geocache. I do not find it : frustrating. I decide then to take a look on Nephin (806m) and on the road, I follow a scenic drive which brings me near a geocache. Between two winter showers, I spot it fast and I drop off a "travel bug" inside. I decide then to stop the search of these evil geocaches until the end of my holidays.

Snow and rainbowSheeffry Hills

08/05 : Castlebar - Killarney
My plan was to halt in the Burren but, finally, I go to Killarney, following my preceding journey in 2010. The weathercast is wrong. It is a fresh but sunny day. If tomorrow is with the same sky, I will try to walk on Teeromoyle summit.


09/05 : Mangerton
The day should be wet with thes low clouds. My walk on Teeromoyle Mountain is posponed (to 2013 ?). I go finally to Mangerton Mount in a cold wind accompanied with an horizontal rain. Later, I drive to Ballaghbeama Gap with the hope to find some "rock arts", stones engraved with celtic draws. After an hour of search, I do not see any one, even the Kerry slugs are not here.

Blackstone Bridge
10/05 : Blackstone Bridge
Today is a cool day. I drive on small roads chosen randomly at crossroads. I stop finally near Blackstone Bridge and I go to walk along the river arranged for fishermen. I meet a couple of young german doctors and while we are talking, the small walk becomes a three hours hike along some Kerry way parts. The evening, I dine at the Laurels Pub, their fish'n chips is a delight.

11/05 : Mullaghanattin
The sun shines this morning. I want to do a memorable walk : Mullaghanattin horseshoe walk. This is one of the best I ever did. I leave with a good mood but a very strong wind is too dangerous for a narrow ridge. On the way back, I discover a kind of spider that i have never seen before. The specimen is pretty big for a spider with a body size around 2,5cm. But the most amazing is that this spider is able to dive into the water and it can stay hidden more than a minute before emerging. It is identified as a Raft Spider, a species who lives in peat bogs and swamps. They are in danger with the draining of wetlands in Europe.
I finish the day with a shortened Ring of Kerry (roads in the earth of the peninsula are also interesting as the coastal route).

Stumpa Duloigh and KnocklomenaButterwortRaft SpiderFrom Coomatloukane

12/05 : Lauragh Cummeengeera horseshoe walk
During my breakfast, the read of Lauragh Cummeengeera horseshoe walk description gives me some ideas. That is why I leave quickly to Kenmare where I book a B&B before trying THE challenge of my holidays. Weathers conditions are the best to forget my disappointment of the day before. I start under a blue sky a 12km demanding hike given for 5h30 / 6h without stop. The ground is very steep the first kilometer and it transforms into a course of obstacles. The summit is made of big slabs of sandstone separated with a a very wet peat. The effort is worth it : an impressive view on Iveragh peninsula reveals all the MacGillycuddy's Reeks and the glance overhangs the Rabach's Glen, known as the Pocket. On this difficult ground, the feeling to walk too slowly speeds me a bit. The last kilometer seems to be endless : a steep slope with lots of holes hidden by a thick grass.

Muckross LakeDrosera
Rabach's GlenIveragh Peninsula

13/05 : Kinsale
After the wonderful horseshoe walk, I leave the western mountains. I drive without knowing where I should go. Sheep's Head is a good destination but I prefer to visit the Beara peninsula first with its nice Healy Pass. I reach Dursey Island, linked by a telecabin, then I continue to Glengariff, Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty and, finally, Kinsale. The litlle town is crowded with inhabitants from Cork. They use to spend their weekend in Kinsale area for boating. Finding a B&B is easy, a free car park is a challenge today...
The evening, I dine at "The Stolen Pizza" which has just moved to its new premises : good food, nice atmosphere with an opened chimney.

Healy PassYellow windowShops

14 & 15/05 : Wicklow
When I woke up this morning, I realize that I will be back in France in less than four days, argh ! I take my breakfast with a couple of american people. The B&B where I stay offers a very large choice of irish food for the morning : besides the traditional "full irish", there a nice choice of cheese from Cork area, delicatessen, fruits, the matter to spend an hour at the table... The Olde Bakery knows how to receive.
I drive to Waterford but the town does not inspire me. I continue my way to the Wicklow Mountains, the last step before Dublin City. The weather is cold as the forecast promises a night below 0°C, what's wrong with this spring ? At Glendalough, a shower and a strong wind make the visitors run away. I walk a short time, just for breathing some wet air. It is too late for a good hike.
The day after, I choose a pleasant route which takes me along the cliffs above the Upper Lake. I continue on Camaderry with a party of 10 old irish men. These guys use to hike each tuesday, the "women's day" at their golf club. After the lunch, I witness a prayer in Gaelic in homage to persons recently dead.They enumerates the deads name and one of these happy old men explains to me it is not so good to be on their list !

16/05 : Dublin
This is the last day before I go back to France and I know where I will find a B&B. I park my car and then I take a bus, the best mean for quick move in the city with taxis in the late evening. I walk along O' Connel Street, Parson Street. I stop in Stephen's Green and Merrion Square and then I visit again the Natural History Museum, I love this place.Unfortunately I spend here only twenty minutes before a fire alarm rings. I decide then to take some picture about a collection of georgian doors. My feet drive me to Temple Bar and I phone to Peter, the irish man I met on Mweelrea Mountain. He cannot share a pint of Guinness with me because he must take care to his ill child. I dine then alone with very good mussels and chips on the menu in a pub.

DublinOscar WildeNatural History Museum

Georgian doorGeorgian doorGeorgian doorGeorgian door

Georgian doorGeorgian doorGeorgian doorGeorgian door

17/05 : Dublin airport

My plane is programmed at 06h30 and I have to wake up very early. All rent offices are closed. The tip to drop you rented car is to park it at the terminal car park. There is gas station opened 24/24 near return car park. With an arrival at 04h45 at the airport, I wait for only twenty five minutes before boarding. Dublin airport is surprizingly busy even if it is very early in the morning. This is like a parallel world where shops seem to be always opened. Eighteen millions travellers per year take an flight from or to Dublin airport for a country with only five inhabitants, that's a lot.

Back to France, the weather is not a lot better than Ireland. I meet my friends who are surprised to learn I was again on the Emerald Isle and ready to go back again. But another trip is in preparation. After highlands and bagpipes, fire and ice and wild wide west, back to South America...

PS : you might have noticed it, this journey is very similar to the one of the year 2010. My garden is made of peat bogs, mountains and the sea.

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