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Back on the trail


In 2013, I started to share my travels in Ireland with somebody. First with my parents, then in 2015 a very good friend with whom I traveled in some countries, and finally a cousin in 2016. Year after year, I asked him for sharing a travel with me and I convinced him to discover my personal Éirinn.
The program promised summits, pints of Guinness, irish breakfast and good laughs. Let's check if the goals have been reached.

Logistics


As usual, flight tickets and hired car were booked few months earlier for lower prices. For nights, we will stay at least two or three days par B&B, we will take our time. We do not need to book any bed and breakfast except in Dublin.
Notice that some B&B in Dublin (at least two) do not include the breakfast anymore, without any discount on their prices...

The program


I asked for many times my cousin to let me know where he would like to go. Until we sat in our hired car, our plan was... blank. We finally defined it according to the weather forecast and my own experience :
  • Castlebar (3 to 4 nigths)
  • Ballyvaughan (2 nights)
  • Dingle (2 or 3 nights)
  • Killarney (3 or 4 nights)
  • Kilkenny or Kinsale (1 night)
  • Laragh (2 nights)
  • Dublin (last short night)

At this point, we are in Ireland for hillwalking and I hope to discover new summits.

The pictures


Photos which illustrate this travel's diary were mainly taken with an iPhone 6s. More pictures are available on the interactive map or the gallery where few pictures were also made with a camera Olympus XZ-1.
I don't think I am an Apple fan boy but I have to say their phones and some applications are really smart to improve your snapshots.



Marseille airport
02/06 : Dublin - Castlebar

An unforeseen strike canceled most flights of the day except two which one was mine but delayed with two hours. Landed at Dublin under a blue sky and 24°C, we find the sun who vanished in France behind a rainy weather and exceptional floods. Because of a cloudy weather along the north west coast, we choose to go to Castlebar. My favorite place to visite the counties Mayo and Connemara. Week end vibrant nights in the town have evolved since few years : young people prefer now to go to Westport, more attractive because of tourism development.

Note : since few years Ireland increased its invests in tourism attraction. One of the last creation is the "West Atlantic Way". This is an itinerary made of selected roads along the west coast, from north to south.
 

03/06 : Cnoc Maol Réidh : bald hill with the smooth top

For our first walk, I propose a "gentle" climb to the Mweelrea. The sun shines and the ground is unusually dried. Between Ben Burry and Mweelrea top, we meet two groups of walkers (this is one of the classic hikes in Connemara). From the top and along the trail back to the car, the panorama is very nice. We can see Barrclashcame top and further, the Croagh Patrick.

Note : along the R335, a famine monument is erected near Glenullin Lough.
Barrclashcame from trail to Mweelrea

A weatherfrog (protected Rana temporaria , common frog) :
Lough Eager

04/06 : Croagh Patrick (764m) !

For this eighteenth climb, Irish seem to have an appointment with their famous patron saint : St Patrick. The path is more like a Dublin street at after work than a mountain trail (the annual christian pilgrimages are the last friday of July, the last sunday in July and August 15th). Nevertheless we reach the top quickly. From there, the view on Clew Bay is a candy for our eyes while in our back, some men are painting the white chapel. I notice this is only the second time I see the little church opened. Saint Patrick's Bed lies among gifts and it sounds more like a trash than a sepulture.
Note : Croagh Patrick was a site of pagan pilgrimage since 3000 BC. The mountain contains a seam of gold, potentially 9331kg.
Clew Bay

If you ask how many island lie in Clew Bay, irish will answer "same as the days in a year". A less enchanting answer identifies 117 named drumlins, rocks and sandbars.

05/06 : Maumturk

Twelve Bens intimidate us and we were not ready for 25km walk. We decide to go to the classic and easier central Maumturk instead. On the flat and rocky ridges, the wind is out of breath while the sun is warm. Summits after summits we finally reach the Lough Maamochoige. The descent is still grassy but nicely dry this time. Back to the car, the road is melting under the sun, something I already met in 2005. I wonder what kind of asphalt irish road works use.

Maumturk Lough Maamochoige Drosera


On our way back to Castlebar, I take the road to Tawnyard Lough to see if the rams are still there. And they are lying in the grass since 1999, the year I saw them for the first time ! (Even the Google car met them).

Princess Leia style
Tawnyard Lough


06/06 : Cong, Galway & Ballyvaughan

Today is a good day for a rest. I invite my cousin to visit the park at Cong with its hidden Mac Guinness Tower. It was a unique place above trees, a kind of artifact taken from The Lord of the Rings saga. But now, the tower loses a part of its magic atmosphere : for safety, ugly grids have been erected at the top. Cong was the place where "The Quiet Man" was filmed, starring John Wayne.
Galway is still the same, with its hord of tourists and its pubs terraces. Along a street, we find a "Jolly Roger" sculpture : the Lynch Window. It commemorates one of the city's most enduring legends. James Lynch Fitzstephen, mayor or the town in 1493, hanged his own son for the murder of Gomez, a spanish visitor. The mayor's son killed him because he was jealous from his friendship with her girlriend...
We end our day at The Dolmen B&B, a good place to stay in the Burren area, near Ballyvaughan. For our diner, we go to O'Donoghues Pub at Fanore.
Mac Guinness Tower The Lynch Window


07/06 : The Burren

The Burren, situated in the north of county Clare, is a unique landscape. Walking on the plateau is a bit special because of clints and grikes : limestone pavements separated with fissures need to take care of where you put your feet. Some alpine flowers usually seen around 2000m grow here under 300m ! A new track has been built and it looks like a ugly scar through this protected area...
After a three hours walk near Gleninagh (316.1m), we reach Dingle peninsula by taking the ferry boat at Killimer. Dingle is a town where you can find many restaurants and few shops for tourists. A dolphin named Fungie is the beloved mascot of the area. Many years ago, I saw it in the bay, It is still alive and it has been injured in early june 2016, probably by a propeller.

The Guinness goddess A tree, 1999 Dingle


South east view near DoughBranneen


08/06 : Misty Brandon Mountain (951,7m)

Clouds are low on the mountains. My cousin and I decide to climb another "holy" summit : Brandon Mountain. Despite the mist, we walk in good conditions without rain and a mild temperature(*). White posts and crosses make easy to follow the path. From the top, the landscape is hidden by the fog. I am doomed to try a fourth ascent next year for what it should be a good panoramic view on Dingle and Iveragh peninsula.
There are 14 stations marked with a white cross along the path, plus an ultimate big one built in metal on the summit. If you pay attention, you will find two additional crosses at the start of the walk.
Seeing Brandon Mountain without a stop at the Gallarus Oratory would be a fault. So, we go. The structure was built in dry-stone between 600AD and maybe 1200AD. It might be a place of worship and the thing I know is that it is an austere place with a peaceful atmosphere.
(*)First time I was there, it was raining horizontally with a thick fog, the second one, the temperature was below 5°C in june and still with an opaque mist.

Pristine white view from Brandon Mountain


09/06 : Muckross Lake

We leave Dingle to Killarney through O' Connor Pass. On our arrival, we have to change our plan a little while the B&B I use to stay is closed. We finally go to the Kingfisher Lodge. The next morning, the plentiful breakfast menu reminds me I have already stayed here many years ago. We spend a long time to eat toasts, pancakes, cereals, fruits... To help us to digest, we go to walk around Muckross Lake. This is another "small and easy" walk I like. According to litterature, otters live along the lakes shores and they are very difficult to see because of their behaviour. As the weather is warm, I plan to take a drink at the bar near the "meeting of waters". But we have to pass our way because of a closed door...
After 12 kilometers and a final ascent of 240m, we finish our tour at Torc Waterfall. For the diner, we go to Laurels restaurant. Its fish'n chips is one of the best in the place.

10/06 : Mangerton (838.2m)

Today, the weather confirms the internet forecast : most of the mountains are hidden under low clouds. We choose an easy trail to follow : Mangerton. At the start point, the sign post is telling that mountains can be dangerous if you are not well prepared. It seems to be a bit exagerated for this summit, but I know what is hidden behind these words : cold, heavy rain, strong wind, fog (once, I could not see at more than 2m !). Today we have to play with the clouds that have the kindness to fade as we passed. On the summit we can see the landscape with a sun spell and back to the car, no rain spell caught us.
Then we take the road to visit the peninsula, we make a stop at Ladies View and I show to my cousin the heart of the Kerry with the Black Valley and the Gap of Dunloe.

Lough Erhogh


11/06 : Bray Head

Sheep trooperSkellig Islands
We want at first to make a big walk on Glenbeigh summits but the weather decides for us it is better to go to Valencia Island. We discover Brendan Creek, followed by a small walk to Bray Head. From there, we have a look on the shape of Skellig islands. The rock Skellig Michael is now in the cosmic legend of Star Wars saga, since it has been filmed for the last scenery in the episode VII and the next one.
 


12/06 : Gleninchaquin & Kinsale

The Pocket today is a challenging walk as clouds hide Eskatariff summits, that is why we go to Gleninchaquin (or Glenanchaquin, or Glen Inchiquin...). It is a private park at only 20' from Kenmare. Here you can walk on nice marked trails. We follow the yellow way, a 3 to 4 hours walk, the orange unmarked trail is my favorite but a "little" more difficult. The walk finishes in a nice garden and you can take a cup of tea with home made cakes...
Butterwort Kids Lough Inchiquin & Cummeenadillure Lough


Glenanchaquin


Then we go to Kinsale and we find a B&B in a popular street near the town centre, not the best one but OK for one night. My cousin and I go to Dinos, a family restaurant where we drink a pint of beer brewed locally.

13/06 : Kinsale - Laragh

The end of our holidays is near as we approach Dublin. On the way, we stop at Waterford. We visit the city centre and one of its main attractions : a cristal shop. Despite I am not a fan, their sculpted glasses are a kind of remarkable artwork known around the world. At the end of the afternoon, we reach Laragh in the heart of Wicklow Mountains.
Colors of Kinsale Into the wild car park


14/06 : Glendalough

This is our last walk in the irish mountains. Some rain showers are planned today and we decide to go to Glendalough, a monastery site. On the trail I explain to my cousin we may be lucky if we see wild goats ande red deers. Less than twenty minuts later, they are on our path ! Despite the trail is near the summits, many spurs cross our way. This kind of water fairyland is probably the result of some heavy rains during last night. This is the good day to see how big Glenmacnass Waterfall is, probably one of the biggest in Ireland.
Glenealo River Monastic entrance Red deers


15/06 : Dublin
Sfera con sfera
Let's go to Dublin City ! We take the military road built by english troops to fight against the irish resistance. These events are not so far : Irish republic is only one centenary old. It was proclamed april 24th 1916. Once in Dublin we go to Croke Park, (the stadium for gaelic games, also the place of a massacre done by english army, known as Bloody Sunday) and then we reach the city centre following the quays. We go to the National Archaeology Museum. The collection covers the prehistoric civilization, early Ireland with the vikings raids, and the middle age with catholic religion. Near the museum, you can go to other two museums : the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Decorative Arts & History Museum (where you can see the Irish Republic flag). They are all in the same area, and we enjoy nice gardens in the same time : Merrion Square and Saint Stephen's Green. After a long stop in Trinity College (the famous book of Kells is here), we finish our day in a restaurant at Temple Bar...
 

16/06 : The end...

04:30 : I leave to the airport, the flight is one hour earlier than what is written on my booking receipt, because of the time zone. I cross lots of people in the terminal : the airport seems to never stop... Landing in Marseille, the sun shines in a blue sky after a stormy night.

Final words

Were the goals reached (summits, pints of Guinness, irish breakfast and good laughs) ? We climbed mountains and Ireland offered to our eyes some wonderful views. We walked in very good weather conditions even if we had to changed our plan to avoid bad visibility. Irish breakfast were as usual a good time and sometimes particularly rich. Guinness beer was alway served at the right temperature and my cousin and I laughed a lot. Once again, Ireland pleased me and I am sure to come back with probably more walks without marked trails.
 



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