Top from left to right – Noel (guide) Uta, Carol, Robin, Susan, Merridy, Maureen, Liz, Brenda O, Bert, Janice, Roland and Bob: Front – Terry (Guide), Marnie, Joan, Shirley, Jane, Brenda M, Paula, Terry and Celia.
Today we started a walking holiday in Ireland with a group from the outdoor walking Club from Victoria, Canada. We met up with our guides Terry Lambert and Noel Maguire with some time to introduce ourselves and load our gear onto the bus.
Well we had met some of the group (those that flew in early) yesterday to be precise for a walking tour of Dublin with Terry taking in Dublin Castle, Trinity College, st Patrick.s Cathedral, the city Hall and the Temple Bar area.
Day 1: Scenic Tour of Wicklow – Walk in Glendalough – Wicklow Heather meal.
On our trip today we met in Dublin city center and took a scenic trip through the Dublin hills and Sally Gap by Lough Tay and into Wicklow and Glendalough to start our first walk.
This walk started at the upper car park in Glendalough and brought on an amazing trail over looking the whole Valley and both lakes “The Spinc”. The walk was approx 3.5 hours and just right as some of the group still had some jet lag from the flight. We followed an old miners trial that took us by the upper lake and then brought us into the old 6th Century Monastic site of St Kevin. Along the way our guide Noel was able to tell us stories of the area and about the monks who once lived here.
After our walk we got to the accommodation with plenty of time to freshen up before our meal at the Wicklow Heather Restaurant.
Day 2 – Walk in Glenmalure – Glendalough – Travel to Cahir
After a lovely Breakfast with a great selection to choose from we got ready for our second day on the hills. There was a choice of Walk today both starting from the lodge in Glenmalure. The long walk follows part of the Wicklow Way but veered of to take in the peaks of Mullincor, Cullentragh and Derrybawn.
I decided to take the easier walk which also took in part of the Wicklow Way but with a shortened loop by Mullincor and forest track back into Glenmalure. Along the way we noticed a sparrow hawk high above looking for some poor unexpecting lunch, there was also some wild deer and plenty of Sheep. At the end of the walk we travelled back by bus to Glendalough to meet the rest of our group use toilets and a coffee before making our way to the town of Cahir in Co. Tipperary. It’s not such along way now to where we would be staying that night. After we arrived in Cahir and booked into the “Cahir House Hotel”, which is centrally located we enjoyed a lovely meal here. It had been quite an eventful day so it was an early night.
Day 3 – Cahir, Galtymore and Galtybeg
Woke up bright and early and ready for another adventure on the hills and as we would be staying here tonight again there was not need to pack just get the gear ready for our walk.
There was another choice of walk today in the Galtees Mountain range either Galtybeg or an additional Galtymore. The forecast was looking good until 2 O’clock so we decide to get the most of the good weather and left tyhe hotel at 9am. It was just a short 15 minute drive to the Trailhead where we would all start out together. We followed an Old Bog Road with red looking clay through wonderful Irish countryside. The surrounding scenery here was quite different here as this is in the heart of Tipperary and farming area. The Old road took us easily up along the valley and out onto the side of Galtybeg.
From here it was a bit of a steep grassy climb to the summit. The views where incredible and the guides explained all of the area and named the surrounding hills and mountain ranges. Once at teh summit it was time to enjoy a snack and decide who would go onto Galtymore. The weather looked like it was changing and there was cloud sitting on top so most of the group decided they were happy to return to the start on a loop trail. Although Liz, Robin and Carol decided to venture on with Noel and take in the extra peak of Galtymore. As we were enjoying a more relaxed descent we could see the others make their way up the other peak.
Just when we arrived back to the bus the rain started but the other four were still out on the hill and probably an hour behind. We had the rest of our lunch on the bus while waiting. Terry then noticed that the lights had been left on and tried to start the bus, but no joy the battery was flat. Bert decided that maybe we could try a local farmers house close by but there was a river blocking his entrance. So we rang the AA and while waiting for the others to come along no we also waited for the AA. The others eventually did arrive very wet but very satisfied that they had climbed one of Ireland’s Munros.
Then the AA guy arrived, gave us a jump start and were able to set off . After we arrived back into Cahir we had time to freshen up, take a look about the town before going to the Galtee Inn for a bite to eat. The food was great and a very selection to choose I went for the 8onze Steak and it was delicious. Afterwards we made our way back to the hotel and got ready for drive to Kerry in the morning.
Day 4: – Cahir Castle, Adare Village, A Hero’s Pub and Travel to Dingle Co Kerry.
After breakfast some of us took a tour of the Castle in Cahir. The Castle is from the 12th and swapped hands many times between the Irish and English in this area, eventually it became the stronghold of the Butler family, who also owned Kilkenny Castle. The tour and guide at the Castle was very good and filled us in with some of the hard stories of the defence of such a building and how people would have lived here, well worth a visit.
Then it was on the bus again to make our way south west towards Dingle. I think it a good choice to spend the day travelling as it pouring out of the skies most of the day. On the way we took a stop in the beautiful village of Adare just outside Limerick. There was time for some lunch and explore this little village once the township of the Earl of Desmond with a castle and friary.
After this we travelled on a bit further with the guide explaining the history of Ireland and the places visited, Noel also treated us to one or two songs “The Wild Colonial Boy” as we passed through the town of Castlemaine, where he was born and the Valley of “Slieve Na Mban” (The hill of the women). Then we stopped at Annascaul to visit a pub of One of Ireland’s great Explorers “Tom Crean” called the South Pole Inn. This pub is full of pictures and collectables from Crean’s expeditions in the Antarctic with Scott and Shackleton in the early part of the 1900s. We tried some of the local beers and then travelled onto Dingle to our accommodation.
Once we reached Dingle and settled in it was time for dinner. There was also a Traditional Irish music festival on and so there was music everywhere. Some of us even managed to getting into St James’s Church famous for its concerts in this town. Dingle is a beautiful small port town full of small craft shops, bars and restaurants. Some of us also went into John Bennies bar where two great musicians were there playing Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Gerry O Beirne.
Day 5 – Dingle, Mt Brandon, sheep road block and music festival.
The weather today was a lot better than yesterdays, which was good because we were all of on the one walk on Mount Brandon. This mountain is named after one of Ireland’s greatest saints called Brandon who was born in the area. He is also called the Navigator due to his great voyages and expeditions and is said to have reached Iceland, Greenland and Nova Scotia before returning many years later and founding a monastic site here.
The walk and views along this walk were incredible looking out across green fields, the Atlantic and the islands of the Blaskets and Skelligs. The walks was 8Km with an incline of 800m it took us 4 hrs to complete but was an absolute treat for the senses. At the start it was clear to see all the scenery around us but eventually near it’s summit we wondered into the clouds as we followed the stations of the cross on this holy mountain. Some people were naturally quicker than others so were in two groups in the end and when we did finally make our descent back down there was plenty of time to take in the scenery and some pictures.
The as we started to make our way back on the bus we were treated to a sheep road block and witness the skills of some local sheep dogs as they herded them into a nearby field.
On arrival back into Dingle it was time to say goodbye to our guide Terry for a few days and meet Johnny who would be with us for the week. Some of us then decided to see some Irish dancing that was taking place in one of the pubs as part of the traditional music festival.
Day 6: Walk on a beach and travel to Killarney
Today is a kind of rest day with a walk on Inch beach organized, the beach was beautiful with a little wind also. We had some time here to take in along this beautiful sandy beach and enjoy looking at the Atlantic Ocean. Noel also had some Hurley Sticks and “sliotar” (small leather covered ball) with him to introduce to the Gaelic game of Hurling which was a lot more difficult than it looked.
After our walk and some Ice Cream we then traveled on through the Dingle Peninsula with some more songs towards Killarney. Once we arrived here and settled into our accommodation at the Killarney Inn Hotel we had some time to explore this beautiful little town which is full of music and sits next to the Killarney National Park.
Some of us decided to visit Muckross House and Gardens which sit at the side of the Lake here and well worth a visit.
Then it was back to the hotel, freshen up, chill out and head down town for our dinner at a near by restaurant of which there are plenty in this town. This town is the most visited place in Ireland so if you do fancy a bite to eat make sure you book.
Day 7: Killarney, An Old Green Road and Torc Waterfall
When we awoke this morning the weather Gods weren’t on our side and this is the day we had planned to walk Ireland’s highest point Carrauntoohil. So instead the guides Noel and Johnny suggested that we could walk along an old green road no longer used but with spectacular scenery between Kenmare and Killarney so that is we did. Along the way we visited many old ruins of houses that people would have lived in before the Famine period in these parts. Then we came across the “Torc Waterfall” which was very impressive due to all the rain we had. Most of the trail on this walk walk along green stretches of old road that never had a car on them but only people, livestock and horses. truly incredible scenery.
Day 8 and 9 – County Clare, The Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and the Burren
From Killarney we traveled north along Ireland’s West Coastline and crossed the River Shannon into County Clare.
The weather was perfect and the views along the coastline where wonderful passing the small town of Ennistymon and onto Lehinch which is a small coastal town and where surfing is very popular. It was just another short ride from here near the town of Liscannor which is famous fro the invention of the submarine and its slate which is used in many houses through Ireland to floor the Kitchen.
Here we stopped at St Brigit’s Well, a sacred place where prayers and good wishes are said old rags are tied to a nearby tree (usually the May tree or white hawthorn). This custom is popular throughout Ireland and these wells can be found in numerous locations.
Anyway today’s walk brings us along the top of the Cliffs of Moher over looking the Atlantic Ocean and I was so happy the weather stayed dry and the visibility was excellent. There was a choice of walk from 4km to 8Km which would bring you all the way to Doolin where we would be staying. Most of the group took on the longer walk as the incline was minimal. From the walk we could see the Aran Islands and gushing sea hitting against the Cliff edges below us. The trail is well marked and covered in the local flora of this area. A wonderful walk and an unforgettable experience.
The following day we decided to visit the Burren area which is a huge Limestone karst and was once an ancient tropical seabed. It sits in County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites. On the Atlantic coast, the precipitous Cliffs of Moher are home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins.
In the Afternoon we continued following the coast road towards Galway. This town is a very vibrant and bohemian city full of musicians, artists poets and writers. It has a relaxed chilled out feeling to it and you can easily spend a few hours just walking about and checking out all the small streets and shops.
We made our way on towards Connemara, this is true wild Ireland, the very place you probably picture in your mind when you think of visiting here. Small cottages, stone walls, beautiful lakes and their own unique small ponies (Connemara Ponies). Connemara is also famous for the movies such as the ”The Field” and “The Quiet Man”
At this stage I had to leave the group and rejoin them in Westport Co Mayo…. They would be visiting Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park, Diamond Hill and as luck would have we would also be there for the Clifden Arts festival.
Day 12) Westport, Mayo and the All Ireland GAA Final
I rejoined the group a few days later in Westport and just in time for the All Ireland Gaelic Football between Dublin and Mayo, and the group was looking very forward to it.
So I traveled down to Mayo with Tony to let Johnny and Noel take a well deserved break, we arrived early joined back up with the gang and later met them for a bite to eat and stay at the Westport Country Lodge.
Day 13) Walk on Achill Island, Keem beach and an All Ireland Final.
After breakfast this morning we traveled onto Achill Island for a coastal walk from Keem beach, another beautiful day and the walk was just right as the group had walked Croagh Patrick the day before. Then it was back to the Westport Hotel to put on my Dublin Jersey and enjoy the game and what a game very exciting with Mayo scoring two own goals in the first half, Dublin didn’t play that great and in the end it was a draw… so good all round.
It was great to watch the match in Mayo as the place was just so full of atmosphere and when they didn’t and most likely should have they blamed it on the Mayo curse, which was placed on the team in the 1960s when they last won for not stopping at a local funeral and paying their respects on the way back…..
Day 14) W.B Yeats, Sligo, Travel to Donegal, walk on Mullaghmore beach.
Today we would be traveling towards Donegal with a few stops along the way. So we hit the road early well about 09:30am to head north through County Sligo on our way. As we passed by Queen Medb’s Grave just south of Sligo town we heard some of the great legends of this area. We also had time for a bodhran (Irish drum) lesson from myself as we traveled along the way.
Then we arrived into Drumcliff cemetery, the final resting place of WB Yeats beneath the head of Benbulbin.
Then went to Mullaghmore for some lunch at the Beach hotel and a walk along the beach here, which was just beautiful…. Really lucked out with the weather.
So on traveled eventually into Donegal by Ballyshannon the home town of legendary blues guitarist Rory Gallagher and with a brief stop in Donegal to visit the O’Donnell’s Castle and onto the small town of Ardara in south Donegal. We were staying at the Nesbitts Hotel in the center of the town which was excellent and did some great food also.
Day 15) Tweed Museum, Slieve league, Glen Colmcille and Whiskey Tasting
Today there is a choice of walk on either Slieve league by the Pilgrim Path or a nice easy loop walk by the tower over looking Glencolmcille. I was bringing the group up Slieve League and on the way we dropped those doing the walk in Glencolmcille, this is a beautiful valley where St Columba founded a monastery in the 6th century and today there are still signs of this with the Turas Colmcille, standing stones.
First we had time to visit a tweed museum which this part of Donegal is famed for, with a complementary Irish coffee.
We started the walk on Slieve league at what is traditionally known as the Pilgrim Path which brings us up the east side of the cliffs, which are the highest sea cliffs in Europe. The path is well marked and takes a zig-zag style approach through a valley and then out onto the top overlooking the cliffs. From here we followed a track along the top of the cliff watching the sea crashing below us and we could see our final destination at the visiting area. The walk took about 4hrs with approx 10Km and ascent of 500m. Fantastic walk with incredible views and breath taking views.
On our way back to Ardara we picked up the group from Glencolmcille and it had started to rain very heavy, so just in time we got back. In the evening some of us ate at the hotel again before making our way to a local pub to listen to great live Irish music. I went for some fish and chips with Tony in Charlies who are famous for the best fish and chips in Ireland, and they didn’t disappoint. They even let you bring some beers in from the off licence next door.
Day 16) Ancient Fortress, Derry and its walls, Dunluce Castle and Ardara
Today we would be travelling into Northern Ireland but on the way we would be stopping to visit an ancient fortress of Grianan an aileach. The weather wasn’t great as we left Ardra and we were lucky it was just a travel day. So of we went northwards again with a short stop due to the weather at Grianan, which is an ancient fortress built even before the Celts had visited these shores.
Then it was into Derry where we would meet Lorraine my sister in law and a local to give us a tour of this walled city. First she brought us to the Guild Hall which was built in the 1700s by the Guild that places “London” before the name Derry these days. Lorraine then brought us along the walls and give us some insight to these barricades and the sieges they withheld in the 1600s.
Then it was a visit to the Bogside area and the “Bloody Sunday” monument. Lorraine was a fantastic guide although she did tell us she wasn’t a guide and she had to get back to work. After lunch in the Sandwich Company we were on the road again up along the coastline towards Bushmills and Dunluce Castle, where we didn’t stop due to the weather but we traveled onto Ballintoy where we would be staying.
Day 17) Ballintoy, Game of Thrones, Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge and the Giants Causeway
This morning when we got up and finished breakfast it was of to visit one the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which was once used for fishing Salmon in the area but is now mainly a tourist attraction with great views of Rathlin Island and Scotland which is just 20Km away.
Then it was back to Ballintoy to enjoy a coastal walk towards the Giants Causeway, which is approx 16Km and takes in some fine beaches and cliffs along the way. When we reached the visitor centre we had time to enjoy a well earned drink at the Nook Café and Bar before Tony brought the bus back to us.
We all decide to eat at the hotel here The Fullerton Arms which does great food.
Day 18) Travel to Belfast, Titanic, Newry and a man called “Banjo”
This morning we left Ballintoy early to travel along the Coast and Glens of Antrim. Absolutely incredible drive through the Glens which always remind me of the song “Oh Danny Boy”. WE had a short stop along the way to pay homage to brave pigeon called “Paddy” who was awarded a Dickins (similar to Victorian Cross but for animals) medal for bravery during WWII.
Then we continued onto Belfast, here there was plenty of time to have a look about the city, some went to the Titanic, other on a hop on hop off tour and others visited Stormont the Parliament building of Northern Ireland.
It was approx another 1hrs drive to Newry from here and we got to our hotel eventually and had something to eat here. There was also a swimming pool and sauna which I decided to use before dinner. I also had some time to look about this town. It’s a great little town not just because this is where my granny is from but it has the first ever protestant church built in Ireland here, a statue to John Mitchel , young Irelander, journalist , republican and also ”Banjo Bannon” who successfully climbed Everest from the North side from Tibet in 2003. Although we couldn’t meet the other heroes of this small town we did manage to meet Banjo later at the hotel and had a great chat with him and his wife about his exploits and adventures.
Day 19) Getting close to the finish, very wet day and Strong winds
After checking the weather forecast for this morning with strong winds myself and Tony had a chat about the walking options. We decided that maybe a good lowland forested walk may be best but we knew that some people may still wish to Slieve Donard (The hardy ones) so we put the options out there. Some decided to chill at the hotel and use the Spa wise move, most of the group liked the sound of a forested out of the wind and weather walk but yes the hardy ones decicded they wished to brave Slieve Donard. I did the forested walk along part of the St Patrick’s Trail through Tollymore which would eventually bring us to a pub in Newcastle and Tony did part of Slieve Donard from Bloody bridge.
Basically we all ended very wet but with a pub with an open fire and hot drink to finish.
We then returned to the Hotel and decided that as this is our last night we would all have a meal together to mark the occasion. After many kind words,thank yous and some vino we all agreed it was a great adventure and some new friendships were made.
Day 20) The final day, another jump start and Newgrange
That morning after breakfast and Tony had gone to check the bus he told me the door wouldn’t open, I really thought he was messing until I went down and then I found the bus wouldn’t start either ah well may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I rang the AA and they were out and started the bus in 30 minutes and as for the door well we worked around it as we were very resourceful at this stage.
So after loading the luggage we got back on the road and headed south back into the Republic….and Newgrange. After a little wait as this place can be quite busy at any time we eventually all got in and saw the monuments of “Bru Na Boinne” which are older than the Pyramids and they were delighted.
So after we loaded the bus for the last time we headed back to Dublin with a few songs on board and stories of Finn Mac Cool and Cuchulainn to say our last goodbyes.
I’m sure we will meet again and my blog won’t be so long next time.
Slan agus Beannacht (Goodbye and blessings)
Visit here to see our All Ireland Tour