Connemara National Park

Walking in the Wilds of Connemara, Mweelrea

Walking in the Wilds of Connemara and Mweelrea.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park

Connemara is a region in Galway in the west of Ireland. It reaches out to the Atlantic Ocean with its Jagged coastline of cliffs and beaches; it also hosts Ireland’s only Fjord. There are two main mountain ranges in this region the 12 Bens and the Maumturks. Both ranges offer incredible walks and scenery that can be admired even from your car as you pass through them.

On this weekend we visited the Connemara National Park with its entrance in the small town of Letterfrack. As we were traveling from Dublin separately due to the ongoing COVID restrictions we decided that we would meet here on the Friday afternoon to walk Diamond Hill, just over 400m. The walk is an easy type starting from the visitor center and can be done self-guided. There is a very good well-maintained track that actually directs you in a one-way clockwise direction around the hill.

Diamond Hill, Connemara

Diamond Hill Trail

The views from this hill are very rewarding for the small amount of effort it takes to climb it and a great place to point the other walks we will be doing over the weekend. Form the Hill you are looking across the Atlantic with views of the Inisturk and Inisbofin islands. To your north sit the 12 Bens and to your east the Maumturks and just below you to the west are Klymore Abbey and gardens. We split the group into two as there were 24 of us and it was a max group size for the outdoors of 15 people, we kept within viewing distance of each other though.

Group with 12 Bens as Backdrop


We all managed the walk very easily and loved the trail and the spectacular views.

When we had completed the walk, we made our way to Clifden where we would be staying for the next two nights. I had booked the group into the Alcock and Brown Hotel and The Arch Guesthouse We had some time to freshen up before having dinner and catching up on the days events and planning out our big walk for the next day Mweelrea (814m), Connaught’s highest mountain. We also had some time to enjoy a drink at the bar which in these COVID times is very inviting.

Killary Harbour, Connemara

Killary Fjord, Connemara

The following morning after an early breakfast we made our way out to Silver Strand in Mayo, although there are a few Silver strands so be careful as one or two of our group found out. It’s about 1,5-hour drive from Clifden but again through incredible landscapes as you drive. You will travel alongside Killary Fjord both the Galway and Mayo side and into one of Ireland’s most scenic Valley, Glendoo. There is a cross in this valley to mark the tragic scene that unfolded here in 1849 during the famine. Where many people died of starvation and exhaustion after being made to walk almost 40Km to sign for their famine relief.

Upon reaching Silver Strand you will see Mweelrea sitting over you and usually with clouds covering it’s top. At the

Mweelrea Ascent

Mweelrea, Group going up

car park we all geared up checking our food rations, water etc and the made our way towards the start of our climb. It’s a wet mountain at it’s base normally and was very wet today due to the rain fall we had the previous week, where the town of Clifden was actually flooded.

The trail from this side follows a river all the way up to a saddle almost at the top. After plenty of scenic stops to take pictures and catch our breath we made our way to the saddle. It’s a climb as soon as you leave the car park at the beach, so the saddle was a welcomed if short relief from the steep ascent.

From the saddle we turned right to the edge of the cliffs of the east side and followed these to the summit.

Summit of Mweelrea

Summit of Mweelrea

We didn’t hang about as visibility was very poor and it’s also quite cold at the top. So, some quick snaps of happy heads on their achievement of getting to the summit and then it was straight back to somewhere less windy for a bite to eat.

Making our way down we could really enjoy the view of the coastline and its beautiful looking sandy beaches, which there was some talk of swimming in after the walk but by the time we got back down we were happy just to make our way back to Clifden to freshen up.

Lunch Time


When we got back and changed, we had our evening meal organised for 7:30pm in Mannion’s Bar and Restaurant and the food was delicious. It was a great achievement for everyone and we had all made it to the top and some people had completed their four highest peaks in Ireland, one for each Province. After our meal we made our way some with sore legs back to our accommodations.

The next day we had Omey Island arranged but the tide Gods weren’t with us, as you can only drive out to this Island at low tide. Instead we decided that we would take an easy day and visit Kylemore Abbey instead. The Abbey was initially built by Henry

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Mitchell for his wife after they visited this area on their honeymoon.

His was a great supporter of Home Rule for Ireland during the mid-1800s and may have also built it to create some employment in the area after the hardship of the famine. Either way it’s a very impressive looking building complete with gardens and a gothic church. Unfortunately, the woman he built it for died shortly after it was completed and she never really got to enjoy it.

It then changed many hands from very wealthy Americans “Zimmermans” until it was given to an order of Benedictine nuns from Ypres in Belgium after their monastery was bombed in 1914 during the first world war. Today its is still owned by the nuns although there are only a few left but it’s probably in better condition that it’s ever been and well worth a visit.

This visit to Kylemore concluded our trip to Connemara but there are still plenty more places to discover in this wonderful part of the west of Ireland.

View more Pictures Here from our Weekend walking in Connemara


Umbellifers – Nettles, not the only nasty!

Written by Gillian Duggan

Hi everyone,

Over the past weeks, what with lockdown and the good weather, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of people on my normally quiet, local routes which is really fantastic to see.

Is stopping for a socially distant hello to a now familiar face and their dog the new ‘meet for a chat’?

Yesterday, while I looked over the hill to the distant bay, I noticed a family in the field below realising they were in the company of a herd of heifers! For some reason, they took off towards the nearest gap which contained a patch of common hogweed and a hedge of gorse and they were all in shorts!

I found myself shouting —– NOOOOOO!

I wondered how aware are we of all the unpleasant and potentially dangerous plants growing in our midst.

Nettles that are not the only nasty!

I will never forget a mystery skin rash, the cause, after much medical attention, being eventually traced to brushing against the hogweed on a shortcut to the shops!Umbellifers

My advice is to steer clear of all the Umbellifers unless you are 100% sure of your identification.

Umbellifers are these kind of plants –

You see them in verges, hedgerows and woodland edges, these members of the Carrot family are difficult to identify and separate from the real thing and more than one are poisonous.

Some are so common in our hedgerows that we ignore them yet their lookalike cousin may be the most powerful poison in the northern hemisphere eg Cow Parsley and Hemlock.



Cow Parsley


sweet cicley






Spot the difference?

The first plant is Hemlock which is deadly poisonous. The second is seen along our verges and is so like hemlock that foragers leave it alone. The third and fourth are very nice additions to salads and have medicinal uses but again, they are so similar to Hemlock they are largely ignored in the wild.

Common Hogweed

Common Hogweed

Another example, Common Hogweed (as mentioned above is a Sap nasty) can easily be mistaken for Giant Hogweed when young.

Common Hogweed is a delicious spring vegetable – boiled (remove the nasty) for 10 mins, sauté in butter for 10 mins, grate over some parmesan, season and you have a vegetable on par with asparagus with more nutrients than spinach. It grows everywhere but cut it with gloves because the sap may cause an allergic reaction on your skin and only when you are absolutely sure you are correct in your plant identification. But run through it at your own risk, take my word!

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

The cousin, Giant Hogweed, is a dangerous non-native, invasive species whose sap can cause life altering injuries. They can both look the same at certain times of the year unless you are a trained botanist. My tour guide tutor identified Giant Hogweed in the back lanes of the Dublin Mountains last summer.


Giant Hogweed Sores

Here is the result of running through Giant Hogweed.

This poor child’s hands will swell up and blister like this every time she exposes her hands to the sun for the foreseeable future.





So maybe just steer clear of the Umbellifers if wearing shorts!

In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the good weather,



Benbulben, Sligo

Hilltoptreks walking weekend in Sligo – Yeat’s County.

Written by Louise Doherty

One of the great benefits of being a member of  Hilltoptreks walking club, are the numerous organized hiking weekends away, both in Ireland and abroad.

Mary, Louise and Edel

One weekend that stands out for me, was our trip to Sligo for the 2019 June bank holiday weekend.

On a sunny bank holiday Saturday, we all made our way to Sligo – some drove themselves, while others opted to avail of the bus provided by Hilltoptreks – and met up in the Glasshouse Hotel.  Here we were met by our guide for the weekend, Noel.  Noel gave us a brief rundown of our itinerary for the days ahead, along with a little bit of history of the area we were in.

The first port of call was the beautiful Knocknarea Mountain which has the magnificent megatlithic cairn, known as Queen Maeave’s tomb on the summit.  Off we set in a convoy with the Hilltoptreks bus leading the way out of Sligo town towards Strandhill.  We parked up at Sligo rugby club and crossed the road to the trailhead.   The trail is waymarked, and while this is a short walk of approx 2.5km, it can be quite strenuous in parts. It is a continuous climb on stoney paths, sleeper steps through woodland and out to open mountain top.

Luckily, there are plenty of benches along the route to stop, drink some water and enjoy the vista.  Once through the woodland the trail opens up to a path heading straight for the Cairn at the summit.  Here we circled the cairn taking in the spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape, which included a glimpse of the prominent Benbulben jutting out in all her glory.  Benbulben was tomorrow’s adventure, so for now, we sat with our group, and enjoyed the summer sunshine.  The descent took us back down along the same route.

Before heading back to our hotel, we went to Strandhill where some of the group were booked in for seaweed baths, while the rest enjoyed an ice-cream and took in even more of the wonderful scenery Sligo had to offer.

Today’s walk was a great way to get to know some of our fellow hikers, while most of us were part of the walking club, others came along on their own or with friends, husbands and sisters.  We knew there would be great support for each other as we attempted to climb Sligo’s bulging Benbulben mountain tomorrow.  Until then, we could enjoy dinner in the Glasshouse Hotel and some sensible drinks in the local bar.

We rose with excitement to a glorious sunny day, today was our day to tackle the majestic Benbulben! After a hearty breakfast in the hotel and with our packed lunches organised, we headed for the hills.  The road to Luke’s bridge – the start of our trek up Benbulben – took us past Drumcliffe cemetery. This is the final resting place of W.B. Yeats.  We stopped here while Noel regaled us with stories of the great poet and where we had opportunity to take photos of the famous tombstone with the inscription:

“Cast a cold Eye

On life, on Death,

Horseman pass by.”

On the road again, all chattering about our memories of Yeats from school, we could see Benbulben rise ahead of us.  Except now, it was shroud in thick grey clouds.  When we arrived at our starting point, the rain jackets were put on as Noel, gave us a rundown of the route we would be taking and any obstacles we should be weary of.  And so, we set off on our 10km trek.  Firstly, following along by a stream, then onto a gravel track and across some bog pools, until we were faced with the grassy slope straight ahead.

We climbed the steep slope zig zagging our way up and crossing over the small stream again. We were well protected by the wind and thankfully the rain held off and the clouds lifted.  We took every opportunity to stop and take in the views of the coastline behind and below us.  When the steep climbing ceased and we could feel the wind in our faces, we knew we were on the plateau.  Now, it was just another 500m of walking over bog pools and against the wind to reach the trig point.

Click Here to see some Photos of the weekend

We stopped here for the group to congregate and take photos. The views from this point are breathtaking, but the best was yet to come.  Noel, lead us off in a westerly direction towards the apex of the mountain.  Here, we stood on the farthermost edge and took in the panoramic views of Sligo, all the while aware of the sheer drop that lay beneath us. We spent a little time here making the most of the uninterrupted views and the little shelter from the wind, before returning back along the same route which we came.

After the walk we traveled to Lissadell House for some well-earned afternoon tea and cake.  Once we were refreshed, we were then treated to a private tour of Lissadell House, the childhood home of Constance Markievicz and one that was immortalized in poetry by W.B. Yeats:

“The light of evening, Lissadell
Great windows open to the south
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle. …”

Having reached the summit one of the iconic mountains in Sligo, and feeling a great sense of accomplishment, we celebrated with dinner and drinks in Strandhill and Sligo Town.

Our final day of the weekend, was bit more relaxed.  After breakfast we drove to  Slish Woods for another 10km walk.  This time, on the flat along the shores of Lough Gill.  The walk is well tracked out with sleepers and viewpoints laid out along the way.  We stopped on the shore where we could see Yeats’ famous “Lake Isle of Innisfree”.  Further on we walked along a stretch of the Sligo Camino, before heading back to our cars and making our way home.

And so, concludes another jam-packed weekend of walking, exploring, making new friends and relaxing in one of the finest counties in Ireland.  Many thanks to Noel and the team at Hilltoptreks for all the support on this weekend away.


Click Here to see some Photos of the weekend

Scatt and Lough Dan

Scarr, Scarr Away in County Wicklow.

Written by John Kelleher.

I started walking with HilltopTreks over ten years ago, and over the years have enjoyed many walks both here in Ireland and in recent years in Europe.

John Kelleher

John in Bulgaria

While Wicklow is usually where we conduct most of our walks, we have over the years spent pleasant week-ends away walking in the Comeraghs, Galtees, Slievenamon, Donard, Mournes, Connemara, Ben Bulbin to name just some. In recent years we have travelled to the Dolomites in Northern Italy, Bratislavia in Romania and a group of us also hill walked in Southern Spain near Marbella.

One of my favourite walks, which I keep returning to is Scarr mountain near Roundwood in Wicklow. I start near the scout’s den at Oldbridge beside Lough Dan and head up the laneway rising gradually until reaching the field at the foot of the hill. From there it is a gradually climb for about one hour to reach the peak. Stopping occasionally to look back over the Irish Sea and back towards Djouce. On reaching the summit at Scarr (641 metres) it is usually time for a short rest with a well-deserved cup of tea and a sandwich. The views from the summit are always enjoyable with ships sailing on the Irish Sea or over to Camaderry near Glendalough.

At the summit there is a choice of routes. South towards Paddock Hill and the Wicklow Way and then East when you reach the Wicklow Way to get on to the road way to lead back to the car parked at Lough Dan. While this is a nice walk the last 30 minutes or so are on roadway. However, my preferred route is over towards Kanturk (523 metres) and back by Lough Dan. Approaching Kanturk, with its scattering of rocks there is a beautiful view of Glenmacnass Waterfall.

At Kanturk heading East the walk is now very level and leads eventually to a beautiful view overlooking Lough Dan, a dog-leg shaped Lake. A stop here is essential to take in the views of both the lake and some of the adjoining hills and mountains all around. The final section of this walk is back by the hill overlooking Lough Dan all the way until reaching the road which passes the scouts den and back to the car. The final stretch of road is about 15 minutes duration. The walk generally takes 3.5 to 4 hours to complete and is well worthwhile just for the variety of views and scenery. On one recent walk back towards the scout’s den I spotted a Red Squirrel, the first I have seen in years.

The walk is usually followed by a stop at the Coachhouse in Roundwood for some liquid refreshments and a chat with my fellow walkers.

Scarr Mountain Route

Scarr Mountain Route

You Can Sign up to Hilltoptreks Walking Club here

See you on the Hills again soon.

Luggala in Wicklow

Walking holiday in Ireland

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.

St Kevin's monastery - Glendalough
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.

Glenmalure Lodge

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.

Cahir Castle

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.

South Pole Inn - Annascaul

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.

Mount Brandon

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.

Carrauntoohil - Kerry

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.

Cliff Of Moher

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”

Connemara - Derryclare

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…..

Benbulben, Sligo

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.

Glencolmcille - Donegal

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.

Causeway - Beach

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.

Tollymore Woods - Newry

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

Newgrange - Ireland

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)

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