I recently received a message from Kristin (she runs a really nice Blog - Wanderlust - at http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/wanderlust-5), who asked for some recommendations for walking in Ireland. Apparently, Kristin and her fella are coming in this direction next Summer, and she seems to be the type of person that prefers slogging along a country road to riding over a 4 lane highway in a large Hummer. So... and just for Kristin (and whoever else happens to look in) some comments about walking in Ireland.
Walking in Ireland is Great Fun - Even if it is Wet
Ireland has a wide range of trails and assorted paths that can take you just about anywhere. I've limited my walking to the East Coast of this country (simply because I live out this way), and must admit that as the years have gone by, I've slowed down a bit. I've never considered myself a professional walker. In fact, I still use the same pair of boots that I received for Christmas way back in 1977 (I figure that after over 30 years I finally have them broken in).
Possibly the best walk I've taken is in Glendalough. Located just south of Dublin (in County Wicklow), a walker can start out in a car park of the Wicklow National Park, and walk non-stop right around what must be one of the most lovely lakes in the country.
The trails head starts at St Kevin's, an ancient monastery that is one of the oldest in Ireland. Apparently, this saint was looking for an out of the way spot to do some contemplating. He couldn't have picked a more beautiful area: an ancient round tower and assorted small stony structures sit next to the lake, all of it nestled within a valley. The Wicklow hills surround this beauty spot, which - by the way - makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. But if you put on your boots and start slogging, you can leave most of the tourists behind.
Walking in Ireland usually isn't daunting: all you need is a good pair of boots and - of course - some rain gear. Too, and depending upon where you walk, make certain that you bring along emergency supplies of water and food. More than one international walker has become lost and has been forced to spend a night or two twiddling their thumbs as they wait for rescue.
Be prepared for boggy conditions, depending on where you go. The last time I walked around the lake I ended up pouring water out of my boots. Remember that Ireland can be soaking, and dress appropriately.
Carlingford, County Louth
If walking through a tourist area isn't your idea of fun, and you'd still like to stick to the East Coast, you could do worse that try Carlingford. This little village (pictured above), nestled between the Mourne Mountains to the west, and the beautiful Carlingford Lough to the east, is a real gem. Not only does the village have some fantastic restaurants and pubs, but it also happens to offer some great walking.
A few years ago, I put a pack on my back, loaded up with a tent and sleeping back, and set off east from the town. I climbed the Mourne Mountains (I was out of shape, but I suspect that most walkers would find it a doddle), and pitched my tent within a few meters of the summit. I was surrounded by a blend of furze, rock...and sheep...who kept me company throughout my slumbers.
The next morning, I woke to discover that a deck of cloud had formed below me. The sun rose, lighting the area in a magical tapestry of gold. Far off to the east, the clouds dissipated...I could make out the Isle of Man sitting like a far-off Avalon, glinting in the sunlight. For me, that was a moment of heaven.
Ireland has many walks: want a spiritual experience? Then why not climb Croagh Patrick, Ireland's sacred mountain in the west. Desire some of the world's most interesting geology? Then try either Connemara (to the west of Galway City) or The Burren in County Clare. Of course, you don't have to be a professional walker to enjoy Irish walking. Visit any of Ireland's remarkable ancient sites - Newgrange, Tara, or The Hill of Slane for example - and you'll experience some great walks and extraordinary sites of interest, all at the same time.
Oh - and while you're at it, and if you work up a thirst - stop in at any pub that you see along the way. You'll meet some of the world's most interesting people, while also perhaps quaffing a pint of Guinness at the same time.
For more information on walking in Ireland, go to: http://www.walkinginireland.org/