Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hiking the two sides of The Gap Of Dunloe...One Of Kerrys Finest

I've not done a whole pile of hill days recently. I'm back running again and I must say I am enjoying it. I did the Cork to Cobh 15 mile run last Sunday and I was well pleased with 1 hour 57 minutes. I suffered a fair bit for the final miles but that always seemed to be par for the course for me and it is worth it just to be back at full health. I'm actually thinking of returning to Ballyvaughan and giving the Burren Marathon a go next May.
In the meantime I headed back to Kerry today with the intention of possibly doing Howling Ridge on Carrauntooohil but it was quite windy so I decided that a hike would be the better option and I chose to do a circuit of the Gap of Dunloe, a hike that is fast becoming one of my favourites in the area. It offers a challenging outing with 1500 metres of ascent and between 18 and 19 kilometres in distance depending on whether you opt to use the "Chimneys" under Tomies or not. I left the carpark by Kates at 10.15 and went up Strickeen first. This gives a nice easy ascent to this lovely viewpoint and the strength of the wind up there confirmed my choice to forsake Howling. The continuance of mainly dry weather meant the long walk towards Cnoc na Brácha was pretty dry underfoot. The views to Cruach Mhór are inspiring and made me want to continue on the ridge but I turned towards Drishana and then dropped down to the head of the Gap. Straight across and up to Glas Lough where I enjoyed a bite of lunch. The drag to the very windy summit of Purple Mountain went well and I continued easily to Tomies. I descended "The Chinmneys" and eventually reached the road in the Gap where it is a short walk back to the car. 5 hours 30 minutes wasn't too shabby. The Pyrenees are probably next 😍😍

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A compendium...Camping in Clonea-Hiking-Cycling-The Comeraghs-Running-The Burren.I Been Busy



My long weekend came around again and with a slightly iffy forecast for the west I decided, for a change, to sample the delights of the sunny southeast instead.
Having discovered a bit of a grá for going for a dip in the sea this year I decided that staying at the caravan park by the beach in Clonea would offer easy access to the mountains and also the sea.
A relaxed morning meant a leisurely start and I didn't arrive at the trail until 12.30. I wasn't bothered though as the day was fine and my planned outing wasn't long and it was a short drive to reach the campsite afterwards. I had been here before a couple of times with Kevin when we ran the route. Today I was only interested in hiking and looking forward to a more relaxing outing. I was going up Seefin and doing a simple round across to Coumaraglin and back to the car. One little problem was that Kevin had driven in the past and I wasn't sure how to get to the starting point and needless to say I parked at the wrong place and this added a couple of kilometres to the outing but I wasn't too bothered.

It was a warm slightly overcast day and clouds clung stubbornly to the summits. I walked along a lovely little lane until its end and here I was able to access the open mountain. All I had for company were the many sheep that grazed the lush hillside. Now all that I had to do was climb the almost 500mtrs to reach the summit. Ahh there's nothing better than a long slog to get the sweat flowing on a warm day. I seem to have this penchant for putting a hard effort in whenever I'm faced with such a challenge and today the sweat flowed freely. Perhaps it was the promise of a refreshing and cleansing dip in the sea when I got to Clonea that spurred me on, but spurred on I was. The dry ground helped and before too long I was enveloped by the clouds and then reached the bleak summit with its concrete shelter. The wind was quite strong up here and I entered the rather grim structure and ate my lunch. It wasn't really a place I felt like lingering in so I soon set off again towards Coumaraglin. The clouds tried to lift and I did get the odd ghostly glimpse of otherwhere but it wasn't until I neared the col with its white stone that I finally had clarity. I was enjoying myself immensely. There really aren't many things to match a good burst of exercise enjoyed in a wild landscape. The drag to the summit was soon over and I continued on for another kilometre or so to the next top before turning and heading easily along the broad spur that headed for the road. After a while I decided to drop back to the valley below and after following a farm track I reached the road and followed it back to the car. Thirteen kilometres and perhaps 600 metres of climbing wasn't too big an outing but I was surely looking forward to the sea.

I drove to a busy campsite in Clonea and soon had my tent up. This wasn't the place to be for peace and quiet as it was wall to wall with families (and their huge tents) and kids were playing noisily all around. I enjoyed a quick cuppa and then strolled down to the beach. A long cooling frolic ensued and the pleasant waters soothed any tired mussels. The clouds had long since dissappeard and I enjoyed a very pleasant evening despite the hubub. Tomorrow promised a new adventure.

The plan for today was to go for a big (for me) cycle. With the help of Google maps I opted to head to Cappoquin and from there go over a pass in the Knockmealdowns before dropping down into Tipperary and returning along the valley between the Knockmealdowns and Comeraghs and returning to the campsite. It was another good weather day. Not too hot but plenty of blue sky and little in the way of breeze. Now it's fair to say that I am something of a fair weather cyclist and even then I don't do a whole lot. 28 hilly miles usually serves as my big cycle so today would prove interesting, especially after my struggles in the Beara Peninsula.
A nice flat ride on a good surface saw me arrive in Cappoquin where I turned and started the climb towards the Knockmealdowns. It is very gradual and initially runs through lovely woodland. I turned at a sign for Newcastle in Tipperary and after a drop to cross the river the climb started properly. It was long but gradual and eventually I reached open, untamed country and it was lovely. The high point passed and the swift descent followed and I reached the well kept village. Here I turned and headed towards Ballymacarbery. This was a nice road to cycle with plenty of twists and turns and it was nicely undulating so some nice downhill sections could be enjoyed. It was warm and sunny as I entered Ballymacarbery and by now I had done about 32 miles and there was about another 18 miles to go to get back to the campsite. I stopped for a rest at a nice picnic area by the river and I saw a sign for the Comeragh Cycle nearby and after checking Google Maps on my phone I saw that I could extend my outing by following the route as far as Rathgormack and return to the campsite from there. I sometimes wonder what goes through my's not as if I was full of beans and feeling strong, my buns hurt and my neck ached and my legs knew that I had done a climb and more miles than I was used to but I still took the option to head over the Comeraghs and add an extra 20 miles to my day.
The first few miles were very nice as the route followed the river Nire into the valley but as you got deeper and deeper into the valley it became increasingly obvious that in order to continue the only way was up. Finally you cross the river and the climb begins. It is steepish but gradual if you know what I mean. Nowhere too taxing but constant and long. A lot of the way is in woodland but eventually you emerge into the open ground and nice views are to be had. It was pleasant enough today but I can imagine this would be a tough place to pedal when the weather was poor. Eventually the route crests after climbing 400 metres and I was able to coast downhill until I reached a junction and I turned right towards Rathgormack. There was some more uphill stretches but it was now predominantly down hill and also from this side the Comeraghs were really quite beautiful. Through the village and another turn took me towards Lemybrien. Now I passed under the most spectacular part of the range and the famous Coumshingaun area was a welcome distraction from my increasing fatigue and discomfort. Eventually I reached the main road and on a whim I decided to head towards the coast and follow the "Waterford Greenway" cycle route back to Clonea. The five miles or so I travelled along the very busy greenway were a delight and provided a nice easy finish to the outing. It was great to see so many groups and families using this great facility and I look forward to the day when the farmers who are objecting to other such routes being developed are given a kick in the arse and real progress is made. Back in the campsite I relaxed for a short while before once again walking down for a long soak in the sea....bliss.

Is there a better way to start the day than a refreshing swim in salt water??. It is certainly a novel experience for me and I was determined to make the most of my surroundings. A lazy morning, a swim and a leisurely bite to eat meant it was quite late before I was packed up and leaving the campsite. Originally I had planned to return to Coumshingaun and go for a hike there but cloud covered the mountains and there didn't seem much point exploring in the mist so I opted instead to return to the Knockmealdowns. As I drove I was even having doubts about doing that because you couldn't even see the hills, so low was the cloud. I had just about decided to continue on home when at the last second I swung the car to the right in Lismore and headed to The Vee. The last time I was here I went for a run around the back of Knockmealdown and over Sugarloaf on a hot sunny day not long after I came back from the Alps. No such exertions were on offer today and all I'd planned was to climb Sugarloaf and then climb Knockmealdown and return to the car. Just about 9 kilometres and 700 metres of climbing wouldn't be too taxing and would finish off the weekend nicely. Muggy would be a good word to describe conditions as I set off up the steep track but the clouds were inclined to break up a little and glimpses of the tops were occasionally to be seen. Maybe its because of the curative powers of the sea but my legs felt fine and strong on the climb and I was enjoying myself immensely. With the usual immaculate timing the cloud lowered once again as I reached the top but I didn't was all about being out and about. I next headed for Knockmealdown which was an easy hike, all the while thinking of the time myself and Kevin had run all the way from Araglin to Sugarloaf and while eating some chocolate we looked over to Knockmealdown and decided to include that in out day as well..Lets just say I have seldom been as exhausted at the end of a run as I was that day. The summit appeared in the mist and today, in a first for me, I headed across to the subsidiary top of Knockmoylan just to add a little to the outing. Here the cloud briefly lifted and I enjoyed some atmospheric misty views which were a nice bonus. I returned to the main ridge and then to the car. It had been a nice short little outing but I felt it closed the book on a nice weekend.


One of the best things that has happened is that my knee had pretty much healed up. December 2015 was when I tore the medial ligament on my right knee and it put the brakes on all running (and some other stuff) for a long time. I was lucky that I was able to persevere with the walking (climbing was difficulty as my flexibility was shot) and this maintained my fitness. I tried to return to running earlier but the pain returned so I chose to rest it and see. This year I tentatively returned to running and it has worked out beautifully and I'm getting back to normal. I've even started doing the odd road race and my pace is starting to match what it was four or five years ago. I even went back and did the Fanore Burren Half Marathon in August after a three year hiatus and it went very well. I even did it a minute quicker than my effort last time. What would a month be without a visit to The Reeks. I had a fine round from "The Fingers" around to "The Bone" on a midweek day when I almost managed to have the summit of Carrauntoohil to myself...almost. A rare thing nowadays when the weather is good.

Exercise is a huge part of who I am and I think it is fair to say that the injury was a shadow on my mental well-being. I certainly feel a sense of relief now that I seem to be back to normal..Mind you I'm still carrying a stone or two I shouldn't and eating and drinking the wrong stuff but life is good.
The wonderful Fanore beach..more surfers than bathers
Another joy I have discovered this year is going for a swim in the sea. Now I say swim, but it is perhaps an over exaggerated description of what I can do in the water. I splash around a bit and wallow and roll (think of a Hippo without any of the graceful bits) and just revel in the novelty of my surroundings. It is novel for me at least as I live a long way from any beaches and it's fair to say that swimming wouldn't ever have been in any routine of mine. Perhaps it's an echo of losing Paddy and Kathleen last year,  each time I have entered the sea this year I have felt a connection to my own father who liked nothing better than dunking under the breakers in the sea in Ballybunion. It was a different Ireland back then when a bus used to go every Wednesday in the summer. Exotic holidays were for others and this was as unusual as it got. Another plus is the fact that the weather this summer has been superb and the water is very pleasant. I intend to find out how long it stays that way into the Autumn.

Another highlight of recent weeks was my trip to Glenbeigh. Again I threw my tent into the car and headed west with the intention of packing in a good hillwalk and a cycle into a two day trip. The forecast wasn't great to be fair but it promised to clear early on the first day and some rain to arrive for the second. I decided to head back anyway.
On the drive down it was really quite poor with cloud clinging to the hills and frequent heavy showers. It wasn't until I was beyond Kilorglin that I spotted some blue sky over the furthest reaches of the Dingle Peninsula and I only hoped it was coming my was 😃. I drove to "Mountain Stage" where I turned onto the narrow lane and after a bit of map searching I opted to park on the lane that heads into Coumasaharn Lake and I set off from there. The day was clearing up nicely and sunshine was now in the ascendancy. Wanting a proper big day out I decided to head first towards Beenreagh (495 metres) and basically do a full circuit of the valley. The almost 400 metre climb to the top certainly got the blood pumping but the stunning views across the valley and beyond towards The Reeks was a superb compensation for the effort. The wind was very strong however and things felt decidedly autumnal.

The last time I was hereabouts was four years previously when I caught the bus to mountain stage and did a two day hike all the way to Mullaghanattin. It is a truly stunning place and I really should make the effort to get here more often. After an easy drop to the wide col and I next climbed the
200mtrs to the summit of Macklaun. There follows a series of gradual ups and downs as you traverse along the wide plateau like ground that soars above the four coums in the valley. Each one is spectacular and distinct and the eye has constant pleasure to enjoy. Not that all beauty lies beneath. All about splendid vistas roam. The myriad delights of the Everagh Peninsula stretch south, west and east. To the north the wonderful Dingle Peninsula rises and all is framed by the blue sea. I felt fortunate indeed to be able to get out and experience this wonderful place. Eventually I reached my final summit Drung Hill and I was able to turn and easily follow the northeast spur as it descended towards mountain stage. Twasn't before time either as I could see some inclement weather approaching. My luck was in however as the rain missed me and I got back to the car dry but tired after almost six and a half hours, 24 kilometres and around 1400 metres of ascent. I was soon on my way back to Glenbeigh where I checked into the excellent campsite. After a brief rest I drove to the nearby Rossbeigh beach where I enjoyed an exhilarating swim in the waves. Surprisingly large breakers constantly rolled in and I was like a kid as I jumped dived and generally frollicked about. One note to self is to bring a change of clothes with you (especially pants) as it would have been a tad embarrassing if I had been  stopped while driving back😮. A nice evening followed and the promised rain duly arrived. Alas the weather was rotten the following morning so I forsook the cycle and headed home.
Rossbeigh Beach


I went down to Cloghane near Mount Brandon last Saturday evening so that I could make the most of Sunday in one of my favourite places. It was almost 9pm when I arrived and drizzly rain made sure I didn't delay in pitching my tent in the little campsite behind O'Connors guesthouse. Once settles I relaxed and whiled away a couple of hours until the time for sleep arrived. Squally rain and stiff winds was the weather but my old Voyager tent was well up to it and I slept very well.
It was a little disappointing to wake to the same weather on Sunday morning but the forecast was for things to improve so I relaxed and dozed some more. Eventually things settles and I was packed up and on the move by 09.50. I had brought boots etc as well as my running gear  so I could have a choice of a hike or run and I opted to run. I ran in the lane towards Mullaghabheal until I reached the track that heads right in towards the spectacular coum between Gearhane and Brandon Peak. Once past the houses I waded across the river and headed directly across the bog the outlet of Lough Avoonane. I had never been into this spectacular place before and it was wonderful. Waterfalls tumbled down the steep ground behind the lake and my route to the summit was the spur that curved steeply skyward to the west. A punishing 600 metres of ascent later I reached easier ground and after a brief rest and drink I was once again able to run over Gearhane and most of the way to Brandon Peak. The wind was very strong up here and it's fair to say that it was no longer T shirt weather. Clouds clung to the summits so with nothing to distract me I set off towards Brandon itself. Once down to the lowest point under the peak it is easy going for a fair while and again I was able to run all the way until the final climb to the summit of Brandon. Here I took a little shelter from the wind and ate a sandwich before heading along the ridge towards Masatiompán. Once I approached Parias Mór I was once again under the cloud and the views as well as the going was glorious. It was exhilarating to be able to run in such surroundings and I was loving every step. The slog to the summit of Masatiompán soon passed and I turned and headed down towards the deserted village from where I could follow the Dingle Way to the sea. The view down towards An tSáis (Sauce Creek) was breathtaking and it was hard to keep my eyes on the ground as I ran. Eventually I reached the track by the village and this I followed down to school at Teer. From there I made my way to the beach at Cappagh where I once again enjoyed a long soak in the waters. What a spot to linger but some care is required as the incoming tide was in full flow and a fair old current was moving. Out again and I quickly dressed and ran my final couple of kilometres back to the car. I was tired but so so satisfied with my outing. Just over four hours and 25 kilometres covered and 1300 metres climbed. Cloghane is just great.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Back to The Beara Peninsula.

Can you get too much of a good thing?. Well I decided to test that theory last weekend when I headed back to the Beara Peninsula.

Friday August 3rd;

Three days off and a good weather forecast was too good an opportunity to miss so I packed up Friday morning and after a leisurely start headed West. To be honest I hadn't actually decided on my final destination as I drove back and it wasn't until I reached Barradubh that I finally decided to turn towards Beara. I had thought to head towards Derrynane and camp and experience the wonderful beaches there but I feared it would be super busy on a bank holiday weekend so Beara won. I had brought my bike as well and I was looking forward to getting a good cycle in during my stay. I drove back through Kilgarvan and Kenmare and when I reached Beara Camping I went in and booked my pitch for a couple of nights. It was now 15.00 (well I did say I had a leisurely start 😉) and after pitching my tent in the sheltered quiet child free area I wasted no time in getting the bike out and setting off for a cycle.
I was a bit annoyed with myself to have left my cycling shorts at home but there was nothing I could do now. I opted to head over the pass into Lauragh and then follow the coast road back to Tousist and then the campsite. The main road was quiet and the views down towards Lauragh and the idyllic valley were stunning. Any lingering yearning I had for the beaches of Derrynane were forgotten and I knew I had made a good choice. The descent was great and on a good road surface before finally turning onto the shady lane that heads towards the sea. Kilmacalogue harbour looked superb and once you round the headland things only improve. Now you are cycling alongside the sea with views across the Kenmare River to the mountains of the Everagh Peninsula. This couple of miles is wonderful and over all too soon but the next section goes through wonderful woodland. At Tousist I turned and followed a very narrow lane that required some care to navigate as it twisted and undulated through open scrubby ground and it had a strip of grass running along the middle of it. Soon I was back on the main road and then back to the campsite. It was only just over 15 miles but it was a delightful cycle. A mountain pass, a coastal road, oak woodland and wild scrubby ground was all packed in❤.

I was delighted with the cycle but I was also keen to do something else so without delay I stored the bike and after changing my footwear I went for a run. I headed in the twisty lane towards Gleninchaquin and basically I would decide en route how far I would go. This is a beautiful area where rugged mountains (albeit quite low ones) line each side of the valley and beautiful large lakes fill the valley floor. After seven kilometres you reach the back wall of the valley and here the spectacular Gleninchaquin Waterfall can be seen. Mind you it is looking somewhat deplinished right now after the dry summer. I didn't go that far though and instead I turned right and followed the Beara Way where it crossed between the lakes before climbing to the shoulder of Knockagarrane mountain. Here I turned and scrambled my way up and through the rock bands to reach the summit. The views, especially towards the west were magical in the silver light. After a brief rest I retraced m steps to rejoin the trail and enjoyed the run back to the roadway. At the little boathouse by the lakeside the temptation to go for a dip was too strong and I enjoyed a refreshing soak in the deep waters. It was still three kilometres back to the campsite but it soon passed. I enjoyed a very pleasant evening and went to sleep pleased with my day.

A stony beach near Beara Camping

Saturday August 4th;

The plan for today was a cycle. I haven't done much in the way of cycling this year and I was a little apprehensive about today but really looking forward to it at the same time. When I was last down here with Kevin we had planned to do this cycle (but missed out) so I was keen to try it today. In a nutshell the route was a toughie. From the campsite into Kenmare, over the Caha Pass to Glengarriff, across to Adrigole, over the Healy Pass to Lauragh and finally over Lauragh pass and then the campsite. 50 miles and around 1000 metres of climbing. Ouchie.
The first section to Kenmare is straightforward and went well. Next the turn towards Glengarriff and slowly but surely the climb begins. The road is in places fairly rough, which doesn't help, and I must confess I started to struggle pretty early on. I didn't have much left in the legs and by the time I was nearing the pass I was pretty whacked. Still I had a long wonderful descent to look forward to and I hoped this would allow me to recover somewhat. The day was a little overcast but quite warm and it was a joy to bask in the warm wind as I effortlessly travelled the four miles down into the village . At least I enjoyed all but the last quarter mile as it was there I hit a stone and punctured my front tyre.  Luckily I had a spare tube so a crisis was averted and I was soon on my way again. I had sort of planned to have a pitstop in the village but after my unscheduled rest I didn't delay and turned instead for Adrigole. Things were nice and easy for a while but soon the climbing begins again until you crest a steep hill not far from Zetland Pier (yes I was tempted). Blessed relief follows in the form of a long gradual descent that stretches until a mile short of Adrigole. This is a stunning section as you wheel easily towards Hungry Hill on a good road with the sea on the left. Everywhere wildflowers dress the hedgerows and no matter where you look there is much to please the eye. I decided to stop in the village for a bite to eat before I turned and faced into the Healy Pass climb.
Approaching Adrigole

The Healy Pass

Glandore Lake
I have climbed here before and the gradient isn't too steep but today I struggled from the start. Delightful and all as the scenery is, my main concern was being able to keep pedalling. One big plus was the almost complete lack of cars. I think I met two coming towards me and probably two passed me out. What a bonus on a fine weekend and another reason why I believe I chose correctly in coming here. Man oh man it was a struggle and it seemed a never ending one at that. The road is as close as we get in Ireland to an Alpine pass style road and twists back on itself as it winds up through the wild  landscape. By the time I reached the pass I thought my legs would buckle when I got off to buy a coke in the little shop that is open during the high tourist season. At least I had most of the climbing done by now. The descent is delightful but I was quite careful in my tired state. Once I reached Lauragh I turned and faced into the final climb of the day. It's fair to say that this one was just as hard for me but I eventually passed over the top and free wheeled most of the way back. I was delighted to reach the campsite and the fine shower and a hot drink went some way to reviving me as did another dip in the lake that evening. All in all, despite the earlier fatigue I really enjoyed the day.

Sunday August 5th;

Yesterday had started off overcast and brightened up as the day progressed and I hoped that today would follow suit. It was a little cooler and quite cloudy as I packed up and setting off for Lauragh. Today's plan was to do the Coomeengera Horseshoe walk which is without doubt one of the finest in the Southwest of Ireland. It must have been 12 years since I had last done it and I was really looking forward to returning. It was somewhat dissappointing to see the summits shrouded in mist but as I said I was hopeful that a clearance would arrive. After driving through the hamlet I turned left and drove along the shaded wooded laneway before turning right and following this lane to its end near a small bungalow. Here you are on the cusp of entering the wild and rugged Rabhach Glen. This wild, remote and rugged ground has a grim history where a deserter from the naval based in Castletownbere in the early 1800s was killed by a local called Rabhach O'Sullivan who later killed a local woman who had witnessed the murder. He then hid out in a cave on the mountainside for a year before being captured and hung. Today thankfully all there is to worry about is negotiating the rugged ground into the heart of the horseshoe where the valley widens and a wonderful and varied mountain scene surrounds you.
The entrance to the glen

After the narrow entrance it opens out inside

Wild country
The first top of the round is the incongruously named Tooth mountain 593 metres whose rugged rather indistinct summit is easily reached by climbing and easy gully beyond the river and climbing northwest to the top. Though things had been clearing the cloud arrived back on the summit with wonderful timing just as I arrived. I lingered a while and managed to snach some misty views down before turning and easily reaching the next summit Coomacloghane which is a metre short of the 600 mark. After this there is a drop to a wide pass before climbing to the broad boggy almost level crest. Now you turn left (south) and head easily towards Eskatarriff 600 mtrs. From here you are looking out at the full glory of the glen and the rest of Beara's mountains and those further afield can be seen. As you may have guessed, the weather had indeed improved and the cloud was now well above the tops. I was really enjoying myself and my legs once again felt strong. Next up comes Lackabane which at 603 metres is the highest point of the whole trip. Don't be fooled by the modest heights of these hills. The ground hereabouts is rough and tough and progress is seldom easy. Even with the modest height there is still about 1000 metres of climbing to be done before the route is finished. After Lackabane there is a steep descent along a pleasingly narrow ridge to reach the gully that offers a way down to the valley floor. This broad grassy gully is steep in places and would require a little care in wet conditions. Today it was fine and I was soon back in the valley where it was a short walk to my car. At just over 4 hours it hadn't been too taxing and was a very enjoyable outing and one I certainly won't wait another 12 years to do.

Gnarly ground on the summit of Tooth

Looking out the glen

Hungry Hill..everywhere wild rugged ground

Final section..towards Lackabane...there must be some rock routes to be done there

To finish off the trip I decided that a dip in the sea would be just the ticket so after returning to the main road I turned left and drove to Ardgroom where I found the secluded little stony beach at Droumard. There I enjoyed a solitary swim in the calm warm waters. It was wonderful and ended the adventure perfectly. I didn't even mind the drive home.
Droumard Beach..Very nice
 Beara soothes the soul.❤.