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.