First dispatches from Ireland – thanks for sticking with my walk despite the sudden shift in continents!
Atop the sweeping Connor Pass
Day 184 to 185
The first two days in Ireland have blasted my senses. Indeed, the Dingle Way is a hiking nirvana.
This shot, taken today atop Connor Pass, one of the highest in the country, was snapped by two lovely Irish nurses, Ann-Marie, who is about to start work in a hospital in San Diego, and Emilie, who works in Dublin prison.
With Ann-Marie and Emilie on top of the Connor Pass
Driving by, they saw me slogging up the stunning, swirly peak and sweetly asked if I was ok. To be fair, by that stage, I was cooked, as hunched and gaspy as Quasimodo, but the view of the valley soon eclipsed all discomfort.
At the most westerly point in Europe
The day before I’d hiked from the village of Dunquin, to the most westerly point in Europe – and setting of Star Wars film, The Last Jedi – then on to Dingle. It was one of my favourite days walking to date. A feast for the eyes – dramatic cliffs; raging iron blue seas; fledgling lambs; higgeldy stone walls and trails fringed with snow drops, primroses and docks.
As for the smells, one minute lush earthy mineral stinks, the next wild garlic, then cow dung and freshly cut grass.
By dusk I’d reached Dingle and hearty fish, brine and wood smoke spiced by hoppy pongs from a nearby brewery took over.
But perhaps the sweetest sensation was capping the day with a pint of Guinness among great company at historic, Dick Mack’s, where Dingle musicians were strumming their hearts out.
The highlight, three local girls singing a haunting, achingly beautiful version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which brought a tear to many eyes, including mine.
Another plus, the last two nights I’ve stayed in cheap and cheerful hostels, the Grapevine in Dingle (20 euros) and Fitzgerald’s in Castle Gregory (17 euros) both top, friendly spots.
My daughter, Eliza, joked: ‘You’ll be the lone, weird old guy in a hostel, Dad!’
Fair cop, I probably am, but happily, l’m now too old to care.
Thanks Ireland, so far a cracking start to the European leg.
John and Tadghe Evans – 8th generation sheep farmers in the Dingle Penninsula
Day 186 to 188
Meet John Evans, his son, Tadghe, (Tim in Gaelic) – farming in the Dingle Penninsula for eight generations – and a fine looking sheep.
Our paths crossed as I stomped along the road to Castlemaine. They were a joy to chat to.
‘I’m Irish as Guinness,’ joked John. ‘But I’ve got a Welsh surname, an English first name, and I breed Scotch sheep. Work that one out.’
John and Tadghe told me they have a cousin, Shane Finn (amazing chap, give him a google), who has just done a charity run across Ireland in 64 consecutive marathons and is now running across America.
‘He’s like you,’ teased John. ‘Just younger, better looking and a whole lot faster.’
With Christine Gordon, mountain hiker extraordinaire
It was a day of wonder as earlier, slogging up the soul-charging Coherconree Pass, I met Christine Gordon (photo), who has climbed 1,500 peaks over 2000 feet in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, including all the Munros (mountains over 3000 ft).
She needs to knock off another 27, and then will be the first woman – or man – to have climbed all 2000 ft plus peaks in the UK and Ireland. A lovely, super hardy gran.
Lorna, Billy, Tadghe and Ellie, at the Phoenix Hostel
That night I spent the best 15 Euros ever, when I slept at the Phoenix Hostel run by Lorna and Billy, along with grandchild, Tadghe, dogs Rufus and Ellie and a posse of cats. A dynamic family, who took me in, off season, and fed me the healthiest food of the journey.
A bridge too narrow, near Castle Gregory
Earlier in the day, near Castle Gregory, I was banjaxed by a bridge spanning a flooded brook, too narrow for my cart, Koko, to be wheeled over. Instead, I had to heft her, while snorting and groaning horribly.
I thought I was alone but at the other end, sweaty and rattled, I was met by a jovial Les Dawson deadringer walking his dogs.
‘What the feck you doing, son?’ he asked, beaming. ‘Dancing with your donkey?’
The locals’ timing and delivery of the F bomb is often pure poetry.
Old school Guinness ad
Spent this eve in lovely Killarney at Neptune Hostel (17 Euros), updating website, laundry, journal… No Guinness was harmed in the process, honest. Back on the road to Cork tomorrow…
Special thanks to all at the Grapevine Hostel in Dingle, Fitzgerald’s Hostel in Castle Gregory, The Phoenix Hostel near Castlemaine and Neptune Hostel in Killarney and to Ann-Marie and Emilie on Connor Pass and John and Tadghe Evans.
Also to dear friend, Moe Moss and Ann-Marie for very generous donations to the wonderful charities.
If you can spare a bean for any of the three great causes, please simply click on the donate button and pick the relevant charity. Thanks so much.