Quote of the Moment
"All really great things happen in slow and inconspicuous ways." Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

E8: The Maps You Need in Ireland

A gaping hole in my blog posts so far has been the lack of actual information that would be at all useful to someone wishing to do the same route I did. With that in mind and prompted by Elizabeth who commented on my previous post I will go some way to rectifying this. As always, thanks for reading. :-)


I used OSi maps for my hike, which can be found HERE.  These maps seemed - during my research - to be the only comprehensive maps that would cover the whole of the E8 route from Dursey to Dublin. A couple of comments, firstly they seemed a little expensive when I purchased them, all in I spent over €100 inc. shipping. Secondly they are not quite as accurate as you may be used to, with the Discovery Ireland series the best for walkers at a 1:50 scale, this might not be the 1:25 that you may be used to.

Above is a grid I found here that I have modified slightly to show the maps that cover the E8. I also found a more detailed version of the same thing (without my edits) here that may be better if you plan to print it off. The maps you need are the following.

  • Discovery Series 84  
  • Discovery Series 78     
  • Discovery Series 68 
  • Discovery Series 85 
  • Discovery Series 81 
  • Discovery Series 76 
  • Discovery Series 74 
  • Discovery Series 50
  • Discovery Series 56 
  • Discovery Series 80  
  • Discovery Series 79  
  • Discovery Series 75  
  • Discovery Series 62 
Costing 7.57 each plus shipping.

Final comment. There is one very small section of the route that is not on the maps above, it is the link to get on to the Wicklow Way. It turned out to be a matter of 100-200 metres and I didn't want to spend the money on yet another map so assumed that I would be able to find my way. I didn't test it, but don't think it would have been a problem.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

E8 Day 4: Kenmare to Killarney

The difference that a well tended path makes I cannot overstate. You see the photo above, this epitomised the first three days of walking on the Beara Way. Whilst it was beautiful the paths were very badly tended and signposted. When it rained, they became bogs. When it didn't, it had only just stopped raining so they were slippy without clear flat 'ledges' for your feet to safely follow. Now look at the picture below...

Yes, ok the weather there looks much better (it was! Actually, it was the best day's weather of the whole trip) but there is one important difference between the two pictures. There are wooden planks. These planks made much of Day 4's walking a dream; the comparison between the care given to the two paths was like night and day.


I woke up with full force of a cold that had been brewing for days. But starting clean and with a full hearty breakfast in me helped me get going, and by the end of the day I had walked away from ailment and left it behind (for the moment). A boring long slow incline on a straight country road began the hike. I was glad for this. The difficult terrain of previous days had given me a new found love for tarmac. It did go on though. And on. And on. And then, to my despair, DOWN, before rising to the top of a ridge of mountains and a more cobbled path which turned out to be the Old Kenmare Road.

I ate a snack at the top and proceeded into one of the most pleasant experiences of the expedition. The weather had cleared and warmed. I strolled lazily down a solid but old path, which was crossed a couple of times by a fast stream. Once at the bottom of a wide bowl with only one building in sight for miles around, I think I found one of the most peaceful places on earth. Yes all that I had walked through before was a ranging torrent of water and mud and cold, and ahead I was such to have more of it, but right then and now I was surrounded by quiet.

Things changed again. The old path became more distinct as I went along. Old, mossy dry-stone walls began to follow it. I could almost imagine being caught up by the horse drawn carriage of some local gentry as I began again to go up toward the final peaks of the day; the Eskhamunky Gap between mountains Cromagan and Stumpcommeen (All these spellings, I think, are incorrect). The picture at the start of the post is from this section, where the distinctive track became bog, but this wasn't a problem because of the blessed wooden planks that ensured a dry passage on to the woods of the Muckross Estate.

This was becoming an easy day. I put one foot in front of the other and I didn't slip, feel the cold of mud up to my ankles or indeed the pull as the earth desired to keep my boots! It was glorious! And on arriving to the Muckross Estate I knew that the going would be good from here on till the end of the day. The estate is a contrast of artificial English gardening in south-west Ireland. A real treat for the feet and a chance of scene for the eyes, but at the same time somewhat out of place. It has a forest, which in itself is a novelty where much of the other trees of Ireland were cut down for fuel at various points in it's history. And it finally has acres and acres of good grass and lawns. This second aspect announced the immanent approach to Mucross Hall, a 'modest' stately home, and a chance to rest with a green tea. I did so then proceeded onto my next night's accommodation in the Paddy's Palace hostel in Killarney where I would enjoy a day off.

As I lay in my bunk bed reflecting on how things had gone so far I just wished that I had more of the Kerry Way to walk on and not the uncertainty of a new path; would it be as maintained as the dream I had just traversed, or as wild and boggy as on Beara?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

E8 Day 3: Beara Camping to Kenmare

To anyone who is still reading this blog: I apologise. Life took a turn for the busy and I ended up focusing on everything apart from completing the tail of my hike. Here is day 3, I will recount it as best I can.

The night of the 2nd to the 3rd of March was cold. Very cold. Exceptionally cold. Well, by exceptionally cold I mean, it was exceptional that anyone would consider that 'camping' in a plastic shed in those temperatures would be a good idea. The weather was behaving as normal for that time of year. It snowed. I spent some time outside marvelling at the flakes as they fell, and the sinking realisation that I would face another rough day on the morrow. But first I had to survive the night. My notebook reads like the scraps of prose you found in a story designed to create suspense. I wrote, "It is so cold." in a scrawly end of the world script. And it was cold. Probably the coldest nights sleep I have ever had. My winter sleeping-bag, mummy liner, hat and all the clothes I had stuffed into the bag were nearly insufficient to ensure that I would wake up in the morning. (Maybe a little melodramatic! ;-) )

But awake I did. And whilst not refreshed, I had slept a few hours and was ready to move on. With shivering hands I collected all my things and walked the mile and a half back to the route.

Today's hike started with country tracks back to the Beara Way along the Clooney Loughs which were still and peaceful and seemingly deep. I took some time to pause and relax as I was back on the hike after such a troubling and cold night, by the loughs I had warmed up again and despite the feeling of a cold I was ready for another day's hike. I walked straight up another mountain which with today's mostly dry weather was much easier than similar sections on the previous days. Towards the top of the climb I turned around and took real pleasure from the view, I saw another ridge, the very same I had come down from on the previous day and I couldn't see how I had done it. I studied the slope and the ridge and, whilst logic and the map afforded me a probable location where I had come down, at all points it seemed impassable. I really felt like a hill walker at that moment.

On the other side of the climb I was able to spy my first view of a civilised population centre, not the whole town of Kenmare, but a small slice of it that hills and trees left unobstructed. But it was a goal. And it kept me going for the rest of the day. Hiking wise it was pretty easy with track becoming farm roads becoming a larger country road which eventually came out to a the main highway from the south to Kenmare. This last part was unfortunate with speedy cars interrupting the peacefulness I had come accustomed to. But again, the closeness to a real nights sleep in a real - and WARM - B&B kept any frustration caused by the trappings of civilisation minor in my mind. This road led on for some time and culminated in the bridge of Kenmare; never a greyer construction has been made by man. I left the Beara Peninsula, it was a sad moment. Whilst it had treated me roughly I had begun to truly appreciate it's wild beauty; I hope to return to here again.

The town of Kenmare was pleasant. The greeting I got by Mary at Hawthorn House was warm, which to me by this point was vitally important. I washed some clothes, had Irish Stew, my first (of 3!!! :-(  ) Guinnesses and slept in a nice soft bed.  

Thursday, 27 March 2014

E8 Day Two: Ardgroom to Beara Camping

Repetition of previous map. You can see Ardgroom, Beara Camping is just north of the 3 lakes. Also the route is slightly different as I think this is the cycle route. The hiking route takes you over all the hills!
So day 2. Some people have commented that they are surprised I continued after that day. Well I put it down to a) the continued excitement of the trip, and b) the wonderful Hilda at the Panorama B&B; she really did do a great job of setting me up for another day's hike. I can't thank her enough!

With all my things packed and ready to go, Hilda offered that she would take me down to the start of the trail as the B&B was off the Beara Way by quite a distance. This I accepted with all thanks. I was straight on to the bog refreshed and fit.

The Bog.

Today's hike promised more variety of terrain, which I was looking forward to, but started with the same. Also the day was cooler, much cooler, but broadly dryer. It was also clearer, and as I climbed up the mountain I managed to see some really great sea/harbour views for the first time since I put my first foot forward at Dursey Head. The coast here is - unsurprisingly - stunning, but also working. And it is this low impact fishing industry (Muscles and Crab) which adds to the beauty here instead of detracts.

You can see the Iveragh Peninsula on the other side of the bay.

I continued over the gap between Drung Hill and Keecragh Mountian, which began to harden and become more rocky. Steep in places, it really got my legs going again. The path slowly declined into a depressions with running streams criss-crossing the turf and at one point almost ending the hike there when one stream crossed the path, the girth, depth and flow of the water created a real challenge. I spent some time here, alone, working out if crossing the water was even possible! To the point that, in more frustration than sense, I practised throwing my pack to see if that was an option. I felt it was more than likely that, here, well away from anyone else who could help, I (and more importantly my pack!) would be soaking wet and the hike would have to be called off!

The offending 'stream'.
After discounting a bunch of daft ideas and crossing points I decided to risk it on one where the key disadvantage was the trust I would need to place on submerged stones with my weight and the hope that the stream wasn't as forceful as I expected. I crossed. Breathed a sigh of relief. And continued.

To me, all human endeavour, even if it's reasons can only be speculated upon through the distance of time, is interesting. What is it that truly motivates people to create something, despite the effort and costs involved? Stone circles are one such feature that falls into this category. It is tricky to see and feel the weight of meaning behind their construction and existence. What would someone who had had a hand in lugging the huge stones to remote locations truly have felt when they saw the completion of their work? I just don't know. Even so, in Ireland, a sense of stately nature is retained and they form the perfect spot for pause and reflection when on a long hike, whilst the weather holds out that is!

The Stone Circle at Cashel Keelty.
Another gap, this time between Knockatee and Drombohilly was approached to via Lauragh Village and a bunch of small country roads/paths. I didn't realise quite how much I would relish the hard, artificial surface that brings modernity to the isolated and unspoilt countryside, but I am afraid I did. After nearly two days of walking on, through, in, within bogs I was ready for somewhere to walk that didn't need constant attention. The traffic was light, and I welcomed the small moment of interaction between me and passing drivers. One highlight of my little foray into civilisation was an old petrol pump advertising Guinness!

The final section up and over the gap was difficult. I focused on regular pauses at each of the way markers as the path became increasingly steep. It nearly did me in. I vowed that I would do more to support myself, eat more snacks, drink more water and take more breaks. Once through the gap the decent was tricky for the first half until the path followed a concrete farmers track which joined the Cloone Loughs within a beautiful valley headed by a spectacular waterfall (which I was only able to view from a distance). 

The next day's hike was almost straight over those hills!

 To get to my next overnight stop I had to walk some way off the Beara way. But as it was on roads it was pretty good going despite the rain worsening. My body wasn't playing up too much, but it had just had enough and I was glad to see that the campsite was actually closer than I had expected. I knocked, waited, and was greeted by a lovely Dutch couple who owned the place. Beara Camping it seemed was busy during the proper tourist seasons, but, for this year, I was the first visitor! This was turning into something of a habit, this part of Ireland really does not open until at least mid March. My stay here was free, which was good, but mostly that was because there were no working toilets or showers. I did have access to a gas cooker and made myself some warm food in the communal barn.

Beara Camping

I had planned to camp, but was offered a little plastic shed thing to stay in over night which was nice. Especially because it snowed that night. Temperatures dropped to below freezing and was not entirely pleasant. (Though I was warm when in my sleeping bag)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

E8: Day one; Dursey Head to Ardgroom

A good map of the route. I took the northern path.
More photos, less rambling... I hear you! ;-)
The first days walking started with a Taxi. Essentially there is no way to get to the start of the hike via public transport. But before I start, here are some facts about the Beara Peninsula.
  • It is beautiful.
  • It is very remote.
  • The 236 bus route from Cork to Castletownbere is the most expensive to run in Europe. It is subsidised 85% by the council.
  • The reason that the Beara Peninsula has not gone the touristic way of the Iveragh Peninsula and Killarney is because the roads are so narrow that coaches can't go all the way around.
  • After the walk I read The Edge of Ireland, a book which highlights the rich spiritual and artistic heritage and people of the Beara Peninsula. Including a Buddhist retreat called Dzogchen Beara, the enduring traditions of Seanachi (keepers of oral history) and a plethora of artists, musicians and craft producers. (Most of which I missed out on with my demanding hike.)
The above and so much more, I will say now, means that I have promised to myself that I will go back there. It is just a magical place. 

A dilapidated sign for the 'Last Light Ceremony' that was conducted at the end of the Millennium. 
My Diary reads...
"Hot shower! Yes!"
...As the first line from the 1st March. With the Lodge being - at least officially - closed no hot water or heating had been in action for weeks and despite my three day bus journey I wasn't able to have a shower until the morning, which seemed doubtful when I went to be. Oh, what levels of appreciation you achieve for the small things when you embark on adventures!

It is then followed by..
"Well, today's hike was harder than expected."
The reality of the hike hit me pretty hard. I was suffering from a cold, which didn't help, and my pack was much too heavy for the sort of walking I had planned.

The day started well. The taxi was on time and when I arrived at the start of the Beara Way I was in good spirits, the sight of the water surging though Dursey Sound was very powerful alongside the craggy coastline (which reminded me of the very best of the North Cornish coast), and it wasn't raining (yet!). I started the walk. It felt amazing! I was actually doing it. Elation filled me to the brim and I couldn't believe I had actually arrived. It was quite emotional really.

Me, feeling pretty chuffed to actually be at the start of something that was months in the planning.

This, I was soon to find out, was a DRY path!
The path began with a good incline on alternating damp/slippy vegitation and rocky terrain. Some scrambling was required in places which was a little precarious with the wind. Also something which I was going to have to get used to was the nature of the path itself, often it was badly signposted and had no visible signs of it's existence. Which isn't necessarily a problem, but it became tricky once it rose into the cloud cover and visibility dropped dramatically.

 On the way I met Michael - a Tipperary man - who started just before me and I caught up with him soon after the first hill. With two hiking poles and two gps trackers he was remarkably more kitted out than me and was infinitely more experienced in the sorts of walking I was going to have to do; Bog Walking! We stayed together up until Allihies, with a promise that we were not able to fulfil, to meet up again further along the hike when I was closer to his home. I learnt quite a bit from this encounter (thank you Michael!), but it was also a real boost to my spirits to walk with someone else. My plan for the hike was always to do it alone, little did I know how draining solo-hiking can be on the spirit and how much the chatter and companionship of someone, even a total stranger, on a long hike such as this is so important.
The weather got worse and worse as the day progressed. Most of the hike was in the clouds and visibility was poor. Around Allihies the walk is along country roads which lead up to the old mine workings of Anhillies mine workings and the Slieve Miskish Mountians. This disused mine workings were in various states of disrepair but very interesting to see. That said I wasn't really in a position to appreciate them...
"Alone I climbed. And climbed. And cursed my heavy bag, the weather and my lack of training. The distraction of good conversation had gone. I motivated myself with a Cream Egg."
I was pretty grumpy at this point, but then I spent the next couple of hours negotiating the turf, bogs and hills that led towards Ardgroom. This was a point which almost broke me. The walk was treacherous, going up the mud clinged to and infested your boots. Going down every step could see you fall and slide into puddles of mud and sheep droppings. It was a continual trial that sapped the strength, it was not a day to be out on a walk.

"I fell, slipped, skidded, tumbled and was generally consumed by the bog. The highlights of this section - the Mass Rock, the Mines, the sea and soothing roar of the waves - were eclipsed by the wet, the mud and the rotting vegetation. The hillside had effectively erupted with little streams of rainwater and micro-waterfalls that filled the land."
 I eventually arrived at Eyeries. I sat, in a slight lull in the rain, steeling myself for the final 10 kilometres. About 3km along the country road someone pulled over, offered me a lift and I accepted. I was done in. But luckily I had the Panorama B&B to look help me recover that night, and what a wonderful salvation it is for a tired and demoralised hiker! More on this next time.


Thanks once again for reading this blog. Turned out to have more words in it than I expected! OOPS! Oh and the walk wasn't all bad, just this section was a shock. Things perk up much more further along. ;-)

Please comment and share.

Friday, 21 March 2014

E8: The Arrival

I left Prague at 5pm on Wednesday the 26th February. In doing so I was embarking on the most adventurous trip I had ever done. To hike over 550 km (340 miles) solo across a country I had never been to at a particularly poor time of year for the weather and with a full pack (which I never weighed) including tent, winter sleeping bag, food and water (read: v.heavy)! I was as excited as I had been in a very long time, after a difficult time for me I had put all my energies into planing, booking and now departing on a real challenge.

Anthony the Unready?

I had always planned to get to Ireland by plane. I checked the prices one week and completed the whole budgeting process. Then, when it was time to book the week afterwards, the price had jumped from approximately £35 single to £100 (without accounting for baggage). I was mortified. Perhaps the trip, which was running on the most fragile of shoestrings, would have to be cancelled! I did some digging around for alternatives and found a bus. Well... 4 buses that would take me the whole way from Prague to Adrigole Ireland in 3 days and two nights. 3 days and 2 nights on buses, with 6 hours in London and 3 in Dublin. I must have been a bit mad, but the price was right - £100 in total plus saving at least one nights accommodation cost - and I had always wanted to go on a long distance bus for some unfathomable reason. So I left Prague on a Student Agency bus (£30 Prague - Dublin, BARGAIN!) that would travel through the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France, through most of which I was asleep.

I wrote in my Diary...
"The Bus has just been processed by Passport control for both the French and the English authorities within 100 metres of each other. I just realised that I don't actually know how we will be crossing the English Channel! It is a little unnerving. I will just have to wait and see. Within the next hour I could be on a ferry for the first time since I was a child the Channel Tunnel for the first time in my life!"
It turned out to be the Channel Tunnel which was decidedly underwhelming and boring. With nothing to do in a hollow tube of a train carriage and the bus with no entertainment system as it had to turn it's engine off. Oh well, it still was a first for me!

With some time in London I planned the day before to meet up with an old friend, Chris. We met on his lunch break on a nice early Spring day and on his lunch break where a particularly nice burger was consumed (Thanks Chris!). The walk I took from Victoria Coach Station to Soho where he worked had one interesting monument in the way, Buckingham Palace where I saw the Prime Minister speeding away in a horse drawn carriage and took a bunch of photos which didn't really come out properly!
Best of a bad bunch.
I then had another overnight bus to contend with. This one was run by Eurolines and cost £35 (Double BARGAIN!) and would take me all the way to Dublin, and this time I knew it would partly be by ferry. In comparison the Eurolines bus service is far behind the Czech Student Agency service. On Student Agency you get free hot drinks and a particularly entertainments system full of films, music and a couple of TV series. On Eurolines you get none of that. A shame really.

On arrival to Dublin I met a couple of nice people on and off the bus who I chatted with for a while as we waited in Dublin's Busáras. I had my picture taken by a random unsuspecting bus. And waited for another wheeled vehicle of bum-numbing despair which would take me to Cork (£35!).

This is starting to sound like one long string of buses. So all I will add is I arrived in cork with just enough time to go to the toilet and comfortably wait around at the correct bus stop. No anxiety, slight boredom and an almost successfully completed journey!

A castle seen from the Bus. I hoped that I would get to see more of this on the trip. I didn't so I suspect that a return to Ireland is a distinct possibility at some point... In a car!

Irish Weather. Irish Hills. (Dry) Irish fields. Picture taken from the bus.
 It turned out that in the weeks before my arrival the Beara Peninsula had suffered a MIGHTY STORM. The net result of which was to cause difficulties for me on my arrival to Adrigole and the 'Peg's Shop' bus stop. I got off and frequented the said Peg's shop for supplies then strolled the 200 metres of country lane, continually astounded by the wonderful, stark and enrapturing Beara countryside (more on this in a subsequent post). I arrived at the Hungry Hill Lodge, and it was closed. I looked at my phone, no signal. I entered the grounds of the Lodge, no-one was there. So, concerned that I would have to camp out for the night, I trudged back up to Pegs Shop in the hope that they could phone someone off the landline for me.

The Kitchen at the Hungry Hill Lodge, my first night's accommodation.
Since the MIGHTY STORM all mobile and most internet services across the Beara Peninsula had been broken. This meant that I could not contact the owner of the Hungry Hill Lodge, said owner didn't know that I had a booking and I was not able to contact home to tell Sarah that everything was ok and I was set to start the walk. A bit of a disaster on the side, everything about me was fine, but the peripheral things that would have made the start comfortable and easy had suddenly and surprisingly failed because of the failure of technology. Still I couldn't grumble, once contacted the owner came to the Lodge within 5 minutes, I had a warm roof over my head and the owner of the Hungry Hill Lodge - who turned out to be from Coventry - was welcoming. All in all I could count this as a good start to my Irish E8 Adventure!


Thanks for reading this first instalment of the hike. I promise that they will get shorter! Please take the time to comment and if you know anyone who might be interested in these adventures please share on Facebook, Twitter or anything!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

E8: The Return

To start, I would like to thank everyone who has been keeping half an eye on this blog for their patience and support in my endeavour to complete the Irish E8. Your support was and continues to be the driving force for what I achieve. Even if you are just a number in the 'views' part of the management of this blog, or someone who comments, or indeed someone in my personal life who has given advice and encouragement, thank you!

Now to business.

I am back in Prague. Early. I did not complete the hike, in fact I did about 1/3 of it. There are a bunch of reasons why I stopped, but the main problem came down to the loneliness of the hike. This is something that I will explore in more detail in future blog posts.

From Dursey Head at the start, I got as far as Mallow, Something like 150-200 km of the most strikingly beautiful, desolate, wet, boggy, magical, peaceful, wet, muddy, hilly, constantly engaging and wet countryside I have ever walked. I feel proud of myself for going, and very happy to be back to the real world.

That means I completed the planned sections of the Beara Way (North coast)...

...Kerry Way (Kenmare - Killarney)...

...(Blackwater) Dunhallow Way in full...

And part of the (Blackwater) Avondu Way (as far as Mallow).

At Mallow the B&B was opposite a main line train station that went directly to Dublin. This proved too much of a temptation (salvation?) at the time. I ended up the next morning on a train to the capital and then doing the double-bus shuffle back to Prague.

Over the next month I will be blogging my experiences of the walk. I kept a diary each day, and there was something about walking solo across essentially empty country (I met 2, yes, 2(!) walkers the whole 8 days) that brings forth coherent thought. I hope you will stick with me as I recount this tale of unending bogs and the kindness of B&B owners. Also there are some pretty good pics!

Quick Post: Ads

Dear one and all!

I am a poor decrepit soul, and I needs the monies. In the endeavour to get the monies I have enabled ads on this site. I would be very appreciative if you gave them your full attention and, if relevant to you, please click!

Unfortunately there is a problem that Google seems to focus on your location when determining what language the ads should be in. This sort of issue regarding language being driven by location is a frustration within Google in general, but with regards to ads it is a critical problem. I am investigating the issue with Google to see if there is a solution. But please, if you have any experience - and hopefully - a solution to the problem then please get in touch.

More interesting posts coming soon, including tales from my E8 hike and exciting planning for my next big adventure - CHINA!

Friday, 28 February 2014

E8 Progress Update - Leaving Dublin

Well I've got this far...

Ok, well the photo isn't the best. Incase you can't make it out, the photo is taken from the X8 bus south towards Cork of what I believe are the Wicklow Mountains.

All is well, the cold I have had seems to be leaving me. My pack is holding up. And everything has gone to plan so far! I have even met a couple of people and had some lovely chats. :-)

Walking starts tomorrow, I can't wait! (Almost as much as I can't wait for the shower I will have tonight!)

Monday, 24 February 2014

All Packed....!

...and ready to go!
(Well nearly, there is always something else to do!)

Tomorrow I will be leaving Prague on the 5pm bus to London. The next day I get a bus to Dublin. And the following day a Bus to Adrigole in deepest darkest (I hope not, the pictures on Street View look lovely in good weather!) Ireland.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

E8 Preview: East Munster Way

I leave the Blackwater Way knowing that I am past half way on the walk. We now turn to the East Munster way from Clogheen to Carrick on Suir.

Once again stolen from irishtrails.ie. Thanks! 

Much of this route follows the River Suir and ducks (ok, poor choice of word, more like slogs) into the foothill of the Comeragh mountains at various points; seemingly this happens when the path has nothing better to do, like go to a village!

Clogheen is the start of this section, named in Irish Chloichín an Mhargaid, meaning "Little Stone of the Market" and comprises 509 people. It has an interesting history in the 18th and 19th Centuries of Catholic rebellion against established Church and taxes which is something I will likely look into more at a later date. The hike then moves back into the Knockmealdown Mountains and follows the River Glenboy into the Russellstown Forest and the little village of Newcastel.

The next key point of interest is Clonmel which did it's best to resist Cromwell and the commonwealth forces; there was a well fought siege here in 1650. I will then end in Carrick on Suir.

One thing that is missing from this overview is the levels of wildlife that I expect on this part of the route. Everywhere I read information commenters highlight the rural and wild nature of this part of the E8. It sounds great to me, and I am really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

E8 Preview: Blackwater Way Part 2 - Avondhu

The Avondhu is where the very first Irish set out on a long journey as early stone age hunter-gatherers to become our first farmers. It is where the spiritual and mystical druids embraced Christianity and went on to contribute to European Enlightenment in the Dark Ages. It is where we absorbed waves of invasions, taking the best from each to emerge as a people distinct in Europe.  It is where armies of thousands gathered to take on the Might of Napoleon at Waterloo and later the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in the Great War.
The Avondhu, The Cradle of Ireland, is where Ireland started, where the very first Irish set out on that long journey more than 10,000 years ago.  It is the mother land for millions around the globe.
Continuing along the Blackwater Way and the E8 I will come to the Avondu Way and if the above quote taken from the Avondhu Heritage Archive is anything to go by it will be quite a section.

Map stolen from here, and the excellent irishtrails.ie. 

The first people in Ireland probably arrived and settled here, probably using the Blackwater as a key transport route. Similarly Christianity entered Ireland in a similar fashion and I am told (again by the Avondhu Heritage Archive) that wherever I see a Christian site I will hear the running of water. Half way along the Avondhu way I first come across the River Blackwater which has, I am told, some of the best salmon fishing in the whole of the British Isles! Wow!

Between Mallow and Fermoy there are the Nagles Mountains/Sliabh an Nóglaigh which don't have a particularly high peak, will make this section a little tough.  This is followed by Ballyhooly and it's Castle, actually a 16th Century Tower House used to guard a ford in the river Blackwater.

Fermoy is the key settlement in the area, and the first chance at sleeping in a bed over the whole of the Blackwater way! In Irish it is called Mainistir Fhear Maí, meaning "monastery of the Men of the Plain". The monastery it mentions is a 13th Century Cistercian Abby that was closed by Henry VIII. It is also the town that John Anderson built (a 17th Centry Scots entrepreneur who developed the infrastructure of the region) and the site of the first IRA armed attack on the British army in September 1919.

Clogheen (I will cover this town in my next post) and the Knockmealdown Mountains will end this part of the hike. Knockmealdown has two interpretations of the Irish origins of its name, either Cnoc Mhaoldomhnaigh: Muldowneys' Hill or Cnoc Maol Donn: bald brown hill. And it has a folk song associated with it. Information taken from Wikipedia. LINK.

This mountain range was celebrated in the folk song, "Kitty Bawn O'Brien" by Allister MacGillvary of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The song is a lover's lament for a young woman who emigrates from Ireland to Canada. Knockmealdown is mentioned in the first and the final stanzas, as follows:

Kitty Bawn O'Brien by Allister MacGillvary

A soft wind blowing sweet and warm.
From the peaks called Knockmeal Down.
The songbird signs his cheery notes above Black Water Sound.
From my heart all joys depart, no beauty can enthrall, my Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal.
I met her at the Mallow Fair, where lovers sport and play.
I watched her feet trip lightly as a piper droned her way.
She sang a song so lilting there, her hands beneath her shawl, now Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal.

I followed her to Waterford the day the ship set sail.
Her mother let the tears down fall, her father's cheeks were pale.
I kissed her there, I lost her there, now sadly I recall, my Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal.
And far across the ocean wide a world from Knockmeal Down, my Kitty shines like silver in some far Canadian town.
She'll charm some French soldier there, I can't blame him at all, my Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal.

A soft wind blowing sweet and warm, from the peaks called Knockmeal Down.
The songbird signs his cheery notes above Black Water Sound.
From my heart all joys depart, no beauty can enthrall, my Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal, my Kitty Bawn O'Brien's gone to far off Montreal.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

E8 Preview: Blackwater Way Part 1 - Duhallow

Following on from the day's break in hiking in Killarney I will leave the Kerry way on to the Blackwater Way. This will probably prove to be the toughest part of the walk, with some massive 40km days and a 3 night section without any planned or available accommodation. EEK!

The Blackwater way is split into two sections, beginning (for me, it seems like the whole of Ireland works from Dublin out and I am going against some sort of tide by doing the walk towards the capital) with the Dunhallow Way between Shrone and Bweeng.

Map stolen from here, and the excellent irishtrails.ie

The Dunhallow Way is named after the Norman Barony created in the 12th Century. Apart from this there is little information that I can find about the route itself. It is interesting to note that the Barony is still a legal region within Ireland which, though with a much reduced administrative role, still forms some part of governance such as in planning.

As mentioned, the largest challenge of the Blackwater way will be the lack of accommodation and the distances that I have planned to travel to minimise this problem. This is epitomised by the Dunhallow Way where there are no (that's right no) clear options for a walker to find somewhere to rest their head in comfort! I hope to rush through this part of the walk in two nights, but I shouldn't grumble to much wild camping is nothing if not cheap!

There are no settlements of note that I will pass through, though I suspect that a pop into Millstreet for provisions will happen. But excitingly, there are a number of historical and geographical features on the way! :)

Fertility seems to be the name of the game for the start of this section as it starts with Cathair Craobh Dearg - Pre-historic Stone Fort otherwise called The City where cattle were driven to as a protection from ailments. And The Paps - Two hills said to be a 'manifestation' of the Celtic goddess Aine with nipple-cairns at the top. One person has included The City within Aine's manifestation as her navel. I will look forward to finding how... errm... realistic this is. Christians now use the City as a pilgrimage site.

There are two stone formations on the route. The first is Knocknakilla Stone Circle and the second is the Sinner's Stone also named Kilquhane.

Finally in terms of structural history there are the ruins Castlebarrett, in view after leaving Ballynamona (on the way to Bweeng).
"Castle Barrett was built around the 13th century. It was originally known as Castle More or Castlemore. In 1439 it was taken over by the Earl of Desmond. The Barrett family acquired the castle in the 17th century. The castle was damaged in 1645 by Oliver Cromwell's army. After the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, John Barrett who fought on the side of the Jacobites lost to the Williamites. Castle Barrett was destroyed and 12,000 acres of Barrett land was forfeited." LINK. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

E8 Preview: Kerry Way

The shortest section of my hike turns out to be on the longest at 230 km in total. I am walking a single day on the route between Kenmare and Killarney in a single day. The two towns being the highlights, but in-between there is plenty to experience on route of a naturous nature.

This map approximates the route. It actually enters Killarney National Park further east.

So highlights. I believe whilst the route doesn't directly go over any of them it does weave through a bunch of mountains on the way so the views - I expect - will be spectacular. Towards the end of the hike I will be walking between the Torc and Mangerton Mountains which open up to Lough Leane (or Loch Léin - lake of learning) which I suspect will be spectacular, in front (on account of the Loughs) and behind (on account of Torc waterfall)!

Historically the region has it's own fair share of notable events and tradition. As I said above, the largest of the two Loughs is named Lake of Learning, this is because of the monastery on Innisfallen island. The Monastery was a key point of learning within Island in the middle ages and it is from here that a chronicle of the times was created, the Annuls of Innisfallen. Going even further back I will be going to Ross Island where copper has been mined since Pre-historic times with evidence of the Beaker People (early Bronze Age cultrue within Europe) here. Alongside the mines is Ross Castle, the ancesteral home of the O'Donoghue clan and the Brownes of Killarney. Built in the 15th Century it has it's own chequered past, being involved in wars and rebellions, and a particularly perplexing myth involving a lord sucked from his room into the lake where he waits in a palace keeping a close eye on everything that he sees.... Fish presumably. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Writing the E8: Self Publishing Options

A friend of mine - A. D. Winch -  is a self-published author of excellent YA fiction (Free book available. Have a look, the Adventures of Eric and Ursula are a pretty exciting read!), and in many ways it is his example that has lit the way for my own book idea. I had already planned to do the walk when I realised that the planning and thought that was going into the venture could be transferred to something a whole lot more permanent.

It turns out that my instincts were correct. My research led me to this article 'Fact: Self-publishing my non-fiction as ebooks makes sense' and, seeing as I was actually going to do the hike, would indeed fit into the non fiction category. Whilst the article focuses from the point of view of an established author struggling to get new projects off the ground, many of his points are of relevance to me; price is in my full control (to free), the book is released as soon as it is ready,can be updated and photos can be distributed throughout the text.

My instincts seem correct, but there are problems with the self publishing route. Despite the fact I had a vague idea that there were costs to this process I had no idea what they actually were. Another article brought this issue home to me. 'Self-Publishing An E-Book? Here Are 4 Ways To Leave Amazon's 30% Tax Behind' A 30% tax?! On what is essentially a zero-cost service to Amazon, that seemed pretty steep on first look. But what were the alternatives? Essentially they all involve setting up an e-commerce page/store on your own site with payments still going through some sort of third party system. Additional effort and responsibility, and despite the title of the article, not worth the effort.
Amazon and other e-book publishing platforms have worldwide scale and hundreds of millions of built-in customers. Those without an audience – and many with an audience – just can’t beat what the Amazon marketing engine can do for their sales.
That sounds like me. And I realise that what is most important for me is to have the book available to the most people in the easiest possible way (both for me and for anyone purchasing the book). With this in mind I turned to the more usual self-publishing options. I took a list and advice from DIY: How to Self-Publish.

  1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
    Seemingly the simplest to set up and with an extremely large market associated with it. By going exclusively with Amazon my book would be available for loan using the lending library (with some money going to me each time) by Amazon Prime customers. That said, Prime isn't particularly strong in the UK as far as I know, so this benefit may be limited. Does not offer the book an ISBN number.
  2. Smashwords
    Where Amazon is exclusive and for a singular store, Smashwords does the rest. It also has a number of helpful tools that support the author and gives variously better payments back to the author. It also sells to the iBookstore which in turn offers the sale of the book in a more feature rich way to apple tablets. Those lovely pictures I plan to take will be shown in all their glory instead of the black and white of most Kindles. Free ISBN.
  3. Nook
    Not really worth looking at as the store is a very minor player in the UK. Also the royalty rates are pretty outrageous.
  4. iBooks Author
    This option would be ideal in many ways. I think that the more picture and feature rich 'book' design would suit the sort of guide that I had planned to write. The truth is though, that I am more than a little fed up with the way Apple is treating it's ecosystem and those in it, plus not everyone would have a iPad to access the book. So this option is out.
  5. Others
    The various other options give either diminishing returns, or - most importantly - less availability for anyone wanting to buy the book.

As I mention above, it all comes down to easy of access for readers. For that Amazon has it, but for one thing, the ISBN. In the end I will probably go the Smashwords route and the put the book on Amazon as a non exclusive.

Thanks for reading. One question, how important is an ISBN number?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

E8 Preview: Beara Way

Dear one and all.

Oh, aren't you all just so excited to be here! One will tell you those things about the Beara Way that you have come to hear and have already heard SO much about. Why don't you all calm down and stay a while as it is now my place to, so very briefly, pre-view that which you will have the pleasure of enjoying on some future day hence.

...Enough of that nonsense. Yes that is Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer. No it isn't relevant.

This is actually part one of my previews of the Irish E8.

Part 1: The Beara Way

The Beara Way is a ring of paths around the Beara Peninsula in South West Ireland. It traverses within both Cork and Kerry and was formally opened in 1996. For my walk this is the most I will see of the coast. Rugged sea cliffs rising to the central mountains of the peninsula with moorlands and woods in-between make this one section of the hike that I am looking forward to the most on the outset; this is exactly the sort of countryside I love.

The Beara way not only is part of the E8 but also it is one half of the Beara-Breifne Way. This long distance path follows and commemorates route of the march by Donal Cam O'Sullivan, Prince of Beare who after taking part in the Nine Years War with a range of other Gaelic Clans was forced to retreat north. I look forward to finding out more about the history of the area on the route which is frankly, exceedingly rich. Not only does it hold within it's bounds tales of escaping Princes but also clandestine Catholic shrines, copper mines and pre-historic ritual stones and burial tombs.

Also if I have the time I will try and go on Ireland's only cable-car, across a short stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to Dursey Island! Some might say this is a needless extension of the walk, I say, no no no.

Practically speaking I will be spending my first 2 nights and 3 days of the hike on the Beara Way, which will test me and my fitness. My first night camping is on a site near Tousist, which will test my tent. And much of the route is isolated with little in the way of shops or amenities, which will test my planning and fortitude!

I can't wait!

For further info on the Beara Way have a look at this blog post by the De La Salle Scout Group; just call me Mr Excited!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Writing the E8: The Perils of History

Aim: To write a short book on my E8 hike.
How: I will plan in advance, make notes on my progress and observations, and finish writing it within a month of returning home.
Why: For myself and to complete something that may be useful to others.

There you go. Seems so simple! Hmm, well maybe not. So far the research that I have done has only been for the Beara Way and once again I realise why I am so interested in going to Ireland. There is such a rich history there and it threatens to cause my book to expand dramatically; but largely because the stories and features I will come across are so interesting to me! For example, the Mass Rock just after Allihies is a treasure-trove that starts with a mid-17th century clandestine Catholic ceremonies held on a cold and blustery nights; it then leads past destroyed churches and repressive laws, Cromwell's invasion and the history of English/Norman involvement on the island and then on to the 5th century, when Saint Patrick et al. brought Christianity to is island.


So much exciting history to be contained within such a pitifully small enterprise. Oh well, never mind. :-)

Friday, 31 January 2014

E8 Preview: The Overview

Starting at Dursey Head on the 1st March and with an expected completion date of the 21st in Dublin I will be hiking across Ireland along E8 long distance hiking path.

The route will take me between 550 and 600km (information varies) along 6 of Ireland's national hiking routes. In reverse order, the Wicklow Way, the South Leinster Way (The Barrow Tow Path), the East Munster Way, the Blackwater Way (the Avondhu Way and Duhallow Way ), the Kerry Way and finally the Beara Way in west Cork. Over the next month I will try and do some research what I can expect to find on route, completing quick preview posts on each section.

The above image is taken from the Da La Salle Scout Group, who in 2012 completed the whole thing in 1-3 day stages. I am lucky enough to have a girlfriend understanding enough and a personal situation that allows me to allow me to do the whole thing in one go. I am not sure if anyone else has done it this way.

In fact the internet has only brought up a handful of people (in English) who have focussed their efforts on the E8 as a whole. One other person who I have managed to contact is Jan of e8trail.com who is currently in the process of completing the Polish sections on the E8 and has been really helpful in answering my extremely basic questions; thanks Jan!

Have you, or do you know of anyone else who has done the Irish E8? If so I would love to hear about it and get some tips!

Thanks for reading. :-)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Shout-out! Training advice.

Hello everyone who has been pointed here by Sarah. Thanks for taking some time to look at this blog, I really appreciate it. :)

I thought I would take advantage of your interest to sound you all out for some advice. One thing that I am consistently avoiding is training. Could anyone give me some advice or encouraging words on training for this long distance hike?

Thanks. :)

Here is a picture of some award winning Irish rabbits that I stole off the internet. Not the rabbits... Just the picture.