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

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. :-)