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.