Mountain, track and river.

Starting point for tonight’s walk. Boolteens.
So far this last 7 days has been quite productive. Three good cycles and a family walk. The calender quickly comes around to Tuesday and the latest challenging night walk. This evening saw about 30 of us head back out onto the Dingle Peninsula, all be it the South side of the Slieve Mish Mountains and the Village of Boolteens, near Castlemaine.

Early on we had to deal with that light misty rain, the type that soaks right into you clothes. This was mainly due to the fact that we headed up towards the lower side of the Mountain. The initial road gave way to track followed by bog.  With our maximum elevation of 93 metres quickly reached it was downhill all the way. Or so I was hoping! Bog gave way to track and again to road. As we dropped so did the rain and we made good time down to the old road that leads to the one time ferry crossing over to Callanafersy near Killorglin. In days of old this ferry was popular with farmers taking live-stock to market in Killorglin and of course Puck Fair in early August.

A taste of the scenic Maine in day light hours.

River Maine

The trip back to Boolteens consisted mainly of walking on top of a dijk that protects the farm land from possible flooding from the River Maine. This was interesting at first but became heavy going and seeminly never ending to say the least. I must admit to sight of tarmac was joyous! To be fair this section of the walk would be a joy had it been a warm July afternoon. I was brought up close to a part of the River Mersey in England. This section reminded me of what it might of been like there 200 years ago before pollution and industrialization!

This whole walk is definitely something to consider on a warm summers day. For the winter, it’s a nice work out. Thanks again to Johnny Hoare for leading the walk. Despite a dodgy knee!

A big contingent head for the Limerick border.

Like rabbits popping their heads out into the fresh air after the big bad fox had moved on, we had an unusually big turn out this morning. Plenty of familiar faces coming out of their own bolt holes. Cycling matters got off to a slow start in 2015 for the none “etapers.” Well between the dodgy weather, clashing of events and resisting the urge to get back out!? all contributed to the lack of numbers, but today was different!

Decision made! The route was to be Feale Bridge and then onto Brosna. I had my doubts. Too much too early prehaps for some? I was not going to find this spin easy, what with the long, steady and sapping climb up the Castleisland by-pass to the Meenleitrim turn off followed by a rollercoaster of a ride out of Brosna, this had the makings of an interesting day.

Getting moving again after the break

Getting moving again after the break

With the weather smiling kindly in our favour, things started well on route, with a sensible enough pace on the N21 to Castleisland.  The expected split came as gravity reared her ugly head, but by the time we all re-grouped at the summit there wasn’t a huge time difference. The descent into County Limerick and Dillanes was uneventful bar for 2 gardi taking pictures of their “panda” cars?

Dillanes for your coffee break, is what your “spit and sawdust” bar is for a pint of the blackstuff. Just a plain and simple shop, a few stools, a counter, 1 drinks machine and kettle as well as the traditional outside loo. But this place more than does the job. It’s good value for money and  sadly a rarity in 21 Century Ireland.

Entering Brosna

Entering Brosna

Revived and relieved we headed out on the flat R576, back into Kerry and off to Brosna. On reaching the Brosna “commuter belt” disaster struck as Chain Gang father figure Tomás hit the deck following a coming together of wheels. Thankfully no bones were broken and he was able to continue.

The hills out of Brosna had other ideas though as they found the weak point of the damaged bicycle. A broken derailleur forced him out, roughly 30 km from home.

One aspect of that area is that, although it is quite hilly, the hills are gentle enough climbs, nothing too steep. So the actual thought is way worse than the reality.

Entering Castleisland

Entering Castleisland

Getting back to reality, the down hill cycle into Castleisland is quite long but considering it’s a minor road, the surface isn’t too bad. Most of the scenery consists of hedgerows, single houses and farms, typical for the area. Once into Castleisland we where back on familiar ground. The remaining group worked well on the flatish N21 to reach Tralee for a respectable 1 pm.

Overall it was a great morning out on the bikes, with good company and a nice route. I have to give a massive KUDOS to the group in general. This is a testing enough route in Summer, so for a good number of the group to come back to this type of ride and after very little road hours under their belts showed courage and much determination!

Tuesday night in the Maharees.

Maherees beach

Maherees

There are many ways to describe life. For me at the moment it’s like a game of “Snakes and Ladders.” The last few weeks I’ve landed on of those horizontal hissers that takes me from 68 and back down to 42. So a set back, a feeling of being in a rut, but certainly not out the game.

Given this I was kind of hoping that the “Walking Gods” would look at my case with a hint of sympathy. I have been trying to get into their good books this week after all, with 3 walks in as many days. It seems these heavenly balls of energy have a sense of humour. Approximately 30 of their desciples where guided to the Spar shop in Castlegregory. Led by our earthly comander…. walking High Priest Johnny Hoare! we set off in a Northerly direction onto the Land spit, The Maharees.

Maharees beach

Maharees

Earlier in the evening it had rained quite heavily, so I was taking no chances, with double water proofs on top and water proof trousers, they also came in quite handy against the biting cold. Throw in a hat, hood, thick gloves and 2 pairs of socks I was ready for anything the Gods could throw at me.

To actually descibe this walk is not easy. The reason being it was a very dark night, the wind was howling quite loud and there was certain parts where you had to watch your footing. The Maherees is a wonderful place. With lots of beaches, it’s probably the best place in Kerry for water sports, very scenic, plenty of wild life and good food and drink. This night though could best be described as an experience of spending a night alone in the Albert Hall with the lights out. A completely different experience to a packed Saturday night enjoying Last Night of the Proms or Eric Clapton’s latest version of Layla!

Maharees grotto

Inspiration from the Gods

In general the terrain varied from beach, to road, pathways, sand dunes, pebbles and large rocks. The weather threw at us a cold wind which both helped and hindered, hail, snow and a little rain. The views were of the the star lit heavens and the far away lights of the towns and villages of Fenit, Ballyheigue, Camp and Cloghane. The snack break was set around the deserted Spillanes bar in Fahamore at the very North. A sandwich, a sit down and a hot tea made things bearable.

From an enjoyment perspective I have to give this a 2/10 and that’s being generous. But these walks are not only about enjoyment. The experience was a high 9/10 and the “am I glad I did it?” marks in at 10/10.

So finally a big thank you to the 2 Johns who lead and swept this expedition (no mean task) and not forgetting the company of my fellow brave walking allies.

 

 

 

Get Kerry Walking in Killarney.

The walking Monsignor

The walking Monsignor

Well it’s that time of the year again, when the marketeers take time out from pushing calories onto us and it’s the turn of the keep fit experts and dieticians to whip us into shape.

On the back of the Operation Transformation RTE programme, we entered in to the 3rd “Get Kerry Walking” day in Killarney National Park.

Signing on

Signing on

The warm up

The warm up

The numbers seemed down on the previous years. Possibly the 10 am start? or no Kerry person talking part in the show? Only the stay aways can answer that!

Setting off

Setting off

The whole organisation of the event was put together very well, with something like 3 signing on tents along the starting point on Mission Road in Killarney. This was accompanied by hot drinks to get everyone in the mood.

Before the real stuff of walking got underway we had a fun 5 minute warm up, from our host Cora and the usual safety talk.

Strolling alongside the River  Deenagh

Strolling alongside the River Deenagh

The walk got under way just after 10 o’clock and headed up the closed Mission Road and into the National Park near the Cathedral. Once in the Park the walk split with the 5 km and 10 km walks taking different directions. We took the 10 km route which had a high number of people accompanying us.

Near Leibherr

Near Leibherr

The walk followed the River Deenagh over a flat route and headed in the direction of Fossa. Once we had Leibherr in sight we took a left and headed through the picturesque Killarney Golf Club. From here, we had a fabulous view of the snow capped Reek’s and the local lakes. By this stage the bulky nature of the walk started thinning out as we moved from the paths to a more open ground.

Killarney Golf Club entrance

Killarney Golf Club entrance

The Golf Club and snow capped Reeks

The Golf Club and snow capped Reeks

Once leaving the Golf Course and back to the National Park the rain and hailstone came down. Luckily we where prepared and had the right gear with us. Parts of the walkway got a bit messy towards the end but it wasn’t a problem. This year we finished up close to Deenagh Lodge with the usual fanfare of a running commentary, the encouraging words and the giant inflatable finishing arch.

The finish line

The finish line

Again a big well done to Cora and all the volunteers for doing such a great job. This is always a nice event to attend and always a good buzz.

One of the famous Lakes

One of the famous Lakes

Swollen river Deenagh

Swollen river Deenagh

Overall a little sad to see the numbers down slightly, but still a nice crowd. I also got the perception that a high percentage of people seemed to be quite fit and walking at a good pace. I have to ask the question:

Are the people the Operation Transformation Walk is aimed at, actually turning up in the numbers we’d all like to see?

I forgot my Garmin. This is last years route. The 2015 route was more or less the same walking route.

The Jimmy Duffy and some North Kerry Villages.

I for one didn’t escape the colds and flu plaguing the good citizens of County Kerry this winter, so my New Years cycling and walking exploits got off to a slow start. Throw into the equation the fact that the weather is starting to finally act like winter, motivation is the key here in Ireland at the moment.

Kilflynn Church

Kilflynn Church

Finally on 8 January I felt well enough to get things moving with a spin out to North Kerry which was relatively flat. We played the strong wind to our advantage and I also got down to ticking off some of the local villages for my 2015 cycle challenge.

Kilflynn village

Kilflynn village

Once we had left Tralee and headed towards Ardfert (R551), we took the long straight R557 through Abbeydorney, before branching off to Kilflynn and back to Tralee via the main N69 road. Thankfully the weather stayed dry and for most of the trip we had a strong wind on our back.

Come Saturday it was what has become the curtain raiser to the New Year in these parts, the Jimmy Duffy Memorial cycle from Blennerville to Castleisland and back.

Again we faced strong winds and the event was even called in to question earlier in the morning. Anyway a good crowd of cyclists (150 ish) turned up for the ride despite the weather. There was plenty of voulenteers around at the local St Pats GAA club grounds to help out as well as a surprising number of photographers. Cycling is obviously big news here!

Volunteers at the Jimmy Duffy

Volunteers at the Jimmy Duffy

The ride out to Castleisland was a doddle with a nice strong wind at our backs all the way in. We had a quick break in the main car park and then dug in for the return. As expected the wind was strong but not as bad as I initially thought. The cycle was very strung out as expected with plenty of people plodding along singularly or in pairs along the N21. With the finish in sight the heavens opened with one almighty hail storm which hopped off our faces like tiny bullets. At times it was difficult to see the road and the pain of them hitting bare skin was memorable to say the least. Finally we got back to Blennerville and piled into one of the local hostelries for a well earned warm drink and a hot snack.

 

All about getting out and back into it!

Road to Churchill

Road to Churchill

It’s that time of the year when, dare I say, the average person has been dubbed into thinking that Christmas isn’t Christmas unless they’ve eaten enough calories  to keep the whole of Lusaka burping into the New Year. Then come January our corporate big brother slaps us on the wrist and tells us the way to go is via weight watchers, 2 kg dumb bells, big rubber balls, skipping ropes and a list of gym membership offers, that would keep a young Arnold Schwartenegger drooling until June.

Well people isn’t it time to fight back and take the bull by the horns? There is that feeling we all get. New Year new start, new me etc. That’s great, but does the answer have to lie with the retailers throwing the feel good factors at us with their cheap gimmicks? For most of us the answer to shedding the pounds lies in the shed or in the wardrobe. Quite simply get out there and do it!

Barrow Harbour

Barrow Harbour

Dust down the bike! It doesn’t have to be about a top of the range racer and doing 100 km in 3 hrs. Half an hour out in the fresh air on a road worthy bike will do just as well. Failing that get out the old pair of runners or walking shoes and go and do a leisurely walk. Your heart will thank you for it, who knows you might even enjoy it! As they say: “It doesn’t matter how slow you are. You are lapping the guys on the sofa.”

So for my own piece of the action today. It took me out on a routine spin to Ardfert with a stiff head wind early on. Left at the village and direction Barrow, follow the harbour and through a hail storm. Up to Churchill and down the steep hill to Fenit. Heading past Barrow Harbour on my right was nice. The castle in the distance and just myself and a few hundred Brent geese.

Brent geese at Barrow

Brent geese at Barrow

Once at Fenit it was a nice cycle back to Tralee with the wind at my back and the sea on my right hand-side. Just the tonic!

69 towns, villages and townlands…..My cycling target for 2015

With the New Year comes new ideas and new challenges.

Sadly for myself it looks like I’ll be back on the human scrapheap…opppsss…sorry….. live register come the middle of January. This isn’t going to get me down! so between trying to find a job I plan to “get on my bike”….and reel off these wonderful places in Kerry.

This is something similar to a project I did about 3 years ago. There are a few new places on the list as well as the more established.

The simple rule is I have to cycle from my house to the nearest possible central point to all these places and then cycle home again.

Apologies if some of the places on my list are outside the given area, there can be confusion and argument as to where certain villages actually are. This is just how I see it.

So roll on 2015 and let the adventure begin!

push-bike-blogger-cycle

12 down 57 to go!

North Kerry

Ardfert
Ballybunion
Abbeydorney

Ballyduff, County Kerry

Ballyheigue

Ballylongford
Ballyseedy
Causeway, County Kerry
Duagh
Fenit
Kilmoyley
Knocknagoshel
Kilflynn
Finuge
Lisselton
Listowel
Lixnaw
Maglass
Tarmon
Tarbert, County Kerry
Tralee

West Kerry

Ballydavid
Ballyferriter
Annascaul
Blennerville
Brandon Creek
Brandon, County Kerry
Caherboshina
Camp, County Kerry
Castlegregory
Cloghane
Dingle
Doonshean
Dunquin
Fahamore
Lispole
Scraggane
Ventry

South Kerry

Ballinskelligs
Caherdaniel
Cahersiveen
Castlecove
Derrynane
Kenmare
Kilgarvan
Killarney
Knightstown, County Kerry
Portmagee
Sneem
Templenoe
Waterville, County Kerry

East Kerry

Ahane, Brosna, Co. Kerry
Castleisland
Currans
Currow
Dooneen Castleisland Co Kerry
Farranfore
Gneeveguilla
Laccabawn
Rathmore, County Kerry
Mid Kerry

Beaufort, County Kerry
Castlemaine, County Kerry
Coolgarriv
Firies
Fossa, County Kerry
Glenbeigh
Kilderry
Killorglin
Milltown, County Kerry

Not to many willing participants, but we make the most of it.

With this being the last weekend before Christmas and various club members tied up with this, that and the other, a total of 6 braved a “relaxed” spin out to Castleisland. With the promise of a coffee and mince pie in the excellent “Country Kitchen” how could we not go for it?

Coffee and mince pie

Coffee and mince pie Castleisland style

Although having missed the last 2 Saturdays through different things and in all honesty doing very little cycling wise over the last fortnight, I was determined a fortnight wasn’t going to become a month. It’s called learning from your previous mistakes! We usually do a spin around New Year, to welcome in the New Year. Well I’ve felt like the proverbial Christmas pudding in the past, cycling out of Tralee. You know…bloated, lazy, tired and everything else our rich unhealthy Christmas diets bring on us. So this New Year I want to give myself some chance.

To the top of the hill

To the top of the hill

Now the ride…In all honesty it was very much Chain Gang CC standard fare. A ride we’d do with our eyes closed mid-week in the summer. Out on the main N22 as far as Farranfore, working well as a group to nullify the head wind, then left and on to the N23 and past the airport to Castleisland. This is certainly a stretch of road that suffers from a duel personality!

Castleisland town

Leaving Castleisland town

Mince pie and coffee in Castleisland and a nice bit of chat was followed by the serious business of a long steady climb on the old Limerick road and out in to the more country-fied area of the Broughane area. Surprisingly we stayed as a group all the way to the top and enjoyed the steady decent through the Knockariddera bog area and to Dan Paddy Andy cross roads. Again we huffed and puffed up to the now closed Landfill and into cloud and drizzle. As we began our decent, this weather was left behind in a spooky mist like swirl behind us. I always like this decent as it’s more or less a free wheel back into Tralee. Well not quite but I tell myself that climbing the hill on the otherside!

So there we go. A respectable 60 km done and back home  just in time for early afternoon.

Sometimes you ask yourself: Why do I do this?

Christmas is closing in fast, it’s threatening rain, the weather forecast is for strong winds. Not to mention the fact your rushing in from “work” gulping down your dinner and getting your gear ready.

Beach near Stradbally

Beach near Stradbally

Suppose it’s nothing I haven’t already done before and I did miss last weeks walk, so full steam ahead.

Fast forward to 7 pm and Stradbally, West Kerry. It’s dark and rain is threatening. Off we trot, down a narrow road towards the sea. As we reach the beach the full force of a 50 mph wind hits us from the West. Not a cold wind, but a strong wind. The early chat has quietened. Now it’s about conserving energy.

The group of around 20 all stayed close together. That was until we were faced by 3 river inlets to negotiate. We got over them all safely, but I challenge anyone who claims they did this without getting their feet wet!

By now a tight group had become a string of walkers. The conditions were testing everyone. Personally I found the this part of the walk a bit surreal. Suddenly the group was strung out and I was walking alone. Just the faint reflection of a couple of the group in front and a smattering of lights behind. The wind was blowing hard into my face and making walking difficult. Add to that a sea dampness and an incessant blasting of sand. The night was very dark and any sound of the sea was drowned out by the howling wind.

The only thing for it is to keep on plodding, one foot in front of the other. At times the experience was like something biblical or even a portrayal of “The End of the World”…. All light extinguished and an alien waste land. Eventually a few of us re-grouped and enjoyed a hot drink and some food.

The walk back was quite the opposite. Being almost lifted back up the beach towards Stradbally. This time the only obstacles being the “Many Rivers to Cross” (all 3 of them).

Three hours later we where back at our start point, much wetter, fresher and sand blasted than before.

In conclusion you have to say that staying at home would be a far easier option than doing this evenings walk. But as humans it has to be about testing ourselves and new experiences, both physical and mental. Tonight’s walk  certainly ticked those boxes.

One of the great advantages about living in this part of Ireland is the amount of great walks available throughout Kerry.

I am quite fortunate that a good number of the Chain Gang CC club members are also experienced walkers. So when they are not cycling they love nothing better than a good stroll, hike and in some cases a gallop up and down mountains, along beaches or through the many trails and tracks criss-crossing the County.

night sky

night sky. wikimedia commons

The catch to all this is that the walks are scheduled for a Tuesday night! In all honesty though, when 30 or so seemingly sane people head out to do this there’s a tendency to take note and think, “there might be something to this!”

The truth is….there is! Alright at first it’s actually quite difficult. Walking 15-20 km in the middle of Winter in 3 hours. You do need a good base fitness, you have to expect to rough it a little and buying some half decent walking and rain gear does come in handy, but once you start to go with the flow it’s quite an experience.

Take last nights walk from Cappaclogh near Camp to Castlegregory Village. From a weather perspective it was very calm, fairly clear sky’s and no rain forecast. The Moon was 3/4 full and we had only minimal clouds dancing across the sky.

You begin to enter a different World. One were not too many of us venture into. With modern life, there seems to be reasoning were evening and night time is for dinner, legs up and Television or Computer gazing. These walking experiences take us back in time. We’re discovering our hidden home land, experiencing it all…. literally in a different light. Your sense of sight, hearing. touch and even a 6th sense of anticipation clicks in.

night sky

night sky

To be walking the beaches and seeing the surf lit up by the Moonlight, hearing cows and horses feeding in adjoining fields, the sound of the stream gushing down from the mountain and the silhouette of those same mountains throwing out their jagged shapes against the starlit sky is a sight to behold.

Finally the best show of them all. The clear starlit nights with the Milky way lazily stretching above us and the different constellations of the plough and the great bear looking down on our evening adventure. Thankfully some of the best things in life are for free!

Tuesday’s walk around the Castlegregory area.

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