Re-launched Camino Society Ireland website

Just a quick post to let you know that the Camino Society Ireland’s website has been relaunched and redesigned.

The following website addresses will bring you to the same page:

www.caminosociety.ie and

www.caminosocietyireland.com

The Camino Society provides a wide range of services.

  • it provides the only Official Irish Pilgrim Passport (credentials)

  • it runs a Camino Information Centre in St James Church in Dublin

  • it provides practical Information days for intending pilgrims, and

  • it dispatches a newsletter and more

The re-launched website has a new “News & Events” section providing you with updates on Camino-related topics. If there are any walks planned, you will find information here.

Also, the Society are now active on a number of social networks, so please follow them where you can:

 

Howth Bog of Frogs Coastal Looped Walk

I seem to be getting into the swing of things now! My third walk in as many weeks and there are more planned in the near future. The more the better, many people say. This walk was not organised through the Camino Prep Meet-Up group however, but by the Camino Society of Ireland. I walk the same route tomorrow with the Meet-Up gang so I know what to expect!

Anyway, at the end of March, I received word via Facebook that there was to be a Camino Society of Ireland monthly hill walk, and the Bog of Frogs was to be the first of many. I jumped at the chance of meeting others who have Camino experience so I penciled that date in my calendar and looked forward to it. Howth is about 5 km from my home and it’s been a while since I have walked this trail. The IrishTrails website states that this trail is “Hard” and is 12 km in length. The Camino Society advised that it should take 3-4 hours to complete and to bring warm clothing, rain-gear, water and a packed lunch. So, nothing out of the ordinary there.

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I brought my brother along with me, as he was eager to try out walks on more difficult terrain. I’m hoping that one day he will join me on one of the Camino routes in Spain. Time will only tell, I guess. He’s a much quicker walker than me but I keep telling him that I choose to walk slow (ahem!). We both arrived in Howth close to 11am and waited for the remainder of the walkers to arrive. It wasn’t long before the organiser and full group of walkers had arrived outside Howth Dart Station. After the usual safety announcements, we were on our way.

Howth is a bustling village and as we walked past the Harbour, coaches filled with tourists were arriving. There is plenty to see and do here including Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye, Howth Castle, The National Transport Museum, the Martello Tower and the Baily Lighthouse. There is a nice slow climb on leaving the Harbour and once you reach Kilrock car park, you are greeted with a steep climb on stone steps to the Nose of Howth and onto the cliff-tops. We chose to walk the Coastal Looped walk. This looped walk is the longest of four and is marked with purple waymarks. It is very difficult to get lost as you walk along the cliff-top. On walking the cliffs, there are stunning views of Lambay Island and Ireland’s Eye. What really struck me was the sight and scent from the bright yellow gorse that is more widespread as you make your way along the coast. Within the first hour, the Baily Lighthouse comes into view on your left. We decide to stop for lunch at this point. The rest is welcome. We are two thirds of the way through the trail at this stage and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s great to talk with people who are passionate with the Camino, like myself. Many have walked the Camino Frances, but many have also walked the Camino de Norte, the Via de la Plata, and the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo. Some are returning to Spain next week while some are walking later on in the year, like myself.

After lunch and a number of Kit-Kat bars later, we decide to move on, walking further on along the coast. We were told that there was a climb approaching so the break came at a perfect time. A short descent to the beach was followed by a nice climb at Red Rock right up to Carrickbrack Road. Phew! Crossing the Carrickbrack Road leads you to a further ascent but this time it is more gradual. A welcome relief. We reach the summit within 10 minutes and approach Howth Golf Course. I found it quite amusing watching golfers attempt to take tee shots while we cross the course. The owners of the course have made markings for those crossing the course, so you will know where to walk and where not to walk.

After a further half hour of varied terrain, including passing through Deer Park golf course and Binn Eadair GAA club, we were led back to civilisation and Balkill Park estate. Here there is a nice descent to Howth Village and there are plenty of reminders of the tramline that once was a mainstay in this area. The tram served Howth Head until 1959 and there were plans made to reinstate the service in 2016. After just under 3 hours, we arrived back at Howth Dart Station.

Finally, I’d like to thank the Camino Society of Ireland for organising this walk and I hope this is the first of many. Special thanks goes to Bernard for taking charge for the day, to Michael for leading the group and to Jim for taking up the rear and making sure no-one was left behind. I’d also like to thank the 20-or-so walkers that came out and made the day special.

Overall, the day was very enjoyable with plenty of sights, smells and great conversation. The Bog of Frogs is tough in places, but if you are planning on walking the Camino de Santiago, you can’t look further than this route to prepare yourself. We were blessed with fine weather also. I would imagine the trail is difficult to walk in poor conditions. Here’s hoping the weather is the same tomorrow for our walk with the Camino Prep Meet-up group.

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And a video from someone who walked the Bog of Frogs trail:

The White Spinc Trail – Glendalough

Another beautiful day and another trip with the Camino prep meet-up group. Each time I meet with them, I feel like I have stumbled across a pot of gold. Yesterday, we took on the Spinc trail at Glendalough. As some of you may know, Glendalough is home of St. Kevin’s church and monastic site. The Wicklow Way also passes through this area.

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We arrived at 10am and started on a short walk to the trail head. At that point, we were greeted with a long and steep climb. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though as there were steps to aid us..near on 650 of them! It wasn’t long before the calves began to give in! After a half hour, we reached the top and were met with a fantastic view above the upper lake and Glenealo river. After a quick breather, we marched on, taking advantage of the boardwalks. A short time later, we reached the top of the Spinc. Boy, was that tough! But for all the aches and pains, we were rewarded ten-fold with amazing views. Looking down over the cliff-face, you can see the path on the other side of the lake. We would be walking this in a few hours.

The trails were full while we walked as many took advantage of the Easter season and took in a hike. There were many tourists out also. I was really impressed to see children of all ages run up the ascent with no bother! A further hour passed and after a descent (in some parts dangerous) we reached the old Lead-mine ruins. We all stopped here for lunch and a breather. We weren’t far from the end, with another 4 km on the flat left. On arriving back to base, we grabbed a coffee and a snack in the Glendalough hotel. I was really happy with the day and having no rain was a bonus! The next few weeks’ walks will keep me busy as I have the Howth Bog of Frogs planned with the Camino Society of Ireland on Saturday, followed by the same on Sunday with the Camino Prep Meet-Up group. The next Saturday (29th April) we have decided to walk from Hazelhatch to Sallins along the Grand Canal Way. Let’s hope it is fine that day too.

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A Long Flat Walk…

Boom! I’ve gotten my first training walk done and dusted. I am going in the right direction now. I had many a cobweb to shake off after my stay in hospital but it was good to take part in this one and with many great people. As I have mentioned before, I am part of the “Free Camino prep / training” group on Meetup.com. It is a group based in Dublin for those who are preparing for a trip to the Camino or who have been in the past. I really enjoy being around folks who have been or are in the midst of planning. While I was in hospital, the group has grown dramatically and there have been numerous walks around Dublin. The organiser of the group is walking his own Camino in late April and is eager to take on as many practise walks before he goes.

This walk was 15 km in length and started just outside Clontarf Train station. The sun was shining from the off and the whole of Dublin were out either walking, running or cycling. Over the course of the day, we walked northbound along the coast, taking in a detour through the sand dunes of Bull Island and out again at Sutton. After 4 hours, we ended up in the harbour town of Howth, where we had coffee and snacks. This was a perfect flat walk with little or no incline, but that said, it was very enjoyable.

There are events planned for the next two weeks; next Saturday sees us in Glendalough taking on the White Spinc trail, and the following Saturday (22nd) the Camino Society of Ireland are walking the Box of Frogs trail on Howth Head. More of those in the coming weeks.

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Thinking ahead…

September will see me on the Camino Frances for a seventh time. Eek! If you told me back in 2011 I would return to Spain for the following six years, I would look at you with wild disbelief! But yet, here I am and my mind is set on a return; this time walking from the Gaudi town of Astorga to Compostela.

With every year and every upcoming Camino, I spend a little time thinking of how I’d like to approach this trip and how I can make it a little different or unique to the last. Sometimes, these ideas just fade away once I find the first yellow arrow (and cerveza!), but other times I end up sticking to what I had planned. Each of my times on the Camino have been different in some shape or form, which is a good thing I suppose.

 

So, for September, here’s how I hope my time will go:

  • Sarria – There are many books written about the amount of pilgrims on the trail on reaching Sarria, which is the last point where you can start your Camino in order to obtain a compostela. Due to the increased numbers, there is always a strain on accommodation. So, I have decided to pre-book albergues in a number of towns before Santiago. I have never been one to pre-book and if I was walking from, let’s say, St. Jean to Burgos, I wouldn’t do so. But I feel that if I am to enjoy my walk this time around, I may as well reserve. I now will have a little bit of weight taken off my shoulders and I can take my time. Booking.com is a great website to make these reservations. I haven’t made any bookings from Astorga to Sarria as there is no need!
  • Less is more – In September 2016, while walking to Finistere, my pack weighed 7 kg. I reckon I can bring that down a little more. I have bought an Osprey 30 litre pack and am pretty happy with it. The less I bring, the less I have to worry about and my back won’t have any niggling pains! Now if only I could leave the smartphone at home!
  • Brierley’s end stages – So many people religiously follow Brierley’s guidebook, thereby missing the great towns in between. Towns like Cacabelos, El Acebo, Las Herrerias, and Ribadiso are all passed daily by legions of pilgrims. I aim to stay in these towns. It will be a welcome change as I haven’t stayed there before, save for stopping for a cerveza. Oh, and I’m leaving a guidebook at home 🙂 The arrows can guide me.
  • Pacerpoles – For the last few years I’ve walked with either a wooden stick bought before I start, or with a single carbon pole. I’ve always found them a hinderance however as I like to have my hands free to take photos, and reach for water etc. However, this year I will be making the climb to O Cebreiro so I’ve decided to bring along a set of pacerpoles that I bought before Christmas. It will make things a little easier and I won’t have those niggling back pains that I usually have (I hope!).  I have tried them a few times here in Ireland and they are pretty easy to get used to. I reckon they will be a help. Plus, I have been recommended them by a number of camigos! That said, I am usually the one who complains about the click-clacking of poles!
  • Take my time – In years gone by, I have been told by a number of people that I am a “speedster”..whatever that is!? My typical day starts at 6am and I like to check into an albergue before 1pm. That leaves me with the majority of the day to wash, rest, have some food in the evening and get to meet my fellow pilgrims! Sometimes, I don’t realise how fast I walk. In September, I hope to stretch the day out, slow down, start a little later, stop a little more, have numerous coffee breaks. Who knows, this may be the last time I walk the Camino Frances for some time! I’m in no hurry.
  • Visit local churches – It’s very easy to forget that the Camino is a pilgrimage. I’m not particularly religious but I’ve always wanted to set aside 20 minutes a day while on the Camino to drop into a church and say a quick prayer. However, after walking 25kms each day, it is difficult to find the time.
  • Use my knowledge of Spanish a little more – Creo que tengo buen español. Me gustaría hablar más a la gente local, sólo un poco! I guess this comes with confidence. Ordering a cafe con leche is second nature; speaking to someone from Spain is a challenge, but I’m up for it.

So, there is my wish-list for my September Camino. I may stick with the above, but then again, I may choose to do what I have done all along….let the Camino tell me what to do!

Destino Santiago

Fancy walking vicariously with some peregrin@s all the way to Santiago? Now you can. A pair of Galician musicians are ten days into their Camino and it is being broadcast in real time online by TVG, the Galician TV service. Currently, they are en route to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. You can watch the stream over on www.destinosantiagotvg.gal. They also provide regular updates on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy!

 

It’s Been Quite a While…

Apologies are in order I guess. I haven’t posted for close on a month now. I have been in hospital since the 9th of March undergoing tests. Nothing of a serious nature I may add. Since I was a child, I have had epilepsy and it has been more or less controlled with medication. However, the last two years has seen it getting progressively worse, to the point where my quality of life has been diminished. I wanted to get to the source of the problem. So, I asked to be admitted to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital. It is a state of the art 4-bed facility with round-the-clock care. The aim while there is to provoke or induce seizures by reducing medication and depriving sleep while being video-monitored. Twenty days later, enough information was gathered and I was discharged yesterday with a plan, hopefully making life a bit easier for me. I can’t thank the technicians and nurses enough for their dedication and care.

The Camino was as far from my mind as it could be, but can now focus on my upcoming return to Spain in September, ¡gracias a Dios! I am already looking for yellow arrows!