Bray to St. James Church, Dublin – Stage One of The Celtic Camino

Early Friday morning I received a text from my friend Oihana asking if I was free to take a walk the following day. I said I did and the starting point was to be Bray in Wicklow. Bray is roughly an hour on the train from my home and about 30 km walk to Dublin city centre. The plan was to walk for 15 km or so and then we could catch the train or bus home. However I brought up the suggestion that we could walk to St. James Church and complete the first stage of the Celtic Camino. We were to bring our pilgrim passports and collect sellos just in the event that we do make it to the end point. I felt in good shape so there was no reason not to. If we made it and collected our certificates, we would then be entitled to a Compostela having walked from A Coruna, something I have been planning to do in March or April of 2018.

unnamed (4)

We met on the train in Dublin city centre and continued on our way to Bray, which is a large seaside town in Wicklow. It has a large promenade and a great cliff walk that I have yet to try. We arrived close to 9am and looked for somewhere to receive our first sello. We were told by one of the staff that the information desk at Bray train station would provide us with one. We were delighted however we had much amusement changing the date on the stamp! We had proof that we were in Bray and we took a selfie just in case the powers that be had any doubts!

Onwards we went and walked northwards in the direction of Shankill, a large residential estate and town. It was a shame we moved away from the sea and I hope in time, it will be possible to walk closer to the coast in that direction. It took close to an hour to pass Shankill and we were delighted to meet a large church called Crinken Church. We hoped that it would be open and it was!! A music group were practising inside and welcomed us in. One had walked the Camino before and was delighted to hear of this new Camino. We asked if they had a sello and after much hesitation, he said he would look. He returned with a stamp of two footprints..very symbolic! We later learned that the name of the church is St. James’ of Shankill..win!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We both felt good and with plenty of water we felt that we could complete the 30km. It was still early however the temperature was increasing. It was predicted to reach 27c in the afternoon and at 10.30, it was in the early 20’s, so we tried to stay in the shade as much as we could. Before leaving Shankill, we received another stamp at the Post Office. They were delighted also to hear of the new route and said that they were planning on walking in Spain soon. We also saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a large yellow arrow. ūüôā That could only mean one thing…he has been on the Camino! We wished him a Buen Camino and walked on!

From Shankill, our next stop was Killiney and we were back on the coast again!! The seaside breeze felt great. With the sun out for the day, dozens of people were making for the beach and the walkways were crowded with folks out for the day. I decided to take a little detour and walk through Killiney Hill. That means jumping up about 100 steps to reach the top of the Hill and the famous Obelisk statue. Phew..what a climb. And it was a perfect time to stop for a rest and to marvel at Dublin bay from a height. I could see where we both started and also where we both had hoped to finish. It is one of the highest places in Dublin and great for a walk. Killiney Hill is a large park and is very animal friendly. Plenty of dogs were out with their owners lapping up the sun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adelante!! We left the park after that much needed rest, and rather than continue by the coast, we walked on a trail called The Metals straight to Dun Laoghaire. The Metals is a 3km straight walkway that was formerly a rail line from the quarry in Dalkey to Dun Laoghaire. It’s a lovely walk way but there are no opportunities to collect sellos. We might collect one or two in Dun Laoghaire, we hoped. And we did, as the local library was open. They were glad to assist.  Dun Laoghaire was bustling. It’s amazing what the sun can do. We continued on but not before we took the below pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From here we would walk along the coast until we reached Dublin Port and 3 Arena. It seemed like the entire population of Dublin were out by the beach, even though the tide was out! With time passing, I became more aware of a niggling pain in my foot but a 99er ice cream seemed to ease the pain for a while. We reached Dublin Port at 2.30pm, a full 5 and a half hours since we started. It was by far the best walk in Dublin I have taken, made special by the great company and the people we met along the way. From Dublin Port, it was a straight walk along the quays up to St. James’ Church which closes at 3.30 on Saturdays. I had slight doubts that we weren’t going to make it but Oihana is super-positive and assured me that we had all the time in the world. I was introduced to the Jeannie Johnson ship that is based along the port and EPIC, the Irish emigration musuem. Where have I been all these years??! Along the quays we walked until we came to Christchurch Cathedral and Vicar Street. Then the Guinness Storehouse and St. James’ Church. We arrived at the Camino Information Centre at 3.15pm and showed our credencials.

unnamed

Yes, I had sore feet, yes I had a farmers’ tan, but boy! what a walk?!

If you are interested in walking the Celtic Camino, this is a great route for your Irish leg. Alternatively, you can walk a pilgrim path, for example St Kevin’s Way or St. Declan’s Way. But for somewhere closer to home, this is ideal. If you are unable to walk it in one day, you can walk it over two days. You will be still entitled to a certificate from the Camino Society. So 5 out of 5! Now to look forward to A Coruna in 2018.

The Camino Information Centre – Starting Out

I had such a fun day yesterday at the Camino Information Centre. Based at St. James’ Church in Dublin, the Centre is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10.30 to 3.30 and is run by volunteers for prospective pilgrims. After walking the Camino for a number of years, I felt that the next step was to pass this knowledge on to those who were to take their first steps in the coming months.

I arrived at St. James’ Church after 10am and was greeted by Joe and Aileen, who were to “show me the ropes”, so to speak. This was my training day and although I feel passionate about the Camino and talking about it, I had many questions. My experiences revolved around the French Way out to Finistere but I have very little knowledge of any other routes. Luckily, Joe and Aileen had good knowledge of the Portuguese Way and could give hints and tips regarding great towns to stop at and accommodation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had many visitors and it had to be one busiest days of the year, so I was glad to experience that rather than have the opposite. Many came to buy pilgrim passports, while others came to tell us how they got on after returning from the Camino. We also have a visit from a couple who were hoping to walk from Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago in 7 days! We planned out an itinerary for them and recommended accommodation for them. I can’t wait to hear how they get on! I had a visit from 2 friends from the Camino Prep Meetup group, so that was a surprise. One is walking this Thursday from Sarria so I wish her a Buen Camino! I picked up a pilgrim passport myself for my walk on St. Kevin’s Way and then from A Coruna to Santiago in March or April of next year.

The day had a downside however as we heard the news of the drowning of Danny Sheehy after his currach Naomhog overturned on the River Mino in Galicia as he and his team made way for Porto. It was Danny’s idea to row to A Coruna from Ireland over the course of the last four years.

I make my return to the Camino Information Centre in July and after my time yesterday, I am looking forward to it.

Giving Something Back

Ever since I took my first steps on the French Way back in 2011, the Camino has ever so slowly become part of my life. My returning each year gives me great food for thought and when I return to Ireland, I plan for my next time in Spain. Everyday, I seem to remember a moment or an experience I have had from the last 7 years. This blog is evidence of how much the Camino has become part of my life. At home, I think of the past and I long for the future, but on the Camino I am in the moment. The complexities of daily life don’t matter after you arrive and take your first steps. You wake and you walk until you reach a certain point. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.

However, I have reached a point where I am researching other routes away from the French Way. A number of years ago, I became a member of Camino Society Ireland to meet other people who have walked these routes. The society’s motto is to “give something back” and they do this in a number of ways. Like this blog, they, as volunteers, help¬†prospective pilgrims by providing advice while they plan for a Camino. Their website is a great source of information, however, the society also run an Information Centre in Dublin¬†between March and October. Here, pilgrims can receive information, buy pilgrim passports and guidebooks. So I decided to take a leap and volunteer. Hopefully I can be of assistance, maybe give something back, and hopefully I can learn a thing or two also.

All Along The Banks of the Royal Canal

On Saturday, I took a stroll along the Royal Canal Way with the Camino Prep / Training meetup group. We started in Maynooth and made for Dublin, which is 28 kms in total.¬†The Royal Canal Way is a 144-kilometre (89-mile) trail that follows the towpath of the canal from Spencer Dock in Dublin’s docklands to Cloondara in County Longford. It is typically completed in four to five¬†days, however we decided to take in the final day. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail¬†by the National Trails Office and is managed by Waterways Ireland. In 2015 Dublin City Council began extending the walking and cycling route along the Royal Canal Ashtown to Sheriff Street Upper in Dublin, and that is where we finished.¬†The Royal Canal Way connects with other trails at¬†Mullingar, and more excitingly, will eventually form the eastern end of the Dublin-Galway Greenway.¬†The Royal Canal was¬†originally built for freight and passenger transportation from the River Liffey in Dublin to Longford. The canal fell into disrepair in the late 20th century, but much of the canal has since been restored for navigation, thanks to Waterways Ireland.

full-royal (1)

The Royal Canal

 

We started the day early by taking the train to Maynooth, 30 kms outside of Dublin City Centre. The train line follows the trail so we could see fellow walkers out for a stroll as we flew past them. Rain was forecast so I brought rain gear but as it was sunny in the morning, I was hoping it would stay. After a 40 minute trip on the train, we arrived just after half 9 and it wasn’t long before we saw the start of the trail.

There were 5 of us this day, and we hoped to arrive in Dublin before 4pm. The trail is mostly on gravel, or concrete pathways however there are sections with very little signage and the trail is non-existent. We passed through Leixlip in Co Kildare, before entering Dublin at Clonsilla, Castleknock, Ashtown and then Blanchardstown. Dublin City Council have done great work by creating a greenway from Castleknock to Ashtown and there were plenty of walkers and cyclists out while the sun was shining. However, as rain was predicted, it did rain heavily on two occasions. The rain gear was out pronto and served me well. But within minutes, the sun was out. It was a changeable day.

The closer we came to Dublin, the more built up it became and the more houses we saw. Drumcondra is the last town you pass through before arriving at Lock One on the canal. There were houses on both sides of the canal, along with a bustling street. As the sun was out, there were kids jumping into the canal to cool down. We then passed Croke Park standing tall above us. Many a battle have I seen in there!. And there it was, Lock One…the first gate and we had arrived at the end of our walk. It was a tough one, even though the trail was completely flat.

There were many highlights. We passed Brendan Behan’s statue in Drumcondra. Behan wrote the great “Auld Triangle”. In it he wrote “and the auld triangle went jingle jangle,
all along the banks of the Royal Canal”. Here is a great version of that song sang by Luke Kelly and the Dubliners. ¬†We spotted many families of swans, and the odd duck too. ¬†The Canal also actually flows OVER the M50, which is Ireland’s busiest motorway…I’ve never seen anything like it,

We have walked only a small section of the Canal, and in the coming weeks I hope to walk some more..possibly from Maynooth westward. It’s a great trail but it does get confusing in places, as you come closer to Dublin. Keep an eye on this blog for more on this great trail.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Indecision…

My 2017 Camino has come in many different shapes and sizes. First, I was to walk from Porto to Santiago. Then, I decided on the Camino Ingles from Ferrol. And finally I returned to familiarity and the Camino Frances. I suppose I have a special friendship with the French Way, but in time, I will dip my toes in other routes.

After deciding on a start from Astorga, I longed for the meseta and moved my starting position to Logrono. Yes!..Logrono was to be my final starting place. No more changes. I’ll stick to my guns. Weeeelll, that didn’t last long as I have pushed forward my first steps to Burgos. With the 11-12 days I have, I should see Astorga, or even further depending on the weather. Once I made my mind up, I cancelled my bus to Logrono from Barajas T4 and booked a bus to Burgos. I’ve reserved¬†a litera in Albergue Hostel Burgos, on Calle Miranda, literally less than a minute away from the estaci√≥n de autobuses. Day One will begin early the following day as I make way for Hontanas, another favourite stop of mine.

The countdown continues in earnest, but I just hope I don’t change my mind again!

The Rain Jacket Dilemma

Eureka!

Ahem…sorry if I scared anyone with my opening line there but I may have cracked the one quandary I have left with my kit…the rain jacket. And it was purely incidental.

After yesterday’s rains, I woke this morning to discover my phone was unable to charge. So I needed to bring it to the local phone repair store to have it checked out. There was a possibility that the charging mechanism was water damaged, although I hoped that wasn’t the case. So I brought it to the store and the guy behind the counter had a look at it. After waiting 5 minutes for the phone to turn on, I saw the charging icon. It was just a false alarm. Phew! That will teach me to leave my phone cover at home while it rains!

While leaving the shopping centre, my brother and I passed a new Regatta Great Outdoors store and decided to check it out. I have been on the hunt for a more effective rain jacket since yesterday so maybe…just maybe..they may have something in stock. The brother was looking for hiking trousers as well and he bought his first pair of zip-off trousers and quick-dry socks. I will have him on the Camino in no time ūüôā

While he was making his purchase, I asked one of the guys working there if he has any hi-end rain jackets in stock. He had Craghoppers, DareToBe and Regatta (obvs as it is a Regatta store!!). My ears perked when he mentioned Craghoppers. There was a good selection in stock and I tried on a few. Of the lot, the Kiwi Classic was the best and with a 10% sale, I bought it. So now I have another jacket to test and if it doesn’t do the job, I have 30 days to bring it back and get my money back. Win-win. My only concern is that it is slightly heavier than the Helly Hansen. We will wait and see what it is like on my next hike on the Grand Canal next Saturday, the 3rd.

 

Up-to-date Packing List

It is quite normal to change your packing list if you are one to return to the Camino frequently. There may be items that just don’t work for you or a better item might be available for sale. So I’m just going to post what I have scribbled down for my Camino in September. I weighed this at 7kg last week, the lightest pack I have brought so far. This is without water and snacks.

Pack – 33 litre Osprey pack

Wearing:
North face microfleece 1/4 zip
Craghopper shirt
Craghopper trail trousers
Bridgedale socks
1 under armour underwear
Salomon trail shoes with superfeet insoles
1 baseball cap
1 buff
Small over the shoulder bag containing the following: Phone and Earphones, Passport, Flight details, Debit card, Small amount of money, Camino Society Ireland Credential

Within the backpack:
Vaude Backpack raincover
Silk liner
1 pair of Sandals
700ml Water bottle Рattached to pack with carabiner
Small plastic folder containing: – Flight details – Prescription – E111 card

Top pocket of pack:
Craghopper Kiwi Classic Jacket РHooded rain/wind jacket (replacing the Helly Hansen Loke Jacket)
Berghaus Rain trousers

Within a Compression sack:
1 pair of shorts
Helly hansen t shirt
Icebreaker coolmax t shirt
2 under armour underwear
2 pair of bridgedale socks

Within a dry sack:
First aid kit (ibuprofen, motillium, etc – includes blister kit, germoline, small swiss knife with scissors)

Within a dry sack:
Toiletry kit (Travel toothbrush/toothpaste, roll on deodorant, Lifeventure all purpose soap 100ml, disposable razor, hand sanitiser)
Quick-drying REI packable towel
Medication
Wet wipes

Within a dry sack:
Ear plugs
12 safety pins for drying clothes
Phone charger / lead / Adapter
Power bank for phone
(Still debating whether to bring my action camera with strap attachment)
Camino Shell (take out when I start walking)
Spork

Backpack Waist pockets
Headlamp / tiny torch
2 carabiners

If you have any questions about my packing list, please feel free to ask in the comments below.