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.

Another ramble – Dun Laoghaire – Killiney Hill

With slightly under 4 months left before my next stroll in Spain, I can already feel my anticipation levels rising. I want to go now!….but I would probably lose my job and annoy a whole bunch of people. So I might as well wait until September. That first day is going to be eventful..I can just see it now! Catch a flight at half 6 am – arrive in Madrid at 10 am – catch a bus to La Rioja shortly after, and then walk 12km to Navarrete where I will treat myself to a meal and my first cerveza. I can’t help it that I’m a worrier, but I just hope I don’t miss that bus in Barajas! Plan B’s aren’t my strong point.

Anyway, I have been picking up the practice over the last few months, thanks to the Camino Prep Meetup group. I can honestly say I would not have walked as much over the last 2-3 months if it wasn’t for those guys. The Ireland Camino Society are helping out too as they have their 2nd monthly walk to Bray Head on the 27th. Big thumbs up to the guys for organising these walks. They are a massive help to those in the midst of training for the Camino. Their motto “giving something back” is very apt. The Prep meetup group follow up with a walk in Howth and the Bog of Frogs the following day. It is my fourth time walking this trail but it is perfect, I love it!. I have nothing planned until then, however I will think of something.

The organiser of the Camino Prep group has just returned from his final leg from Ponferrada to Santiago..with a Camino glow! You can view his photos and an amazing video of the botafumeiro on his Instagram account. It is well worth a viewing. And while I type, another friend is walking from St Jean to Pamplona. Yes, I know…soon I will be in their shoes, but it’s nice to follow along as they walk.

Saturday saw us walking along the southside coast of Dublin also. The Prep group met in Dun Laoghaire and walked gradually upwards, through Dalkey to Killiney Hill. After a good rest, we walked back to Dun Laoghaire on a trail called The Metals. The Metals is named after the rail track used to carry stone from Dalkey Quarry in the hills to Dun Laoghaire. The track is long gone but it is now a trail 7km long. I will definitely be walking this loop walk again before September. It was fantastic. After a coffee and snack, we bid our goodbyes.

On the 27th and 28th, I will be live-instagramming on our walks (is that even a verb??) so make sure you find me and see the sights in Dublin..both Bray and Howth. My account is @clearskiescamino. Also, if you are from the Dublin area, why not join our Camino Prep Meetup group?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another Weekend Walk..

Last weekend, myself and some from the Free Camino Prep meet-up group met up and walked a section of the Grand Canal Way. We decided to meet outside of Dublin in a little town called Hazelhatch. The great thing about this trail is not only is it way-marked but it is serviced well by Irish Rail, so myself and my brother caught an early train to Portlaoise from Heuston Station in Dublin. We were practically the only people in the carriage so this was a novelty considering it is exactly the opposite during the week! We arrived in Hazelhatch Station, just outside of Celbridge just after 10am and waited for the remainder of the walkers. By half ten, we were 9, including the both of us, and we decided to make a start. We had 600 metres to reach the start of the trail so it wasn’t far. The Grand Canal Way actually starts in Lucan in Dublin but I chose this 12 km section as it is the easiest to get to and it is the most scenic. It isn’t difficult either, in fact, it is all flat and didn’t cause any of us any bother.

The route is well maintained and it passes many towns if you want to stop for a snack or a coffee. The Grand Canal itself is used to this day by boats and barges making use of the 117km river. We saw plenty of kayakers flying up and down the canal as we walked westward. The trail passes the Lyons Estate with it’s boutique hotel and cafe. €183 will get you a room for a night! After the 12km, we arrived at the town of Sallins. We grabbed a coffee and made way to the train station for the next train Dublin-bound.

I really enjoyed this walk but it lacked any ascent or descent for that matter. If you want an easy walk with good scenery, I would recommend this trail. But as practice for a Camino, I would give it a miss. It can be walked from start to finish in 5/6 days and many people carry tents if they were to walk it as a whole.

Tomorrow, a number of the group walk from Dun Laoghaire to Killiney Hill and back. I will write when we complete that. Follow me on instagram (@clearskiescamino) for some photos as the day progresses.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Ireland? Or Galicia?

Last weekend I took a trip westward to meet my good friends C and J. I have written a number of times about them after we met in 2013 outside a wet and windy Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Whenever we can we all meet up to reminisce, have a few cervezas and of course, talk about our respective future Caminos.

I hadn’t told them that I had postponed my April Camino to September so their response to that was along the lines of “Oh, so we will have plenty of time for more walks”

Excellent!

So after a pilgrim meal and a few cervezas on Friday night, we woke up bright and early and headed off to our starting point. I brought a full pack and my Pacerpoles in the attempt to make this walk as realistic as possible. I had a Helly Hansen rain jacket as I am eager to leave my Altus at home. So I was wishing for a little bit of rain to test it out. On arriving at the start point outside the village of Doon in Limerick, the clouds were grey and full so I was optimistic! We set out just before 9am and immediately started to climb. The legs started to pain me before I reached the top. I thought to myself “Hmm, I am nowhere near Camino-fit”. But these types of walks are ideal if I am to conquer the Leon hills and O Cebreiro again.

The majority of the walk was along back roads close to the villages of Hollyford and Lackcomer in Tipperary, and Doon in Limerick. The trail followed the River Multeen for most of the day so it was great to have the sound of running water beside us at all times. In fact, there is a waymarked trail called the Multeen Way, which is part of the Ireland Way, but we decided not to follow it and we went about our own way. We had great craic talking about past Caminos and our plans for the next. C & J are walking from St Jean to Santiago in September just after I return from my 2 weeks. So I will be vicariously walking with them. My Pacerpoles were fantastic. It took me a while to get used to them and how to use them right, but once I did, I had a much quicker stride and there were no pains in the legs. I had no problems with the Osprey pack either. C told me she always gets by with a 28 litre pack, much to my surprise!!

Our day ended with a huge hill to climb; a little like the climb to Alto del Perdon! I powered ahead in the hope of reaching the top quicker. At this stage, we were in the clouds and, in fact, close to a wind-power plant. Alto del Perdon is definitely right!! We finished off with a nice descent back to the car and short drive back to base.

Whenever I am in the Limerick area, I do my best to visit Glenstal Abbey to go to Vespers. I couldn’t pass the chance again. I have been to Vespers twice in Rabanal del Camino and have been in love with their sound and harmonies since that first time in 2012. I arrived back to base close to 10pm when we watched a number of Camino related videos from YouTube.

Addicted isn’t the word!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Camino By Sea / Camino Na Saile

February 19th sees the start of a new series on Irish TV called Camino na Saile (or Camino by Sea in English). It will be shown on our Irish language TV channel over the course of 3 weeks. It documents the journey of 5 men who sailed from the south of Ireland to A Coruna over the course of 4 years. For 800 years, people have sailed from Ireland to A Coruña in Northern Spain and walked to Santiago de Compostela from there. These men have done their own version of this historical voyage in a Naomhóg (or a currach) they built themselves in this Modern day Celtic Odyssey. Stage 1 of the journey follows the crew on a journey across the Irish Sea and the English Channel to reach Brittany in Northern France.

 

Now I understand that the majority of my readers live outside of Ireland, and will be unable to watch it, however you can do so online on www.tg4.ie/en/player/home or via the Mobdro smartphone app. If you download the app at www.mobdro.com on your phone and search for TG4, you will have no problems viewing the series.

It starts at 8.30pm GMT on the 19th of February and continues each Sunday after that. Happy watching!

 

 

My Wrist is Free!

Just a quick post to let you know that today my cast on my left wrist has been removed. I have been discharged as the doctors feel happy that the wrist has healed. As you can imagine, it feels very strange and tender now, having been restricted for a month and a half. I had a session of physio following the removal of the cast and I was given some homework to do. My wrist is pretty stiff at the moment but hey! it’s making progress. I’m back to the physio in a month by which time I will be able to do handstands (or at the very least use my pacerpoles).

So now it’s time to get cracking on the exercises given to me, and feel glad that I can eat Christmas dinner with both hands.

20161219_160023.jpg

Ouch!!