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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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 – attached to pack with carabiner
Small plastic folder containing: – Flight details – Prescription – E111 card

Top pocket of pack:
Craghopper Kiwi Classic Jacket – Hooded 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.

126 days…

It is May 1st – “Lá Bealtaine” in Irish.  May Day officially heralds the beginning of the summer and the powers that be have granted us a day off from work. Gracias a ellos! “Lá Bealtaine” derives from the Old Irish words “Bel taine” meaning ‘bright fire’. Many people say summer doesn’t start until June but the good weather has kicked off here in earnest with temperatures in the high teens for the remainder of the week. It will be hotter than Ibiza, I have heard!

Today also marks 126 days before I fly to Madrid. Yes, I too have downloaded one of countdown apps for my smartphone. It can be exciting and frustrating at the same time!! Until that day, I will be taking as many walks as possible with the “Camino prep / training” meet-up group. We have a great walk this Saturday lined up along the Grand Canal Way in Kildare. I also am weeks away from receiving the keys to my new apartment, and I will have much work to do when the time to decorate comes around. Unfortunately, I have forgotten how to paint and will need re-training. 🙂

I also have the Camino Celta very much on my mind of late. I hope to walk St. Kevin’s Way in Wicklow before the summer is out. This pilgrim path will serve as the Irish leg of the Celtic Camino. The remainder will start in A Coruna and end, of course, in Santiago. I will be entitled to a compostela at that stage. There is plenty of time for the Spanish leg however – I have 2019 in mind.

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Don’t Stop Walking – Season Two

I’m a big fan of Andrew Suzuki’s work on the Camino de Santiago. His two series – Don’t Stop Walking and Beyond The Way have been massive hits over on Facebook. We have already been treated to Season One of Don’t Stop Walking, which is a pilgrim’s guide to the Camino de Santiago. A handy digest of do’s and don’t’s which will surely point you in the right direction during your planning. If you haven’t seen Season One – go do so now!! I’ll wait until you finish….

Done?

Ok 🙂

Now you are ready to start watching Season Two. Episode One contains a top ten list of essential foods you need to try while in Spain and Portugal (No, pulpo though!!), while episode Two breaks down the top ten extremely small items that you must bring with you on your Camino. What I like about his videos is his sense of humour, you are guaranteed to have a smile on your face at the end. Plus, you will be eager to watch the next episode!!

More information can be found on his website: www.beyondtheway.net.

Astorga becomes Logrono….

I’m not naturally unpredictable but after a few days thinking, I have thrown a curveball at my plans for September. Alas, I have decided to shift the starting point of September Camino to La Rioja and Logrono. Logrono is a lovely city and like Astorga, there is plenty to see and do. I will have ten days of walking and I hope to reach Sahagun by the tenth day. From there, I will take a train to Santiago where I will meet my good friend, St. James. I have walked through the provinces of La Rioja and Castilla y Leon on a number of occasions and have really enjoyed my times there. So much so that I will postpone my walking through Galicia for another time. My flight to Madrid on the 4th of September still stands, and from there I catch an ALSA bus to Logrono. I’m half-tempted to walk to Navarette once I arrive but for the time being, I have reserved a bunk-bed in Albergue Albas

I get to pass through favourite towns of mine – Belorado (with it’s highly recommended Cuatro Cantones albergue), Azofra, Burgos, Boadilla del Camino, and Villalcázar de Sirga. The meseta has only been good to me when I walked through it, so I look forward to September. Many dislike this stretch, so much so that they catch a bus to Leon or Astorga. I’m not sure why. I suppose living so close to the Camino allows me to make these sudden changes and I’m grateful for that. I do apologise to any of my readers who were looking forward to my posts from Galicia but I will make it up to you.

Buen Camino amigos!

Ps – My post on my recent walk around the Bog of Frogs last Saturday has been posted on Camino Society Ireland’s new website.

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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