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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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 estación 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!

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?

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A Countdown of sorts…

So in my previous post, I mentioned that I had 126 days to wait until I boarded my flight to Madrid. To fill in that gap, I have started a countdown of sorts over on my instagram account. Every day up to my day of departure, I will post a photo from a previous Camino…a memory. I’ve even created a hashtag to celebrate this event: #125daycountdown.

Anything to pass the time eh? 🙂

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.

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: