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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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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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.

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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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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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