If you want to experience four seasons in one week – visit Ireland in March! I have gone from sun cream in the mini heatwave to hat, scarf and gloves in the snow and now 3 days of torrential rain and Storm Freya! Last month was Storm Eric – I wonder how many different names of storms I’ll encounter during my walk over the next few years?
To shelter from the awful weather that the start of March brought, Coleman Sullivan very kindly offered me a night in a motor home. – such a relief not to have to sleep in my tent. I also had the best fish and chips from Cindy’s Café Thanks both for your kindness and hospitality.
On Saturday 2nd, I visited my second Parkrun in Ireland at Bere Island. They pulled out all the stops to pick me up from Eyeries to get me to the start. Geraldine drove me to the ferry. A 15 minute ferry ride to the island, a 15 minute minibus ride the other side to the start and then a beautiful parkrun – with Storm Freya whistling around us! Spectacular scenery even in the mist and such a friendly group of Parkrunners who gave me the warmest of receptions a t- shirt, donations and of course cake. An amazingly sociable morning and a parkrun that should not be missed what an experience.
Thanks to Murphys at Bere Island for the coffee and cake, and also the offer to stay that evening to ride out the storm – amazing hospitality which makes my walk so much easier and you quickly forget the wet days.
On Monday 4th, I left County Cork and walked into County Kerry. It’s always sad to move on when you have stayed somewhere for a couple of days and have got to know your hosts really well. MacCarthysBar in Castletownbere looked after me so well. I needed a rest and they so kindly put me up with amazing hospitality – taking me to places I couldn’t get to on foot and making me feel so part of the place. Adrienne, Aidan and Niki – thankyou so much. No goodbyes as we will catch up soon.
Storm Freya brought snow and heavy rain. I am used to walking in it now. It makes so much difference when you get somewhere and can dry out in the evening, nothing worse than a wet sleeping bag. Everything is in dry sacks ziplocks and a bin liner as extra precaution. The phone has 5 layers of cover and hasn’t been out much these last few days as it just shuts down when wet.
The picture below shows my worldly belongings….
Moving into Kenmare a lovely town I stayed with Rob and Lesley Smith in their gorgeous Airbnb Bramble Hill Kenmare. They picked me up in a hail storm and made me feel so welcome all for Alzheimer’s. I didn’t think I would eat all they gave me but I did ! 😁 Thank you both.
From Kenmare I walked the roads to Sneem. With hindsight the walk was a little long and my feet were still sore. 18 miles with my rucksack on tarmac was not a good combination! But if I hadn’t I would not have met John O’Sullivan in Kenmare, Kitty the poste, Maureen from Sneem or John the delivery driver who stopped and gave me a week’s supply of rice cakes …with chocolate on!
It’s so great to stop and talk, it’s unbelievable how Alzheimer’s affects families and everyone has their story to tell, such a terrible disease and everyone I meet wants to do what they can to help.
In Sneem I met Sharon from The Green Chair originally from Wales and now the owner of a homely upholstery business. She helped two runners this year Simon and Rachel who are running around Ireland currently in County Donegal and she also helped me dry out and find accommodation.
Sean is the owner of Goosey Island Motor Home Park Sneem and Dan Murphys Bar Sean, Caroline and his family kindly put me up in their own home for the night to save putting my tent up. The rain and wind was howling and I was so grateful. Dinner and pancakes at his sisters Claudine and what a delight to meet all the lovely children, nieces and nephews – there were a lot of pancakes cooked that night!
I visited St Michaels National School in Sneem to talk to the pupils about my walk. It was a wonderful hour in school. All the children were so enthusiastic and asked brilliant questions, they were a pleasure to talk to and even joined me for a short walk in the rain. Many thanks to Michael Hussey for organising.
As the first week of March came to an end, the rain continued to lash down. I stayed in CaherDaniel not far from the Skelligs where Star Wars was made. I was lucky to be in the warmth of The Travellers Rest Hostel with a log fire, drying out and resting for another day’s walking.
A few more days of rain followed. I because very used to getting the waterproofs on in double quick time. I limited myself to walking 15 miles a day to make sure my feel held out.
I had been very welcome to have the offers of a place to stay with the recent weather, as with campsites still closed, it was proving difficult to find somewhere to pitch my tent
On 9 March – by an amazing coincidence, while walking on a remote mountain road in Kerry, I met Tom Melling, a fellow Swansea resident from back home in South Wales. Tom had heard about my walk from a recent radio interview I’d given, but I still think the chances of us bumping in to each other were quite slim.
By the middle of March, I hit my next milestone – a whole TWO MONTHS of walking! During this time, I’ve walked the Wales Coastal Path to Fishguard, crossed to Rosslare, Ireland, walked the beautiful Coast of Counties Wexford, Waterford, Cork before reaching County Kerry.
Its been an amazing experience. I have met the most wonderful people on route all of whom have helped me so much on my way – I really couldn’t have done it without their support. I was welcomed into the homes of complete strangers, made to feel part of their families and treated with so much kindness. People have joined me for walks and I have been invited to join others. I have been taken out to singing nights, the theatre and a jazz night plus a few pubs! It was very humbling for me.
I am so indebted to my Husband Mark, my family and friends who support me so closely from home. The daily calls, messages, photos, and letters really keep me going especially in those moments when my spirit drops a little.
My friends Kim, Ceri Smith Aruk Fundraiser, and Jude have been incredibly supportive and are with me every step of the way. And then of course the wonderful people who have followed me on Facebook, twitter and Instagram in all nearly 4000. I have received so many messages of support, offers of help with the route, social media, planning and kindness it has been unbelievable! And Parkrun – thank you so much!
Above all thank you for all your generous donations. At the time of writing this update the total has reached a whopping £27451 in 2 months! That’s what this walk is all about raising money and awareness to help make the breakthrough so desperately needed. I can’t do this without you all and am so appreciative x
The second part of March started off pretty much the same as the first part – wet and very windy! My week along the Wild Atlantic Way, was very wild indeed!
I experienced some stunning scenery on my way to Portmagee in South Kerry and the Skelligs. This area is an International Dark Sky Reserve one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves in the world. Huge thanks to Gerard Kennedy the owner of The Moorings Bar & Restaurant for great hospitality and an incredible display of traditional Irish dancing.
After Portmagee, I continued on to Cahrsiveen and had a night in the local hostel. Mary the manager bought iced buns and we watched Irish Strictly Come Dancing. I slept in a very comfy bunk bed.
The following day, expecting a long 16 mile walk, I was delighted to meet ‘White Van Man’ John who had heard me on the radio and stopped to talk outside Cahrsiveen on the busy road. 10 minutes later I was in the wonderful company of the Ballyhac/Glenageenty/Cahrsiveen walkers, dumping the rucksack and heading up Killelan Mountain with expert walkers in the hail and rain. Huge gusts of winds helped us up the mountain and Gerry Enwright’s local knowledge of folklore and local history was such a pleasure to listen to (still awaiting the invoice Gerry, lol!). It was so lovely to have some company for the day and a meal after. Thank you so much to The Glenbeigh Hotel and Karina for putting me up for the night – all for the benefit of the Alzheimer’s.
Gerry kindly helped me with the route and I took a lovely road along the lake to Killorglin and was delighted to meet Eddie who walked with me in the rain and kept me company, 6 miles later. I independently met his wife Maired what are the chances of that? And what a lovely couple.
Any yet another storm …… Storm Gareth kept me company as I entered Castlemaine and I was so relieved to warm up in The Castlemaine B&B owned by Myra who spoilt me with a great breakfast and donation too.
From Castlemaine I walked along the Dingle Peninsula towards Inch (thank you to Eddie B for your company on the the first hour of my walk) Although I had dried out the night before, I was soaked through by lunch time. I discovered that it doesn’t matter how good the waterproofs are rain will always get in somehow. Oh and the hailstorms were spectacular …… rather painful!
Inch Beach is stunning and is the home of Inch parkrun, perfect with Storm Gareth behind you but it’s out and back! Lisa, Con and Jack have one of the best views in Ireland overlooking the beach. They let me stay in their beautiful home and it was a pleasure to have such lovely company.
The next day was a walk along the Dingle Way to Dingle calling in at Annascaul on route and The South Pole Inn so highly recommended to see the story of Tom Crean the famous South Pole Explorer but sadly it was closed. A long walk to Dingle along the straightest road to meet Breda and her lovely family. So relaxed and easy going. At 9.00 pm she was happily making a Red Riding Hood outfit for world book day at school the following day without a seconds thought and at 9.00 am the following morning we both walked up Connor Pass in dreadful conditions. Breda thank you for all you have done for me x.
Connor Pass was spectacular even in the rain …I loved every minute of the ascent and can safely say my fitness levels are pretty good. The descent was very wet and I arrived at Kilcummin Beg and the home of Maja and Oliver soaked through again. Maja and Oliver are 2 amazing artisan producers making everything from Dingle Cheese to seaweed tapenade and pates. Their home and children were so welcoming and they didn’t seem to mind my rucksack and the puddle of water on the floor of their conservatory when I arrived. Oliver made a great stew and it was lovely to hear about Maja’s cheese shop in Tralee. The next day was the day of World Climate Day strikes across schools in over 100 countries and the three students in this household were up early and out to support the action.
With a lunch of salami and pate I headed to the Maharees a 5km tombolo found on the North of Dingle. Unspoilt, beautiful beaches, and incredibly friendly people. Ursula, Moss and family made me feel so welcome. My washing was hanging by the fire in seconds, my hat was recovered from a wall at the top off the island and as the wind howled and knocked out the Wi-Fi, plans were put in place for a walk to camp the following day after I had been to Tralee parkrun.
Dawn and Mike picked me up in Castlegregory and took me to Tralee, they were celebrating their joint 100 parkrun and cake! The rain poured down on a truly lovely course with everyone dressed in green to celebrate St Patrick’s weekend. Coffee at The Brandon and a lift back to The Maharees so Ursula, Moss and Blathnaide could start our walk to Camp. To say the walk was an adventure is an understatement. There was significant localised flooding and between the four of us we made dams to scale beach rivers , ducked and dived over and under fences to bypass flooded roads and literally ran across rivers with our eyes closed hoping our boots would stay dry. Such a fun walk with the weather chucking everything at us. Do look up Blathnaide she is a great cinematographer.
On our way into Camp we met Rose who I had last seen a month ago in Tallow and I left Ursula and family after a weekend of great fun and friendship x
Rose, her sister Ann and I descended on the wonderful home and stunning garden of their sister Catherine and husband Vincent. How lovely to catch up with Rose who I had last seen back in February. Her son David is assisting in pioneering significant research into Alzheimer’s through Genomics Medicine Ireland and joined us all for dinner. We talked late that night and headed off for an early walk with Catherine and her lovely labrador retrievers currently being trained to be guide dogs for the blind. The training is intense and the hard work non stop. Today the hail continued and the mountains were snow covered as the temperature dropped.
My route planning, resulting in being in Ireland for St Patricks Day was a pure fluke – but what better place to celebrate it! On St Patrick’s Day I arrived in Ballyheigue and watched the parade. A lot of effort was made by the community to celebrate and the sun came out. Helen had been driving over Connor Pass three days ago when she saw me in the rain with the flag on my back. She kindly offered me her holiday home in Ballyheigue and met me today for a meal to celebrate St Patrick’s and welcome me to her home.
This week, through the wonders of technology, I had the pleasure of talking to Alzheimer’s Research UK at their annual conference! Thanks for the support ARUK very much appreciated x
Towards the end of March Mark came for another visit. It had been several weeks since I saw him last, and as always, it was so great to see him. Once again, he arrived with such lovely messages and gifts from home – they are greatly appreciated and keep me thinking of home and friends every day. And a special thank you to Three Cliffs In Harmony Choir and everyone who attended, for donating the proceeds of their fundraising evening to Alzheimer’s Research. I am really lucky to have such tremendous support.
My last few days in Kerry were incredible and I had luck on my side.
I walked to Ballybunion such a pretty place where the famous castle green divides the two main beaches, with the Ladies Beach on the right and the Men’s Beach to the left, names given to the fact that both sexes swam on separate beaches on the orders of the local parish priest, who walked it daily ensuring the rule wasn’t broken! I stayed with Sean Stack from Seanor B&B who so kindly looked after me and gave me the breakfast of Kings…a bowl of porridge with a Bailey’s chaser! With a spring in my step he directed me to the Marconi exhibition
Little did I know that as I passed McMunns bar and restaurant I would be introduced to none other than Prince Marconi. My flag had been spotted by Mary and Colm and I was introduced to the Prince by the owners Greg and Una. Such a momentous day for Ballybunion – 100 years to the day the first voice transmission was made East to West from Ballybunion to Nova Scotia “Hello Canada, Hello Canada” were the first words spoken. 100 years later Marconi’s daughter and grandson the Princess and Prince Marconi travelled to Ballybunion to unveil a plaque and attend the exhibition. So amazing to witness a piece of living history.
Having stayed late it was a brisk walk to Littor Beach where David Griffin and his wife Rebecca Carroll live. David owns Pods Ireland. I had the pleasure of sleeping in a wonderful pod next to the beach amongst the trees. Such a great experience and a perfect night’s sleep. Rebecca is a world renowned Irish Artist her studio was out of this world and it was so great to be invited in to view it. Rebecca was preparing for her next exhibition – look out for her profile on Instagram. Her book Sunny Spells Scattered Showers is top class.
As the month came to an end, I left County Kerry and crossed the River Shannon to enter County Clare. Waking up in County Clare on the first morning was beautiful. Since crossing the River Shannon I have walked Loop Head with its amazing light house facing the Atlantic to The Bridges of Ross, once a trio of spectacular sea arches although due to erosion only one remarkable bridge remains.
It was here that we picked up a flat battery on the camper van and had to be towed by a tractor and bump started by Nevin and then have the battery fixed by Peter at Cross. Thanks both for coming to our rescue! I think I might have left a light on – oops!
As I had the luxury of the campervan until Saturday we were able to pitch in two locations Strand Camping a beautiful spot in Doonbeg and Nagles Caravan & Camping at Doolin. Thank you for looking after us and your generosity in allowing us to stay as we travelled around beautiful County Clare.
I attended another Parkrun at Vandeler in Kilrush. This parkrun is set in the most beautiful grounds of Vandeleur walled gardens. We had a fantastic welcome by each and every parkrunner that attended and staff at the coffee shop. Thanks so much for making us feel so welcome. The parkrun community spirit is everywhere.
The Aran Islands are a series of three Islands off the Coast of County Clare. Totally unspoilt and a magical place to go. The Islands are Gaeltacht, Irish speaking and even if only for a few hours it was the perfect place to be. These Islands have stood still in time. This trip would not have been possible without Aran Island Doolin Ferries and particularly Bill and Eileen for arranging travel for us both. Part of the trip was also a quite stunning boat ride to The Cliffs of Moher where we could view the world famous cliffs and birds that live there so closely. A scene from the Harry Potter film was filmed here at the Sea Cave plus a few episodes of Father Ted.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre is a superb place to spend a day at. The award winning eco friendly centre has a subterranean design almost like a hobbit house so as not to detract from one of the most iconic landscapes in the world. The walks are spectacular as are the interactive media displays at the exhibition centre. Brigid we can’t thank you enough for organising our visit and showing us around the centre.
Before Mark left, we visited Knocknacarra Parkrun and once again had the usual warm welcome
It was lovely to have Mark with me for 10 whole days. Towards the end of Mark’s visit, we were well looked after by Paul at his ‘Biscuit Tree Cottage’ in Athenry.
I then entered County Galway, and reached the milestone that was my first 1000 miles of my journey. The walk is not just about the miles but the people that make it. I know I keep saying this, but a huge thanks to each and every one who have helped me, putting me up for the night (or putting up with me) donating, sharing my posts, arranging trips and joining me walking. I couldn’t do it without you all.
Here are a few more photos of the wonderful people I’ve met, and the beautiful views I’ve experienced during March 2019.
Until the next blog ….. thank you all so much for your support
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