From Carrick-on-Suir, our walk flows seamlessly into a three-day hike along the East Munster Way. So too, the scenery is a familiar rural setting with each day seeing us climbing reasonably scaled hills and descending into river valleys. Along the way, locals greet us openly and spend time to talk about our hike, the state of the Irish economy and, especially, the state of the weather and appreciation of even a modest display of sunlight.
Gorse. It’s that bush with colourful yellow flowers that makes an attractive foreground for many of my photographs. It lines many of our trails, in attractive hedges. But, come too close, and the darker side of this prolific weed becomes apparent. Behind the attention-grabbing flourishes of yellow lie branches bristling with sharp, stiff thorns.
We have left Styxx, our dear greyhound (or, more properly, lurcher) at home in the good care of our house sitter. We miss him but, on this stretch of our trip, we are finding that greyhounds are a prized commodity, for better or worse. In Clonmel, there is the Greyhound pub and, behind that, one of 19 greyhound race tracks in Ireland. The next day, we pass by a greyhound breeder with a number of the always-friendly creatures vying for our attention.
On two of three days, our walk ends in tiny hamlets with no accommodations for weary walkers. It has required some careful planning, but we have arranged places to stay out-of-town from the daily trail terminus, the hosts obligingly picking us up and, next morning, dropping us back at the last walking point to continue our journey. But these are not small remote cottages. No, we are staying at centuries old family estates. The Kilmaneen Farmhouse outside Newcastle has been in the same family for several generations. It’s a cosy stone house and the owner serves us the most impressive of breakfasts.
Breakfasts. Expect a lot of meat in the standard Irish breakfast served at virtually every bed and breakfast. One egg, black pudding, white pudding, two sausages and at least two generous portions of bacon. We’re not talking about the skimpy, thin slices of bacon we see in Canada. No, these are big pieces of side bacon or, to bring the bacon story full-circle, two pieces of ‘Canadian’ bacon, as our southern American neighbors would call it.
It is a big breakfast, to be sure. Big enough for ravenous walkers. But it is an intense exercise in morning meat-eating. So it was a delightful change that our Kilamaneen hostess offered pancakes (crepes) and, wait for it, 100% Canadian maple syrup!
The next day takes us to the forlorn little town of Clogheen, the end of the East Muster Way. Again, our hostess arrives to whisk us away to her bed and breakfast, Ballyboy House. Which just happens to be a stately country estate house, property that has been owned by the same family since the 17th Century. Austere on the outside, the interior is a veritable museum of accrued family memorabilia set in a series of stately rooms.
And, of course, two bronze figurines of our beloved greyhounds adorn the mantelpiece in the sitting room.