Postcards from Ireland: Dublin to Winnipeg

One more day to lose ourselves in this oh-so walkable city. Our last day in Dublin. In Ireland. Tomorrow it’s back to Winnipeg.

But we won’t be leaving Ireland behind.

During our trip, we have been in contact with Sheena, an Irish women living in Naas, a small community just outside of Dublin. We didn’t know her any more than she had any connection to us. Just a common friend in Canada, James. And two greyhounds. Hers, Joey. Ours, Styxx. Just enough for her to contact us while we were tramping across Ireland. Enough to invite us to her home. By the time we had completed our walk, arrangements were in place to visit her in Naas, once we returned to Dublin.  Continue reading

Postcards from Ireland: A Day in Dublin

Our journey through Ireland has come full circle. We left Dublin on foot, the start of our Irish coast-to-coast walk, making our way over 24 days to Portmagee on the west coast. From there our clockwise journey took us, by bus, to Galway, the Aran Islands, Belfast and Northern Ireland and, now, back to Dublin. We will spend our last few days here before returning to Winnipeg. Continue reading

Postcards from Ireland: A Day in County Down

It is hard to miss the strong connections between Ireland and Canada. We have heard so many stories over the past weeks, so many stories of emigration to our frigid shores. That includes our friend in Canada, born and bred in Northern Ireland and now living just across the Assiniboine River from us in Winnipeg. As it turns out, her sister still lives in Belfast and, after a few email exchanges, we have arranged to meet up with her.

So begins our road trip through the Irish countryside. Emma, our host, is at the wheel. Alfie, the affable border collie, is comfortably sprawled over the backseat and Gail’s lap. I am riding side-saddle in the front, trying to guess where we are.

Emma takes us south of Belfast and into rural County Down, along impossibly narrow roads tightly lined with stone fences. Roads not too dissimilar from the ones we walked throughout our cross-Ireland trek, pressing ourselves into the curbside walls as cars passed.  Continue reading

Postcards from Ireland: A Day in Belfast

From the comfort of our bus seats, we glide quietly down the highway on our way from Dublin to Belfast. We are barely aware of the boundary we are crossing – only a modest chime emitted by my iPhone and a text message that I have entered the United Kingdom and roaming charges may apply.

Looking out our window, it’s the same lush landscape, the same blue skies. But, somewhere out there, we crossed an invisible line. A line that has nothing to do with landscape or geography. Just politics and conflict. Continue reading

Postcards from Ireland: A Day on the Aran Islands

Three sheets of karst limestone defiantly protrude from the North Atlantic, just an hour’s boat ride off the west coast of Ireland. The sea is calm today as we approach Inishmore, the most-visited of these island outposts, collectively known as the Aran Islands.

Today, tourists well outnumber the local population that traditionally relies on farming and fishing. Fishing, we are told by a local guide, has suffered under European Union restrictions. And it is clear to see why farming might be limited. That it exists at all is made possible by a soil concoction of sand and seaweed laid on the limestone base. Continue reading

Postcards from Ireland: A Day in Galway

Our long walk is done. Time for a casual exploration of Ireland’s cities and sites before heading back to Canada.

We start with Galway, a half-day by taxi and bus up the west coast from Portmagee, the end point of our cross-Ireland walk.

It’s a modest-sized town but chock full of young university students and tourists. Everyone’s out of their homes and offices right now, soaking in an unusual spurt of sun and warmth. Streets and bars are mobbed, frenetic. Parks and beaches are littered with the blanched flesh of sun-starved locals. Strollers glide up and down the Seaport Promenade. We merge with the slow parade.

Our walks in Galway take on a satisfying lack of purpose, a good start to our urban observations. Continue reading

Coast To Coast in Ireland: The End of Land

It is a day of endings. The day we leave the Kerry Way. The final day of our walk across Ireland. The day our path drops into the sea.

From Cahersiveen, the Kerry Way heads south, continuing its circular path back to Killarney. If it is anything like our last three days on the trail, it would be a glorious walk. But our route takes us in a different direction. We are heading west, following no particular trail in search of a finite end to our travels, the end of all land.   Continue reading

Coast To Coast in Ireland: From Sky to Sea

It’s Day 23 on the trail. Our second last day. A day tinged with anticipation, to be sure. But also regret that it will soon end.

The trail out of Glenbeigh takes us on a circuitous route, up a wooded slope before looping back along the neck of a promontory with views looking over town, as if we had never left. Glenbeigh continues to lie at our feet for some time and we think we are getting nowhere fast. But the trail does eventually carry us westward and upwards for seven or so kilometres. Then, with magnificent panache, the Kerry Way reveals the purpose of its mischievous route.  Continue reading

Coast To Coast in Ireland: A Day in the Mountains

It is hard to leave the restful isolation of Black Valley. It will be a long, tough day. 36 kilometres. Three mountain passes. A day that most guidebooks recommend be completed in two.

Yet the source we are basing our entire walk on, The Irish Coast to Coast Walk by Paddy Dillon, suggests it can be done in one go. Paddy, after all, is a veteran walker. He’s done this trail a number of times as well as many others in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. His recommended itineraries for each of the past 21 days have been, at times, daunting but always doable. Today, we put Paddy to the test. Just as he’s, most assuredly, testing us. Continue reading

Coast To Coast in Ireland: From City to Wilderness on the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way is the last formal trail we will follow on our walk across Ireland. It starts innocently enough in Killarney’s city centre, across the street from the Tourist Information Office. An appropriate location given the crush of largely North American visitors we encountered last night.

Today, our route starts with an urbane exit from the city following busy roads, passing a long string of row housing and hotels, shops and gas stations. Buildings give way to tall fences and elaborate gates hiding golf courses and exclusive resorts. The path finally diverts into the woods of Killarney National Park. Loud diesels are supplanted with the hushed tones of wind and leaves. Continue reading