Diamond Hill and Tully Cross, Connemara

September, 2019

Just outside Letterfrack, you will find the entrance to Connemara National Park. One of the Twelve Bens (or Pins) is Diamond Hill. Its name is related to the glitter of the quartz crystals on the mountain. The views reach over the water, as far as the islands of Inishbofin and Inishark. It is surrounded not only by many other Bens, but also by Kylemore Lough and Kylemore Abbey.

The grey weather is not very inviting for a long hike, but with my raincoat and my poncho tucked away in the backpack, I decide to give it a try. It is still early in the morning and there are only three other cars in the parking area. The guy at the information desk tells me about the three different loops. I decide to go for the red one, which goes all around the top of Diamond Hill and takes about two and half hours to complete. He does not tell me that the weather can be very unpredictable, once you are halfway on the mountain!

I start my walk full of optimism and energy and although the drizzle is changing into rain, I still enjoy the endless views over the water and the mystic red earth.

The stonepath trails and wooden boardwalks (erected after severe erosion) are very well-assigned, but as soon as you climb higher, the wind is picking up. I only see a handful of people up the mountain in front of me and the weather is changing from one minute into the other. I get my poncho to cover my backpack and try to follow the others. The stone path is no problem with good weather, but with these gusts I feel extremely unstable. At a certain point I have to make myself very small and hold on to a rock, as the wind gets under my poncho and tries to lift me! Wow, I will end up as Mary Poppins, if I continue this hike……..I decide to return and join some others, who made the same decision. Further down, you can take another loop, which brings you back to the parking area.

I drive back to Diamond Hill on my last afternoon in Connemara, just to get some nice shots and enjoy the hike in calm, sunny weather conditions.

They say Ireland has four seasons in a day and you have to dress in layers. These four seasons give the sea different colours, very impressive clouds and endless rainbows.

The afternoon brings some sunshine again, so I grab my camera and go on a hike to Tully Cross, situated on the Renvyle Peninsula.

Tully Cross is a very small village on the Wild Atlantic Way. If you follow the road, you end up in Tully Head, where the Atlantic Sea lies at your feet. It is also possible to climb Tully Mountain (well, more a hill!), but there are no assigned pathways.

In Tully Cross I visit famous Paddy Coynes Pub. At this time there are no other guests, but I do find the fire place burning and treat myself on a nice and well-deserved gin & tonic. One day I will return and enjoy their special Irish Nights!

 

From Dublin to Letterfrack, in colourful Connemara

September, 2019

My first week in Dublin went quickly, due to the many events in the evening and sightseeing during the day. My daughter and I visited the Guinness Storehouse, where every floor gives you a lecture about the history and the process of making Guinness. Once you are on the top level, you arrive in the Gravity Bar, where you can treat yourself on a pint of Guinness, while enjoying a panoramic view over the town.

One of the famous pubs in Dublin is O’Donoghues on Merrion Row. Very authentic and visited regularly by The Dubliners, as well as many other famous people.

While the family is returning to Australia again, I pick up my rental car from the airport and start my trip to the Western Coast of Ireland. It all sounds very relaxing, but it wasn’t! Just the knowledge of having to drive on the left hand side of the road with a left manual gear, gave me sleepless nights. On top of the stress, there was an issue with my credit card and I had to call my bank in The Netherlands to solve the problem, as otherwise no car! With a delay of an hour, I finally could collect my vehicle. I first checked it thouroughly for any damages (took pictures of every scratch!), practised the gear, adjusted the chair and mirrors and took a deep breath……I checked the instructions of my Tom Tom, which I brought with me from Holland and also got the google map from my phone on. Another deep breath and off I went on the highway. For the first hour I constanly told myself “left, left, left”, but you can’t go wrong on the highway! Once out of Dublin, it is pretty relaxing driving, only in Galway I had to do some roundabouts and turns, but all went well. The roads are getting smaller after Galway and at some point I had to go right, missed it, tried to turn and couldn’t get my car into reverse. A farmer finally helped me, with a big smile on his face, while my face turned red!

By now I was driving on a road, with water on both sides and the red coloured mountain range of Connemara on the horizon. It felt like I was travelling on another planet. Sheep were just wandering in front of my car, while dark clouds were hanging against the mountains.

Towards Letterfrack
View from the house
View from the house on Connemara Loop, in between Letterfrack and Tully Cross.

Without any issues I reached the small village of Letterfrack, where I got some salade, cheese and wine to get me through the evening. Gerry and Mary, the owners of the airbnb, which I booked for the coming 6 nights, wrote me very detailed instructions how to reach the house. It was just light enough to see. The narrow road went up and down and finally I arrived in paradise!

The next morning was fairly cloudy and the forecast not really promising, so I decided to go on an early hike along the coast. After a few meters, there was this tiny harbour and I enjoyed the stillness, the colours of the surroundings and the view over the water.

I continued the small road, passing a few tiny houses and a flock of sheep, until I reached the ocean. Later my landlord told me, you can hike all around the peninsula in around 5 till 6 hours. Next time! This first day I take it easy. By the time I returned, rain started pouring!

The unknown cliffwalk from Greystone to Bray.

September, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I saw a documentary in The Netherlands, about the traindrive from Dublin to Greystone. Perfect for a daytrip! Until Bray you can travel with the DART and after you switch to the Irish Rail direction Greystone, which borders the impressive Wicklow Mountains. During my traintrip I start a conversation with a guy from Dublin. In Ireland it is easy to connect with people; they are not only very helpful, but also talkative. The man tells me, he will be meeting an old friend in Greystone for coffee and after, return to Bray via the cliffwalk. Although I read my tourist guide thoroughly, I have not heard of any possibility of hiking back. For sure, I will do the same thing and walk the loop over the cliffs. In Greystone, I decide to go first for a coffee and the mainstreet has enough possibilities to sit, relax and get your watersupply.

Greystone has lovely beaches, a small harbour and many sport opportunities. Such a pity that apartments are built right at the seaside.

The cliffwalk starts down at the lively Marine and after a few minutes hiking, you will leave the town behind. Here it is just silence, eyedropping views and now and then the train passing by deep down below. Along the path you can pick as many tasty blackberries as you like; it seems nobody does! In contrary with the cliffloop in Howth, here the path is safe and on most parts protected. It takes about 2 hours and is 7 km long. For the best views go direction Bray and not the other way round.

Once in Bray, you can walk over the extensive boardwalk, with on one hand the sea and on the other hand hotels, pubs, a bandstand and plenty of green. For the third time I meet my Irish “friend” and we decide to go for a beer, before heading out to the station. I have my first Rockshore and love it.

Although I just had a small pint, I notice upon arrival in Dublin, that I forgot my camera!!! (black camera on a black chair……). No clue which pub it was, so I have to google. From the pictures on the internet it seems it is The Mortello hotel, but nobody found a camera. I call the police station in Bray and they tell me their ‘lost and found’ department is closed until Monday. For the insurance I need also a form from the Police Station, so I decide I have to go back to Bray on Monday morning.

On the DART again and very quickly helped at the Police Station. No camera found, but I get a file number for my insurance company. I decide to walk back via the boardwalk to the pub/hotel where I lost my camera, before heading out to the station. It is not raining yet and many joggers are taking the opportunity to get some exercise. Suddenly I see the place where I was supposed to have left my camera; it is not The Mortello, but Ocean Bar & Grill!!! Same bar counter on the pictures and same black seating area……(later it turned out the venues also have the same owner!). I try the front door, but it is closed on Monday morning. Now what? I try the side door. Suddenly a delivery man arrives and he just pushes the door open and lets me go through. The cleaning lady is very understanding and starts investigating. Finally, it turns out they did find it on Friday and put it safely away. I can not thank them enough and feel totally embarrassed! Once I return to Dublin, I immediately call the police to tell them I found the camera. So greatful I get another staffmember on the phone, so I don’t have to explain him what happened……..

 

 

 

Returning to Howth, the gem of Eastern Ireland

September, 2019

My daughter and my Irish ‘son in law’ are flying in from Australia for a family wedding and for me a perfect reason to hop on the plane and meet them in Dublin. Finally, a well-deserved holiday and I decide to take a two-week leave and combine Dublin with a visit to the West Coast. During the evenings, there are plenty of dinners, parties and other get-togethers, but during the day I go hiking and exploring. Around 33 years ago, I spent a long weekend in Dublin and Howth, so it is time to refresh the memories! I buy a Dart (Dublin Aera Rapid Transit) train card and jump on the train from Sandymount to Howth. The station is small; you go North or South, so you can’t go wrong. After several stops, mainly in central Dublin, the last stop is my destination. As soon as I get of the train, I smell fish!!! Love that smell…..together with clear skies, sunshine and great hiking temperatures; a day to embrace.

My first stop is at the tourist information desk, in front of the harbour. Here you will find brochures of all the loops you can walk: The Tramline Loop, The Bog of Frogs Loop, The Black Linn Loop and The Lower Cliff Loop. I just want to hike along the coast and around the harbour, as I just love the typical atmosphere of a harbour town. I meet an older Irish fisherman and we have a long chat. He tells me that all his six sons are fishermen, but never all six are at the same time at sea. Probably, to stay on the safe side? I wish I had taken his picture, but I didn’t. I did gave him my card!

W.B Yeats

“I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”

I start the loop along the Balscadden Bay, past the former house of the poet W.B. Yeats, and the path goes higher up the cliffs, direction the lighthouse. At a certain moment there is nobody around me anymore and the trail is getting narrow, with no protection at the side and I feel my fear of heights is giving me nausea. Time to return and explore the harbour a little bit more.

By now many more tourists have arrived and the terraces around the harbour are fully occupied. I decide to go for my first seafood chowder. Although I checked the prices of the food, I didn’t check the prices of the wine and my glass of white wine was ridiculous expensive! Though in Ireland, all liquors in the stores are also way more expensive than on the mainland, so be aware!

It is time to make my way to the station, as tonight a family get together will be organized. In the harbour, a few people are gathering and curious as I am, I follow their eyes. There are several Sea Lions swimming in the harbour and I quickly grab my camera. It looks like one of them is posing for the picture. You have to be quick, as they swim in no time to the other side. A tourist/photographer is arriving with all his equipment and by the time his tripod and other gear are ready for the pictures, the Sea Lions are gone. I show him my picture and he is not happy……..

Howth is special; I do hope to visit the ‘Pearl of the East’ again soon………..