Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Catching some sun in Munster

28th May 2010

Last weekend, I crossed the Irish Sea for a more social visit to the south-west of the island where my parents live. While there was a spot of lawn-mowing, hedge-cutting and other bits and bobs to be done, there were chances for limited immersion in hill country too. Friday saw us heading to Gougane Barra in West Cork. The sun was playing hard to get until later in the day, but that didn’t spoil any enjoyment derived from poking around Coillte’s forest park in the Valley Desmond. There remains one trail that I would mind doing but it’s best never to exhaust the possibilities of anywhere. In any case, having had good weather for photography on a previous visit meant that it didn’t matter on this occasion.

If I had been dissatisfied, Saturday was going to rub it in with its cloudless skies and strong hot sunshine but I wasn’t to be bothered. The sun did change my colour as I attended to lawn edging and other tasks but it was nothing that a rub of after-sun soother couldn’t sort. It turned out that Sunday was going to offer more of the same, so hat-wearing and sunscreen were my defences against the attentions of strong sunshine. Letting down my guard wasn’t an option.

Though many were heading for the coast, we struck on for Killarney. With the heat that was to be felt, it wouldn’t have been the wisest to embark on a long hike without acclimatisation but it was not going to be that sort of day. In fact, the time was taken up with driving from spot to spot and strolling around them too. The locations included Looscaunagh (where the old disused pub is now for sale; who’s going to buy a derelict building in the middle of nowhere in these times?), Moll’s Gap, a stop to the west of Ladies’ View, a lunch stop by the Upper Lake and Muckross House and Gardens. Though coach parties were being conveyed, Moll’s Gap didn’t feel overrun and it was only as we came downhill again that more and more other folk were being encountered.

Though there was a suggestion of haze, no cloud occupied the sky. Not was that a complete change from the last time that I was around there, but giving the sun unobstructed access to the countryside had a dramatic visual effect. In fact, I really have to think back in time to pick out a visit to Iveragh that was blessed with such good weather. The last one must have been on a Sunday in September not long after the turn of the century, when we were celebrating a family occasion with a ride out from Ross Castle around Lough Leane on the Waterbus. Before that, my memory is taken to 1995 by photos that I took that long ago. A few years before that, there was a drive down the rough track into the Black Valley and on to through the Gap of Dunloe. Maybe I need to visit more often to even up the odds of getting optimum weather.

Macgillycuddy's Reeks from Moll's Gap, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Éire

With my luck with the weather around Killarney, it might be that 2010’s visit will stick in the memory for being a photographic sweet shop. Only the chance of having an earlier start or a later finish would have made it even better. As it was, I had to contend with high sun and the risk of lens flare but I came away with something better than anything that I got before regardless. The viewpoints were by now familiar to me so I had ideas as to what to do with them and there was no fumbling in the ever strengthening sun. That’s not to say that I wasn’t open to anything that came my way and I now have quite a few photos to organise.

Apart from a longer out and back walk down the spit of land that separated Muckross Lake from Lough Leane. It was all short strolls for me, but that was no bad thing with temperatures hitting up to 25º C. That’s not to say that some weren’t embarking on longer journeys with a charity cycle in progress and a good of folk out on (hired?) bikes. Some of the latter were later found with their feet in the cooler waters of Muckross Lake, and who’d blame them? Others were loafing around in front of Muckross House as I caught it catching the sun for the first-ever time.

As good as the day was, I left with ideas for the future, with the main one being the prospect of a walk all around Muckross Lake. That would need more time than I had and figuring out something to occupy less patient souls while that is in train will be a must; I ended up most of half an hour late on returning from my walk and it sounded as if every minute was an eternity for someone, not good but I was at peace and I didn’t let it get to me. An ice cream stop in Barraduff put that behind us and I got to capture a view of the Paps between the more urban paraphernalia too.

The day after couldn’t have been more different with its foggy greyness, but things got ever brighter as I continued north to Dublin as I commenced my eastward return. It had taken over well by the time that my flight took off into the air. On the way over Wales, I spied the hills of Snowdonia and made out gashes like the Ogwen Valley and the Llanberis Pass. They were helping me to draw distinctions between the Carneddau, the Glyderau and Snowdon itself. In the midst of all this, I even tried looking for Moel Siabod but without enough certainty whether I had picked it out from the surrounding bumps though the Conwy Valley was unmistakable. Apart from recollections of Welsh hill outings, all this was reminding me that I am in the middle of giving the Snowdonia photo album in the photo gallery a makeover. That’s not finished yet and new photos of Kerry already are in mind as is doing something with the uncertainties of the bank holiday weekend that is upon us. All this is the sort of activity that has to take second place to the necessary tasks of everyday life but it never stops in its own way either.

Those Irish strolls may have been short but I was left feeling so at ease that I ended up thinking that I don’t go over there often enough. That’s an old problem but resolving it could be interesting if perusals of recent issues of Walking World Ireland are to have any effect.

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