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!

Unleashed yet reassociated

19th August 2022

Every time that there has been a royal jubilee while I have lived in the U.K., I have not been in England for it. The chance of a double bank holiday weekend is enough to make me think of getting away from home for a while. 2002 saw me spending time in Edinburgh while 2012 saw me heading to Pitlochry and Highland Perthshire. While such pageantry has never been my thing, it really is not the case these days after political events during the past ten years.

That set the scene for a real escape from Britain so I ended up in Ireland. There was the added motivation of my needing to do a few things over there as well. My base this time around may have been Tralee but Killarney was in my sights after a cloudy afternoon in April downed my spirits after a sunny morning. In hindsight, it was just as well that I had not stayed there for the place was thronged with bikers attending BikerFest but that was a later discovery.

After a day spent meeting people in West Limerick, there was time for exploring newer horizons before attending to necessary matters. With the Dingle peninsula on Tralee’s doorstep, that perhaps was unavoidable and a sunny afternoon saw me lured along the Dingle Way as far as Camp before returning again by bus. Before all that, some morning sunshine brightened up the town’s park so some camera work ensued after days of sunshine struggling through heavy cloud cover. The windmill at Blennerville was another sight to savour as I discovered that Tralee has a ship canal even if it only sees use for leisure pursuits these days. When I finally entered hill country, I was still decided on an out and back walk but the glorious afternoon lighting of the scenery was enough to disabuse me of such a notion. It proved not to be a move to regret.

The next day came cloudy with afternoon rain but I still got as far as walking along the ship canal tow path before the rain came. Business phone calls and other plotting occupied me while the weather was inclement and the following morning need some more of the same before the advent of afternoon sunshine drew me to Dingle. From there, I was drawn out on a circuit using parts of the Dingle Way and Siúlóid Cholmáin as I ventured as far as Ventry and back. It made me cast my mind back to another royal occasion when my aunt and late mother ventured as far as Dingle on what was a cloudy day and the road felt as if it would keep rising forever. My brother was painting the kitchen at home with the wedding of Charles and Diana on television. Dingle did not seem to impress my mother but it possibly was more of a fishing port back then. Coastline, sandy beaches and mountain scenery were more to her liking and I do seem to recall the mention of Inch while I wonder what they might have made of Ventry if they had got that far. The beach there is large with a lifeguard on duty but my sights really were on hills like Brandon and what lay across Dingle Bay. Being able to glimpse the Skelligs in the distance was an added bonus. Mapping make-believe waylaid me on the way back to Dingle but I made the bus back to Tralee with minutes to spare after a glorious afternoon.

The Irish June bank holiday weekend was not to be blessed with sunny weather so Saturday saw me embarking on a circuit near Tralee. Though still under construction, the completed part of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway got me started. Being a bit sleepy and not realising that I was crossing the busy road to Ballyheigue, Ardfert and other parts of North Kerry got nearer to a moving car than I would have liked. thankfully, they paused to let the distracted wanderer pass. Curiosity about building progress led me along that road to see what was happening to the greenway before I retreated to quieter roads near silage making and golfing. Leaving those near Spa, I then followed the coast using the North Kerry Way until I reached the ship canal again. Breaks in cloud cover persisted to allow some sun before that eventually was lost. A local rowing club was out training in the canal with an observer on a bicycle that was not an aid to uninhibited strolling before the rowers really got moving. Then, it was back into Tralee where dry weather and some sunny persisted later into the afternoon. One might have considered that the weather forecast was wrong but it sadly was not. We were facing into what might be called a “fine dirty” or “nasty” evening in rural Irish parlance.

Oddly, the wet weather was coming from the east and not the west so figuring out drier places to be for the last two full days of the trip was to be challenging. The penultimate of these took me to Killarney where I reached the top of Torc Mountain, where some low cloud cover obstructed the views and I started to consider the possibility of walking from Kenmare to Killarney along the Kerry way but that needed to wait. The location that I reached still was an oasis of calm compared to Killarney town itself since there was a crowd of people in the place attending the aforementioned BikerFest. Muckross was similarly unaffected even if the throaty rumble of bike engines was to be heard as their riders went towards Moll’s Gap. Some seem so fascinated by the idea of filling quiet places with a racket that others like me wonder at them since we so value the calm. Seeking that led me away from Muckross Road to reach Knockreer Park on the way to the town’s train station. The rain finally caught up with me at this point but I had snatched drier interludes from a day that did not promise much.

The following day was similarly troubled yet I headed to dingle, reputed as one of the wettest places in Ireland. What was to get me wet on the way to Annascaul was a fine mist. Even so, I might have been tempted to make for the Conor Pass but for the lack of any view. Thankfully, the day dried with the passage of time but not before my imagination conjured up images of Mananan mac Lir enjoying a late lie in among the Kerry mountain shower bed. While sunshine weakly broke through at times, the greyness prevailed while I noted that boreen walking possibly is unique to Ireland on a day when such whimsical thoughts kept entering my mind. The dry weather was lost while I awaited a bus in Annascaul, one time home to Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, but I remained glad that I had not tried walking from there to Camp. The scenery may have been more majestic but it really needs to be seen in better weather. Such are ideas for future visits.

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