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!
Changes that I am making to matters in Ireland were the cause of my spending a lot of time there this past year. That also meant that I really got to see more of the place than ever before. That was just as well for two reasons. One is that my explorations of Irish hill country have been more limited than I fancied. The other is that the pandemic had grounded me for 2020 and 2021. Being over there a lot allowed me to get more courageous again. There is further to go, but this start was useful compared to where I was earlier in the year.
The nerves applied during various trots starting and ending in Marsden during the spring, so some movement was needed. A day trip to Dublin got me started on flying again. After that, there was a hotel stay in Limerick that allowed me to sample the delights of Adare, the Limerick Greenway, the Lough Derg Way, the Slieve Felim Mountains, Killarney and around Lough Derg. Much of this was in unexpected sunshine, and some was inspired by what I saw from my hotel room as well.
A getaway from jubilee celebrations returned my Ireland. This time, my base was Tralee and I got some wet weather as well. Even so, any sunny interludes got used when other matters allowed. A hike along the Dingle Way from Tralee to Camp was one such beneficiary, as was a circular walk featuring Dingle and Ventry. An amble along part of the North Kerry Way also saw dry weather before something inclement arrived in for the evening time. That affected a second trip to Killarney as much as the presence of a bikers’ festival in the town. The weather also affected a hike from Dingle to Anascaul that might have seen me wander up to the Conor Pass if there were better views up there.
The Lake District got some attention for the first time in some years as well. One trip featured both Lingmoor Fell and Loughrigg Fell on a walk that attended to a photographic need as much as using up an idea that had lain in my mind for a few years. That was followed by a reprise of the Fairfield horseshoe, along with an ascent of Helvellyn. All of these enjoyed warm sunshine that allowed many photos to be made.
The same could be said for the major holiday trip of the year, for that took me to Ireland again. Killarney and Cork were the bases for this one. The former allowed me to frequent parts that I had not surveyed for nearly thirty years. There was one all-day stroll that took me around Knockreer Park, Ross Island and Muckross Lake. This was followed by a hike from Kenmare to Killarney that used past of the Kerry Way, with a diversion to the top of Torc Mountain. The Kerry Way also had a part to play in a serendipitous walk that took in the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley and the Upper Lake. These were followed by trips to Bantry, Whiddy Island, the Knockmealdown Mountains, Kinsale and Cobh as the weather continued to warm.
There was a return to Scotland too, though luck with the weather was such that a return trip is in mind. Staying in Stirling again would allow the Ochil Hills and Ben Ledi to be revisited. That awaits longer hours of daylight and a favourable weather window. The two trips that I have had already whetted my appetite for a part of Scotland that I either overlooked or surveyed twenty years before.
There was one trip to the Welsh hills too. This took me to the Ogwen Valley for a dramatic day that saw me go over Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. Eroded slopes were the cause of some adverse comment, but this was a warm, sunny day that offered much. Any plans for descending to Pen y Pass and Llanberis were rejected for time and transportation reasons. Assessing one’s progress often needs a change of route, not that it mattered in this case.
The last Irish trip did not allow more hill wanderings. Time was short, the weather was unfavourable, and other matters needed attention anyway. It was not as if a lot of satisfaction had been given, so I was not put off by this. The temptation might have been unwanted anyway.
The rest of the year saw me grow increasing tired, mostly because of lack of progress with the things that I need to get done. They are spilling into 2023, but that is another year. It remains to be seen how that will go, but trips to Galway and Clare as well as other parts of Europe and North America entice. Only time will tell how things proceed.
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.
Midsummer in 2008 might have been a time when I felt that the year had peaked and the encroachment of unsettled weather may have had something to do with that view. Certainly, the year will not be remembered for having a sunny summer and many were disappointed, even if it did have its better interludes. Personally, I reckon that it’s best to try and enjoy what is visited upon us at any time of year and seem to have come to the conclusion that the traditional summer holiday season is overrated. There may be more hours of daylight but, if the days get too hot, it may be worth sticking to the cooler parts of the day and that reduces the amount of time available for wandering through the countryside anyway, perhaps restricting the time available until it is not that much different from spring or autumn anyway.
Even with the feeling that the second half of a year feels like an anticlimax after the first, I continued to get out into attractive countryside. I found hot sunny weather in July, was extremely lucky with my visits to Scotland in August, had an easier September and October before taking advantage of numerous wonderful opportunities in November and December. There was much to behold so here are a few recollections of it all.
In walking terms, July was another fallow month with a sun scorched saunter along the Offa’s Dyke Path near Welshpool at the end of the month being the main trip of note. Otherwise, time limited by other activities ensure that most of my major outdoors activity was to be cycling rather than walking. The month’s mixture of weather contributed too but I was feeling that the best of the year had passed by this time anyway and began to wonder if the timing of the school holidays was more than a little nonsensical. I also got to mulling over island wandering as a possibility for my now habitual longer Scottish walking break. My few hours on Kerrera in May may have had something to do with this inspiration coming upon me and I felt the need for a longer break anyhow.
The main even in August was that island hopping trip to Skye and the Western Isles. Though anyone surveying the weather and the weather forecast on the eve of the trip might have questioned my sanity for even considering what I was about to undertake. In the event, I struck the jackpot: while other parts of the U.K. and Ireland were getting a soaking, I managed to find wonderful sunshine and avoid those downpours. That was thanks to the belt of rain getting stuck across the north of England and the south of Scotland. Harris was to prove the highlight of the week without Skye failing to satisfy or the peace of the Uists being forgettable. However, it does need to be said that South Uist felt a little like an anti-climax after Harris so it might be best to journey in the northbound direction on any future visit. A social visit to Edinburgh followed but I still got in a few hours among the Pentland Hills, an area that I surprisingly ignored when I lived up there in that city.
September & October
September and October proved to be pivotal months for a lot of reasons, the economic situation in the wider world being one of them. For me, it was a period lacking in longer walking excursions but shortening days meant that walks at lunchtimes started to take over from evening cycles. Another trip to Ireland in September allowed me to spend a few sunny hours around Gougane Barra. Even though I felt unable to add a fuller narrative for that trip, the photos found their way into the photo gallery very quickly. Alongside this, the realities of writing a longer trip away were made plain to me as producing reports for my Hebridean trip began to take eat up their share of time. It wasn’t just the writing that slowed progress since choosing and processing the photos to be included as part of the descriptions nearly were more rate limiting than the actual writing itself. That experience had been happening throughout the year but it really came to a head with the larger block of writing. Staying with the subject of lessons learned, I started to cast more of a critical eye on the focus of the blog and came to the conclusion that much of the musings on public transport really belonged elsewhere. In time, another blog was spawned for that but travel matters relevant to exploring wonderful countryside will continue to make their appearance here. In time, it may happen that old posts falling outside of this might get moved elsewhere as part of continued content reshaping but I’ll leave things as they are for now.
November saw me re-emerge into areas well populated by hills again. The first of two trips to Cumbria saw me embark on an out and back trek from Windermere’s train station to Yoke. I had gone north with a few ideas in mind and this proved to be just as well when public transport and the available daylight constrained my ambitions a little. Neither did anything to spoil my enjoyment of the day. A miscalculation on the following weekend had me walking from Ardlui to Butterbridge a day too early for good weather to do its magic on the landscape. in some respects, the hike echoed my February outing to the area in that showers got going to make things feel unpleasant as I dropped down towards the end of my walk. I may not have seen the countryside in its best light but plans for potential excursions came to mind and they may compensate for this at some suitable juncture in the future. Dullness of a drier variety was set to dominate my walk from Ambleside to the top of Red Screes and back the next weekend. Some sunshine managed to escape from its cloudy prison towards the end of the walk but the intense cold remains in mind, particularly since the turning on of Ambleside’s Christmas lights delayed my journey home.
December may be considered by meteorologists to be the start of winter but my walking was not about to go into hibernation, especially with the possibility of sampling some snow. So, the first Saturday of the month saw me return to the Howgill Fells after the briefest of visits a few years earlier. The snow that I met got me wondering about winter skills and such like but the experience was one not to be missed. The day after had me out exploring Macclesfield’s hills with an out and back hike from my own doorstep. I might have been trampling familiar ground but there were some new sides to be seen too. A trip to Ireland for Christmas and New didn’t stop my walking either, even if road walking took up the most of what I was doing. Nevertheless, I got to get off road to explore around Springfield Castle near Broadford in County Limerick and even got to sample a little piece of the Dingle peninsula around Camp and Castlegregory in Kerry. Sunshine enlivened both walks but that part of Kerry was frequented by a biting wind while we were there; nevertheless, it didn’t stop me wandering a little way along a track (used by a tractor to get winter feeding to livestock by appearance of things) through the dunes at Maherabeg (Machaire Beag in Irish) in the late evening sunshine, at least shadowing the Dingle Way if not actually following it. That brought a year packed full of walking trips and opportunities to a delightful close. 2009 awaits.
The greyness of the weekend did nothing to shift my inclination to stay put at home. To be honest, I was in that mood anyway and I could have made something of yesterday and today if I was so determined. January hasn’t had a bad start and I did get in some lunchtime walking this past week and my surroundings looked ever so enticing with that dusting of snow that was gifted to us earlier in the week. The weather over the Christmas wasn’t so unkind to us either, even if it did require us to wrap up warm when going out of doors. I was in Ireland for that and got some short walks too, even if that meant tarmac bashing for most of the time. Some sunshine was visited upon us when the grey gloom wasn’t about and we ended up on the Dingle Peninsula for a few hours. That meant that a number of photos were made in the late afternoon sunshine and some of these have found their way into the Kerry section of the photo gallery. There are some photos taken on a brief visit to Dublin’s Phoenix Park before Christmas that are candidates for addition too once I decide which ones make the cut. Thinking back over 2008, I think that it has one of the better years when it comes to my taking good photos in the land of my birth. For now, I can only hope that 2009 brings more of the same.