As we sat at breakfast in the Bridge House dining room, rain sprinkled down outside the windows, in accordance with the weather forecast for the day. As I munched on my rashers and sausage and other Irish breakfast fixings, the waitress came over to chat with us.
“So where you going today?” she asked.
“Gougane Barra,” we answered.
“Oh, that’s not so bad. Are you biking, or driving, or…?”
“…what?” she blinked at us. “Today?” She looked out the window pointedly, then back at us, eyebrows raised. “Are you off your fecking heads?”
“I’m on the Beara-Breifne Way,” I tried to explain. “And that’s our next stop. We have reservations.”
“To where, now?”
“To Leitrim, if I can make it. Maybe farther.”
She blinked again. “Well sure thing I wouldn’t do that. Do you know how you’re going?”
“Well, I think I know up through Millstreet, but the route gets a bit weird there until I can get back to the Ballyhoura Way…”
“Ah, well, I come from up there myself, so…” And the woman who had moments ago pretty much called us insane proceeded to spend another 15 minutes talking with us, trying to give me good directions on which roads were safe to walk on. Irish hospitality, people. It’s a real thing.
We suited up for rain.
“There aren’t any mountains today at least, right?” Carl asked me as we did so.
“No, no mountains today. I mean, there’s a bit of a ridge we’ve got to go over at the end, but not a mountain.”
“Well, that’s good,” he said, sounding as though he mostly believed me.
And we hit the road, ready and determined.
And the trail directed us into a gun club (which we never actually saw, so apparently it was a secret gun club… comforting, right?)
But with only a little bit of the walk behind us… the sky started shifting
As that happened, we encountered either two of the exact same dog or a magically teleporting blink dog, we are still unclear as to which
And then abruptly we were walking through this
With views like this
Protip: At this annoyingly unwaymarked intersection, go the way without the gate (see person in above image)
This is the way to Kealkill and its castle and stuff, which we might have done had not the memory of our sore feet still been strong. We kept straight on, but I would love to go back some day and check it out
Just past this sign, on the right side of the road (if you’re going towards Gougane Barra) is a rather unremarkable looking gate
Through that gate and up the hill stands the Mhacha na Saili stone row… which is really quite worth stopping for
Just another example of Ireland’s embarrassment-of-riches levels of ancient history studded randomly about to the point where you can easily overlook it
Watch out for the gate if you’ve got a big pack though
Just a little ways on we encountered this fine individual, yet another of the ‘theoretically domestic animals just chilling out with no humans in sight anywhere’
In the distance, we could spy the Kealkill Windfarm, and in front of it the forest we’d be passing through for the next phase of our journey
Just inside the forest, we encountered the strangest gate we had seen yet. Also, note the creepy window eyes on that house. I am sure the inhabitants are very kind letting hikers tromp through their yard but we were disinclined to linger
And anyway, just ahead lay lovely forest path
…which gave way to soggy bogs, with some rather improvised but happily effective bridges
…which gave way to even more soggy bogs and slightly less effective improvised stairways
Eventually the water gave us a rest, leaving us with a level-straight path that highlighted the artificial nature of this forest
The moss, uncarng about the forest’s origins, had moved in and coated everything in stunning green
Though patches of it had been leveled…
For reasons I suspect one might guess
Having returned to the road briefly, we came upon this shelter
Taking the opportunity to sit for a moment, we found a map that indicated the remainder of our route. We had covered all the bits on level ground, about 2/3rds of our total distance for the day. Only 1/3 remained… but that went off the roads, and over a 500m ridge.
As we sat, a car pulled by, then slowed to a stop. A woman and her daughter stepped out and strolled up to the gazebo where we sat.
“Is this your sun cream?” The woman asked, holding up what was, in fact, my tube of sunscreen. Oops. Must have fallen out when we turned to go up to sit.
“Yes, thanks so much,” I answered.
Taking in our packs, she asked, “You going over the mountain, then?”
“Uhh,” I said, looking guiltily over at Carl. He had the grace to retain a stoic expression. “I think so, yeah, we’re going over the ridge to Gougane Barra.”
“You know, I lived in this area for 13 years, and I’ve never done it. Well, good luck!” She smiled, but as she and her daughter returned to her car I saw her glance a little uneasily at what appeared to be rapidly massing clouds overhead.
As they drove off, Carl looked over at me. “The locals just called it a mountain.”
He flicked his eyes outside the gazebo. “Also, it just started raining.”
“I… guess we should put our rain gear back on?”
We suited up, watching the mist fall, hearing it patter quietly on the roof. Finally re-wrapped, we collected our gear and stepped outside… (continued in next post)