Today was a bit of a study in contrasts.
The Glen of Aherlow – where I arrived yesterday and began my walk today – is one of the more well-known spots the Beara Breifne Way wends through. Poems have been written of it, and it’s not hard to figure out why.
Having already ascended partway up Slieve na Muc (or mountain of pigs, named for a rampaging sow slain by Fionn Mac Cumhaill of legend, whose used its head as a rather grisly bridal gift for a local smith’s daughter) the previous day, I began by wandering through a few farms and then off into the woods that cover much of its higher slopes.
This bit has some confusing signage – you actually do go through someone’s farm before you hit the woods, and once you do enter the forest, I encountered a waymark post that was clearly out of place, indicating a turn when the path ran straight in either direction.
I believe this post must have sat near this larger signpost, also knocked down:
I stood for a while, at this gate, almost entranced by the angle of the light. The downy white seeds of the tree I showed above drifted around me; it felt like standing inside a summer snowfall. I could not always have seen it as I do now – my depth perception used to be abysmally bad, bordering on non-existent. But after a year of practice, I had a sudden, gorgeous case study; the air around me was thick with tiny floating motes, and I could see the way they illustrated the presence of the surrounding air, lending it dimension and weight. I remembered a story I had read before I started vision therapy – of a woman in her fifties experiencing her first snowfall after learning to see in 3-D.
It felt something like that for me.
Finally I walked on, and shortly thereafter came out into the open, and then to Aherlow House Hotel, where I would be staying the night.
I lazed about, had a nice lunch, dropped one of the jackets I knew I wouldn’t need off in my room. Then I set out, figuring I had more walking in me before the day was done. After all, the plan is to rest tomorrow, so I may as well see if I can get a bit more distance in before I do.
This portion of the trail terminated at the Christ the King statue, erected in 1950 and now something of a symbol of the area.
I continued on, and the path transitioned eventually into a good while on forest roads.
I dallied for a while on a bridge over the Ara River, airing my feet. A woman came by, bringing the neighbor’s dogs for a swim – she hadn’t noticed me before unleashing them, and I enjoyed a bit of friendly furry attention before they hit the water. Eventually I persuaded myself to put my shoes back on, knowing Tipperary wasn’t far off and if I could make it there I would set myself up well mileage-wise for my next walking day.
I hadn’t counted on the last obstacle though…
Okay, I had looked at the map. The route did seem to go awfully close to N24. Amusingly, it turned into a red dotted line for the bit that ran closest to it, which I innocently thought must mean something like following the little off-highway trail alongside.
Haha, if by “off highway trail” I mean “shoulder”, then yes, that was pretty much the shape of it.
I waded determinedly along, and took the first road off that wasn’t obviously private. It did not last.
Right around this point a huge semi barrelled by, blowing my hat clear off my head. Thank god for chin straps.
So I Frogger-ed my way to the other side, which was somewhat more viable at least, and continued to pick my way along, swearing profusely under my breath. Really, Ballyhoura Way? From the Glen of Fucking Aherlow to crawling along a fucking highway shoulder, in less than 15km? This is the plan? It’s like serving someone a pitcher of mimosas and a three course gourmet breakfast, then turning them out in a field full of brambles with instructions to gather goat-shit for dinner.
Anyway. I survived to bitch about it, obviously, but the experience has left me a perhaps just a trifle salty.
Eventually you can escape the highway-side, though you have to go through a tunnel on a blind turn to do so, as a final bit of garnish on your goat-crap canapes.
From there its a pretty simple walk on in to Tipperary.
Signs confirming that ridiculous thing we did was in fact sanctioned as part of the national waymarked trail
The Ara again, a bit more regulated
They even had a BBW sign, though it was tucked off on a section of road with no surrounding sidewalk. I admit it did not enhance my mood having to stand in the street to read it.
I ran a quick errand and then got a lift from Mike back to the Aherlow House Hotel, where Maurice explored our new facilities.
I may have helped encourage such behavior with the rhododendrons earlier but after this we had a little talk about fire safety
In any case, with the tonal whiplash of the day behind me, I settled in, ready for a day off the road.