We sometimes like to walk across small countries. We started with England in 2011, and continued with Scotland in 2013. So we were due. This time we tackled Ireland.
This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Here’s the full list. Click on the photos for a closer look!
As before, we had help with the planning. We went through Hillwalk, the same agency that arranged our Scotland hike, since they had been good to us, and their offerings looked great.
The basic outline of this trip is that our lodging was booked in advance, along with a car to transport our luggage from one inn to the next. All we had to do was get ourselves to the designated end point each day, carrying only a day pack with lunch and rain gear. Brilliant!
Day 1: Flying
One balmy August morning we dropped Lucy off at Trackers around 8:30am, and drove ourselves to the airport. 30 hours, two flights, a bus, a train, another bus, and a BMW later, we arrived at our first arranged lodging, at the Bay View Guest House. Our hosts were so gracious; the husband actually drove to Bantry to pick us up, as our bus didn’t go all the way to Glengarriff. Even though it was after hours, the lady of the house let us into the walk-in fridge to pick out a supper, and set us up at an outdoor table overlooking Bantry Bay. A short walk and a half-hearted attempt to stay awake later, we passed out. It was 8pm.
Day 2 – Glengarriff to Adrigole (8.5mi, 8 hours 41 minutes)
The following morning we ate a gorgeous full Irish breakfast, repacked our things for hiking, put on our raincoats, and started on the trail. We were full of vim and vigor, and optimistic despite the drizzle – we’re from the Pacific Northwest, this is nothing to us! We had also been doing some training and preparation for this hike, and we were confident that we’d be done by early afternoon. How wrong we were.
We passed through this gorgeous valley, and started climbing the ridge line, following the well-marked path, and trying not to scare too many sheep. There were a lot of sheep. Notice the gathering storm clouds in the distance.
After that it got rough. As we climbed, the wind and rain both intensified. We put on our rain pants and buckled down for a difficult stretch. The ground was completely saturated with water, so we were either walking on top of slippery rocks, or our feet were sinking into spongy peat.
We ate lunch at what turned out to be the very last good place to stop for it, in the lee of a giant pile of rocks; that’s the second photo below, in case you can’t tell. The wind howled through the gap the path led through, and we weren’t sheltered from the rain, but we needed a break. It’s already noontime, and we’re nowhere near as far along as we thought we would be.
Up and over a mountaintop we trudged, and down the other side. We almost walked right into a lake, which was hidden by the mist as close as 30 feet away. We expected the way down to be less miserable, but we were wrong – first, we had to climb back up to another pass. The cold and wet were seeping through our Gore-Tex gear, and despite our excellent footwear, nothing could have prevented our shoes from filling with water – the ground was completely waterlogged peat, and every step not on a rock made a squelching sound. This was our first hike where we brought trekking poles, and they really came in handy for testing the depth of puddles, and the solidity of the ground.
We crested the pass, and we could finally see the valley we were to descend into. By now it was already 4pm. Becky is beyond tired, and it’s translating into ferocious anger at the trail. The wind tried to blow our hats and hoods off, and drove the rain directly into our faces and subsequently soaking our shirts. Trying to avoid losing our shoes in the sticky mud, we made a couple of unlucky detours, and ended up nearly falling down a 20-foot cliff. Shaken but not deterred, we continued on (what else could we do?).
The final descent back to civilization was like walking in a creek. The trail was one long waterfall, when it was visible at all. We just kept aiming for the next marker we could see. We eventually emerged out onto a road, and then through an area of the path that had been closed for some time, and apparently was reopened with the use of heavy logging equipment. The last two deeply-muddy miles passed in silence, both of us trying not to complain because we were in friggin’ Ireland and we had signed up for this. The silver lining is that we were reminded how good a team we are – despite how difficult and challenging this day was, we were still able to work together to get through it.
Our host graciously picked us up at a convenience store in the village, and we gingerly loaded our wettest outerwear into the trunk, and tried to do as little damage as possible to his clean car.
To top this miserable day off, our B&B for the night was… disappointing. We had arranged in advance for the mistress of the house to feed us dinner, but we didn’t arrive until 8pm, so she had kept everything warm for too long, and everything was overdone. The hosts weren’t particularly gregarious (and were not pleased with how wet and muddy we were), and the house was old, dark, and creaky in a way that we might have found charming in better weather, but today just seemed unwelcoming. Our room had two hard twin beds.
We hadn’t expected it to be this difficult. True, we had specifically chosen to raise the difficulty level from our previous adventures – we both had felt that Scotland was too easy. But this wasn’t the “moderate” hike we had signed up for. We hoped that it was mostly the storm; even our host was sort of amazed that we had done the hike in this weather.
We used the radiator and the “air-out cupboard” (a closet with a water heater and exposed hot-water plumbing in it) to try and dry out our sopping wet clothing, rain gear, pack, and selves, and collapsed into bed(s).
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