Category Archives: walking

the longest walk

20miles, 32 kilometres, it doesn’t sound like an awful lot but that was my target for Wednesday. Back in 2012 I did my longest ever walk at 30.5km on The Bluestack Challenge along part of the Bluestack Way from Glenties to Lough Eske. That was an organised walk and over some hilly terrain. Since then I’ve done some longish walks in the 15-20km area and last year walked a half marathon for the first time since 2012. A few weeks ago I repeated that same walk and pushed it out to 25km.

Since then it’s been rattling around in my head to push on and beat my personal best. I’ve been walking a bit extra this month as part of the fundraiser for the Irish Community Air Ambulance and I wanted to finish March with a big one. I’ve also been listening to a few audiobooks recently on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail and was inspired to put in one of their days. One of the big milestones for those thru-hikers is their first 20mile day so 32km became my new target, albeit without the 15kg backpack!

I walked a very similar route to the other two days linked above but with variations to increase the distance. It was all on roads, some of which were very familiar but I also managed to find roads I’ve never been on before and yet so close to home. I was surprised by the variety of landscapes that I saw and just how quickly they changed. I had great weather, cold and breezy at times but dry all day. I had a great time and despite the throbbing knees and ankles had a massive sense of achievement at the end.

beautiful birch at lunch stop

(For some reason this video has uploaded in a low resolution version and I can’t work out why, yet another thing to learn.)

So what is the next challenge? I guess the next logical step is to walk the full marathon distance which is 42km. I already have a route pencilled out for that and I’m investigating a 50km route also. That one will require a long dry day in summer and it’s probably the absolute maximum limit for me for a single day walk. I’m going to enjoy the current achievement for a while but also enjoy making plans…

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welcome break

With a big Sale event at work to launch the new store it’s been a pretty busy few weeks. Wednesday was my first day off after working nine straight through and nine very busy days at that. As you may imagine a day off was very welcome.

I’d been keeping an eye on the weather and with a dry and sunny forecast I decided it was a perfect day for a longer walk and wanting something different I decided to walk to a small wooded area approximately 6km from home and to cook some lunch while sitting and enjoying the woods.

I packed a bag with a frying pan, some bacon and eggs and my Trangia stove. Not preparing the evening before I ended up doing everything in a bit of a rush and managed to forget a few things. The biggest thing I forgot was my fuel bottle so I only had what was remaining from my last time out. This was only half what I needed so I had to make a choice between a full lunch or skipping a cup of tea. In the end the tea won out.

The frying pan was too big for the stove and with the ground being more uneven than expected it was quite unwieldy and cumbersome. The uneven ground also resulted in mishaps with my water boiling and I managed to spill it twice! Despite all the things that went wrong I still learned some valuable lessons, had a really good time and enjoyed a great day for a walk. I initially expected a 13km walk but coming home by a slightly different route it ended up as 16.5km.

click here to view on strava

I’ve recently upgraded my cheapo Akaso action camera to a fancy new GoPro Hero 10 and Wednesday was my first real opportunity to try that out too. I didn’t know what to expect so was very impressed with the quality of the video compared to the old one. The sound quality was also superb but this was more expected. I put together a video of the day and it’s live on YouTube if you want to have a look at the link below. I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what the GoPro is capable of on outings over the next few months.

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evening daylight

Today was that special day when I get home from work and I’m able to go for a walk in the woods before it gets dark for the first time this year. I managed to get home just in time to make the most of that unique period just as the sun is setting and the moon is rising.

With a massive relaunch sale at work the last two weeks have been long hours, very little time off and demanding days so this evening was very much needed to clear my head and leave me feeling rejuvenated.

It was brilliant to hear so many birds singing vocally as soon as I got out of the van. It put a real pep in my step and I could have sat for hours and listened to them.

The last 10min or so were in under the taller trees which brought an earlier darkness but I had enough moonlight to boost my night vision just enough to still be comfortable. I really do love the woods at dusk.

It wasn’t quite Venge Day but it was damn close…

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big walk day

For some reason I’ve recently had a real hunger for hiking and walking rather than cycling. I’ve signed up for a fundraising 310,000 Steps in March Challenge (more info below) to give me something to work towards and to keep my motivated through the month. My hope is that consistent walking will build strength in my legs that will give me a head start when I rediscover the urge to get back on the bike.

After a terrible couple of weeks of storms and heavy rain we have had a wonderful week of calm, bright weather. Watching the forecast all week it was clear that today was to be one of the best.

Through the week my half marathon walk from last year had been tickling away at the back of my mind and I had a plan for an early start and a long walk which somehow became known in the house as “the big walk” – I may have been talking about it a bit too much!

I woke shortly after 5am and had an unsettled couple of hours which delayed my early start until 10am. Probably a good thing as we had a hard frost overnight but the sun was well up by 10. Throughout the day it was chilly but beautifully sunny and calm. Out of the sun though it was cold with ice still in the puddles at 3pm in the shaded spots that hadn’t seen sun all day.

My previous big walk was slightly over 21km but I had an urge to top that. At the 19km mark I veered off my previous route into the forest, overlapping my route from last Sunday. Close to home I realised that I was going to finish at about 24.5km so I overlapped part of my earlier route from the morning before doing a U-Turn and heading home. I finished with 25.15km, tired and sore legs but feeling great. My longest walk ever was 30.5km and I hope to be able to beat that by the end of March 💪

310,000 Steps in March

This is a fundraising challenge for Irish Community Air Ambulance. The challenge is to walk an average of 10,000 steps per day for a total of 310,000 for the month while raising money.

No pressure but if you want to support this fantastic charity please follow the link below. Big thanks to those that read this blog and have already donated, it really is very much appreciated.

facebook fundraiser link

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we really know nothing…

There is a curse.
They say:
May you live in interesting times.

Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

It’s hard not to feel that history is repeating itself and that it’s decided that the worst of the 20th Century is what is worth repeating. Up first we had a global pandemic that was eerily similar to The Spanish Flu of 1918 and now we have a military invasion of an Eastern European country by a neighbouring dictator that sounds horribly similar to the start of WW2.

Newsfeeds and news channels are full of blame and the rhetoric of politicians far removed from the terror and death that’s facing the people of Ukraine. World leaders doing what they want and playing power games while ordinary people suffer and die.

Facebook is full of profile photos displaying Ukrainian flags, sunflowers and #istandwithukraine. I get it, people are concerned and want to show their displeasure and support but what good does it really do? It doesn’t really help anyone in Ukraine and it only makes us feel a little better.

This time 100 years ago Irish men and women were fighting and dying in an attempt to have freedom and independence from an unwanted occupier and today that’s happening in Ukraine. From our modern, comfortable lives what can we know of anything that these people are going through?

© bbc

Today turned out to be yet another stormy and overcast day in February. I had a notion to go into the hills but couldn’t face the thought of being blown off a summit so instead I went for a long walk on local roads and trails and had lunch in the forest. It was the perfect antidote for all the potential stress of the rest of life.

the humble ham sandwich and cup of tea

the sun made a short appearance while sitting enjoying the peace of the forest

my constant companion

moody skies

man down!

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walk: corravaddy woods

Corravaddy is a Coillte plantation forest between Letterkenny and Ballybofey. In recent years Coillte have spent some money in the area, upgrading paths, putting up signage and installing some bridges. It’s a popular place to walk being so close to two large towns. Catriona and the boys have been a few times with friends of hers but I haven’t. Looking for somewhere different to go this afternoon I decided to fix that.

Being a Sunday afternoon it was a bit too busy for me and Rosie both but I think I’ll go back another day mid-week when I think I’ll get a bit more peace and quiet.

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One of the things I enjoy about walking, hiking, camping and similar outdoor activities is all the gear I can buy. I’m also a real sucker for badges, patches and similar collectable items. The perfect confluence of all of this is German walking sticks…

I bought this stick from a gift shop on the shore of a lake in The Black Forest, Germany in 1998. It was unadorned at that time but I saw many German walkers with badges nailed to theirs as souvenirs of places they visited. I didn’t have much money at the time so couldn’t buy stick and badges. I also remember worrying about getting it home in my rucksack as it has a traditional alpine spike ferrule. This was a much more relaxed time for air travel though and I had no issues at all

Fast forward to 2001, Catriona and myself were on honeymoon in St. Johann, Austria. In one of the tourist trap gift shops I spotted two small badges for walking sticks and they were sold to me without even thinking about it.

I don’t use this stick very often as it’s about 10cm too short to make it perfectly comfortable but it’s full of memories for me. It’s come with me to many homes over the years but it always comes. On Sunday it came with me to the woods. While preparing and enjoying my hot chocolate my mind spent more time in Germany and Austria than Donegal…

walk: the steeple (meenavally)

According to my closest recorded summit is a small hill (219m) just 6.9km in a straight line from home. In fact I can see it from my front door. The hill is officially called Meenavally but locally it is known as The Steeple.

On the top of the hill there is a small, squat and pretty ugly tower built with stone and lime. There is a door in one wall and an internal winding staircase that brings you to a flat area with a low parapet. In the centre of the upper floor there is a round opening with a metal grate that allows vertical access from the ground floor, almost like a chimney.

Over the years there have been many gruesome rumours about the tower on the hill. Stories are told of satanic rites and devil worship including disappearing children and human sacrifice. None of these rumours are true but the origins of the tower are still interesting.

The townland is called Tircallen and from the 1600s the area was part of a larger estate of the same name created during the Plantation of Ulster. It was purchased by Sir Henry Stewart in 1789 and in the early 1800s he constructed the tower as an astronomical observatory which was very much in vogue with the gentry of Ireland at the time. Unfortunately, there are no surviving records of Sir Henry’s so it isn’t known what observations he made or what contribution this tower made to scientific research of the time.

The tower is also called The Steeple after the hill but is also known as Mullaghagarry Tower after the name of the forest woodland it is now located in. The forest is a commercial forest owned and operated by Coillte. It’s likely that the estate was acquired by the government’s Land Commission in the 1930s for redistribution to local tenant farmers which was the policy of the time. The tower, however has survived relatively unscathed.

I’ve been to the tower multiple times on foot and also by bike as we used to use the area for night time MTBing a few winters ago. I placed a geocache in the area in 2006 to mark the date of 06/06/06. In 2007 myself and a few other geocachers took part in a documentary on geocaching for RTE’s Nationwide programme. It’s the second location in the video below.

Although I’ve visited the tower many times I want to revisit all locations afresh for my Local 50 challenge so on Sunday I went back. I used a different access point than usual and my plan was to create a looped walk of approximately 9km. However, my maps are really out of date now and the hoped for track petered out on private farmland that I wasn’t happy venturing on to.

I attempted to work my way around through the trees on faint paths but not knowing the area too well I ended up back out on the main track and at that point decided to make it a simple there and back walk but still ended up with 6km. Rosie the dog was with me and despite some very heavy rain showers we had a very nice afternoon.

Not much photography on this walk but I did film and the results are linked below if you want to watch. Thankfully I seem to have solved the audio sync issue I had before.

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in the buff

It’s always nice to get stuff in the post and especially nice today as fellow Irish blogger Declan, aka Unironedman, kindly sent me a runner’s buff, one of the ones he had produced for the recent Down To Town Marathon. I’m no marathon runner by any stretch of the imagination but who doesn’t like free stuff? I took advantage of a break in the weather and a spare hour to take it for a very enjoyable walk in Monellan Woods. If you don’t already follow Declan’s blog then I’d highly recommend it.