I’ve been a little lazy with walking over the last couple of weeks due to trying to get on top of the garden a bit and I’ve rolled a few walks into a single blog post as to be honest the posts about Ardagh mountain are getting a bit tedious the second year around.
Anyway, the flowers are getting a bit less monochrome with a bit less yellow and a lot more blues, pinks and purples as the year eases on.
We’ve had a couple of weeks of dry weather which is a nice change. The orchids in our bottom field have started to flower. These really are quite spectacular.
So I’ve managed four walks over the last two weeks which is a bit slow by my usual standards but the plan is to make it up with a canal trip this weekend.
I found myself in Ballyfarnon at about 8:30 on a Saturday morning putting my boots on for my last section of the Miners’ Way which I’d planned as a 35km section from Ballyfarnon through Castlebaldwin and on to Boyle. It was a fairly fine morning – overcast but dry.
As I was setting off, a group of cyclists stopped for a break and we exchanged greetings. I got myself moving and soon left the village behind without much fuss. For the first time in ages, I had very little ground to cover again. After about a kilometre I passed the junction between the two sections and was on virgin territory again.
There are quite a few lakes in the area but the main feature of the walk for the day was to be Lough Arrow as the route essentially does a massive loop around the lake. The lane I’m walking gets progressive narrower and greener until it turns into a lovely little green road.
There is a really striking purple flower that does really well in this area and looks a bit like a hyacinth. They seem to be quite widely distributed on verges in the general area.
I continue on this green road for a bit – the route around here is quite hilly and there is quite a bit of up and town. However, the going is easy – all of the route is on roads or dry tracks and there is little opportunity to get wet feet. Indeed a good part of the first few kilometres is also marked as a cycle route.
A bit further on the route drops down past an interesting looking outcrop – the landscape is quite rock.
After this the route wends its way between two little lakes – White lough and Black Lock. White lock is first and opens out over a relatively flat shoreline.
Black lough is the opposite with cliffs on one side and all the banks very steep indeed. The surface of Black lough is mirror-like in its stillness.
After passing these I have a sudden climb to contend with which leaves me quite out of breath. This day is going to have a lot of upping and downing before I’m done.
As I head further south the landscape becomes a bit odd – there are a lot of glacial erratic boulders on the ground and some of these are truly massive. In the area where I live there are quite a lot of these as well, but they are generally buried and you’ll only discover them when you try to remove a stone from the lawn and then find out your dealing with a 10 tonne rock.
The route leaves the road for a kilometre or so while it ascends a small hill with a trig point on top. There are clear views from here about 30 or 40 kilometres to the northwest and to the south so I guess is a good spot for a trig point.
From here I descended onto a road for a bit and then back off road for a couple of kilometres before I end up in a hotel carpark. On the way the route passes this rather fabulous dolmen.
This is a really impressive site and is associated with the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne. I had a cup of coffee and a snack here and rested for 5 minutes before pushing on through the forest and towards Cromleach Lodge and on towards Arrow river which the route crosses at the very head of Lough Arrow.
A few hundred metres after this, the route takes a short-cut across some fields and it is a quick couple of kilometres up into Castlebaldwin. There was a large road-house type restaurant here that serves food all day and I was very tempted to stop and have a hot meal. However, it was just a little early to be taking a lunch break so I pushed on towards Carrowkeel.
This route was quite interesting and we took a detour through a donkey sanctuary before heading up into the hills towards the Carrowkeel Megalithic Tomb. I pushed on for an hour or so beyond Castlebaldwin until I was well past the 20 km mark and could stop for lunch confident I had more than half of the day’s walking done.
Suitably refreshed after a lunch of ham sandwiches and crisps I headed up between the two rocky ridges and into a rather fantastic landscape. You can see the ridge on the left from the main road but the one on the right is really striking as the cliff-face on it continues on for about 4 kilometres.
After about 20 minutes, I came to a sign where the route splits from the path to Carrowkeel. I really wanted to take a look but it was marked as a kilometre off the route and I didn’t really want to add two kilometres to my day.
This terrain continued for a couple of kilometres before I descended into a valley and back up the other side of one of these ridges
Amazingly there was even a ruined cottage up here. Talk about living in the middle of nowhere.
At this point I started descending into a valley. This went down a lovely green road and past another couple of ruined cottages. Before long, I joined paved road for a couple of kilometres before heading off up again into the Curlew mountains.
This is the view from down the bottom looking back up towards the ridge.
At this point the rain that had been threatening all day got serious about things and I ended up putting my camera away so I only took a couple more shots with my phone. The route headed off through a forest road which was quite seriously littered with old beds and sofas.
With about 4 km to go, I joined the old N4 road which is now a country road since the Curlew Mountains bypass was built. The route has an off-road path here since this used to be such a major road but the terrain is horrible and I probably would have been better off sticking to the road.
The route started off reasonably well with forest track and well-made wooden bridges but then deteriorated badly into a hack across forest drainage channels and then a mixture of ankle sucking mud and moss. It emerged from the forest and then across some moorland with barely a hint of a track aside from the waymarkers. This two kilometres took me nearly 45 minutes to traverse which I could have done without.
I was seriously glad to emerge onto a road from where it was a simple couple of kilometres down into Boyle town where I took a taxi back to Ballyfarnon to pick up my car. All in all, it was a very successful day’s walking which completed my Miners’ Way.
Walking forests and trails in the midlands of Ireland