I got up early and headed for Dowra with the intention of completing the northern section of the Miners’ Way which mostly follows minor roads on high ground down the western side of Lough Allen. After a bit of faffing about trying to find a reasonable place to leave the car I got my act together and headed north out of the village on the R207.
I didn’t have to spend long on the main road as the route takes a left turn and starts heading up into the hills on minor roads and tracks. There are sheep and newly-born lambs everywhere and their bleating is a constant soundtrack.
I spend the first couple of kilometres climbing but despite this, the route doesn’t get very high at all over the first 10 or 15 kilometres. It is more a case of up and down over drumlin-type hills. I pass Moneen Lough which is spoiling the view of a mobile chip-shop and a Ford Granada hearse straight out of a Father Ted episode.
After passing Moneen Lough, the route turns left and we’ve reached the most northerly point of the Miners’ Way. The route now heads south westerly along a remarkable straight minor road for the next 8 kilometres or so. I pass another drumlin lake called Ardlougher Lough.
From here, it was a case of continuing on straight along the same road. All along this stretch there were fabulous views of Sliabh An Iarainn across Lough Allen but unfortunately the weather wasn’t really co-operating with getting decent pictures.
A particular feature of the countryside around here is a proliferation of sweat houses – a kind of traditional Irish sauna. These look quite like lime kilns but the door at the bottom is quite a bit bigger. These are dotted all over the place but this one was visible from the road.
The route crossed the R200 about three kilometres out of Drumkeeragh and a few hundred metres later I came to a nice little bridge at a convenient spot for a rest – about 11km into the walk.
I had a coffee and a handful of nuts as a snack and paused for 10 minutes or so to take a rest before packing up and getting on my way again. I’d been noticing quite a few empty houses along the walk but this one in particular struck me as a particular pity a kilometre or so after my rest.
A short while later I came into Drumkeeragh which is a pretty village even if there was a bit of a climb into it. There seemed to be a few places to buy supplies if I needed but I wasn’t really short of anything at this point and so didn’t bother.
In Drumkeeragh, the route takes a sharp turn to the left and we start heading south towards Arigna. On the way out of Drumkeeragh, I came across this interesting sign but unfortunately, the path down was too overgrown to have a look.
After a stretch on local road and a short stretch on a very fast regional road, the route again turns south-westerly and starts climbing along small tracks. It quickly turns to forestry and is quite a a pleasant stretch. For a couple of kilometres the climb is quite steep but the views are quite rewarding if not easily photographed with the lingering haze.
After this brief climb, I get a bit of a rest as the road contours around for a couple of kilometres before starting back down towards the lake. The views along this stretch are quite spectacular but you really would need a fine summer’s day to get the full impact. I was also treated to the spectacle of two cock pheasants having a fight but my presence scared them off before I could wake the camera up.
I narrowly escaped making a rather bad navigation error along this stretch and the route forks with the wilder section heading off up into the hills. As I’m heading for Drumshambo today, I take the easier route downwards. At this point, I’ve just passed the 20km mark and as I had a relatively light breakfast it is time to stop for lunch. Luckily enough the route leaves the road here and heads through a ruined farmyard, where there is a nice little copse of trees to sit down for a break.
After a nice lunch of soup and tuna rolls, I got going again. The route here takes a short detour through some fields but it was a bit of a slog through mud. Mud was about to feature quite a bit in the walk for the next few kilometres. I was back on the road soon enough and the route took me quite close to some wind turbines.
Shortly after this I passed the point where the route splits up over the mountains. It would have been nice to head further up but my objective was Drumshambo and those were my arrangements for getting collected. So I started down as the route passes back towards Lough Allen again.
There is a lot more evidence of various industrial quarrying that has been going on in the area of a long time. Along this stretch there were more great views across the lake – the mists somewhat cleared but it was still quite hazy.
A short time later I passed a rather lovingly maintained public water pump but it didn’t appear to be working. I can remember using these as a child – mostly for the novelty value but they usually still worked even if they required priming with a supply of water that was left near the pump. Alas this wasn’t to be the case with this one.
For the next few kilometres the route took quite a few detours off roads and these detours were generally a bit of a slog as they were through farmland and in some cases through farmyards. They were also quite winding and I found that I had underestimated the distance to Arigna by a few kilometers and this was quite draining since it coincided with the general state of exhaustion I find sets in shortly after the 30km mark.
While the view at the top was lovely, I was none too pleased to have to zig-zag my way up this. However, I was starting to come across some more signs of industry as I got closer to Arigna. There are still a working stone quarries in the area.
The stone in the area is particularly useful for building as it splits into reasonable size lumps with very little cutting. There were once small quarrying operations all over the area but the recent building collapse has put paid to a lot of them. This once seems to be going quite well.
This is the raw material – you can see how easy this would be to split up for building. The route goes off-road again for a couple of kilometres towards Arigna and I come to this amazing relic of an old aerial ropeway that was used for mining operations in the early part of the 20th century.
After a little while, still suffering through waves of exhaustion I finally made it to the Arigna Mining experience centre where amongst other bits of rubbish I saw these interesting looking mining carts with old CIE logos on them – one of them even has the old Flying Snail logo.
There were loads of bits of utter junk lying around and I wasn’t going to hang about too long as I didn’t have an awful lot of time left and I still had about 7km to go to Drumshambo.
I stopped for a quick coffee (from my flask) and a rest at the bottom of the road into the Mining Experience and headed down into the village of Arigna. It is not exactly a pretty village but I guess that at least there is industry to keep people busy.
After a quick stop in the shop to buy a bottle of Coke to try to keep me going the route takes a rather interesting turn along the trackbed of the old Cavan and Leitrim railway although there is nothing to announce this.
This continues on for about three kilometres and the going is really good along this section. My energy recovers and I manage a couple of 12 minute kilometres. I’m not sure if this is due to the Coke or having just passed the point of exhaustion.
The railway eventually runs out and I’m back on a regional road for a few hundred metres. After crossing another road, the route takes another detour through some fields. I come across my second “Beware of bull” sign. I’m not really sure what you are supposed to do here other than abandon the walk but as for the previous case, the bull was nowhere to be seen.
At the house in the distance I set a farmer’s dog off in a frenzy who then chased some cattle out of a yard right past me. The farmer seemed fairly nonplussed about the incident and I stopped for a quick chat. At this point I was only about 3 km from my destination so I pushed on.
I crossed the Shannon at an ESB facility and I was still making good time. Shortly after this I came across another of the impromptu scrapyards that seemed to be about – I think this was about third of the day. It had this poor sad relic of a Citroën 2CV lying about.
The last feature of note on the way into Drumshambo was this canal lock. At this point my walk was nearly done as I was about a kilometre from the town centre.
I actually didn’t bother walking right into the town centre as I spotted a nice bench to have a quick sit down on and right as I did so I got a text message saying that my lift had arrived. I probably should have walked the extra couple of hundred metres but I really couldn’t be bothered. So I left it at 43.4 km for the day.