During the last week and a half, more or less since leaving Fermoy, my evenings have been pretty sad affairs. On the road with a dog in Ireland you are in a word homeless. Hotels won’t have you, pubs won’t have you and only very exceptional B&Bs are prepared to countenance putting you and your four-legged companion up in the same room. I have been lucky in that I have always found somewhere for us to stay and mostly the accommodation has been charming and my hosts delightful friendly and welcoming. I won’t have word said against them (pace downtown Thomastown). However, when it comes to getting fed in the evening I am usually reduced to nibbling the remnants of my packed lunch, as well, B&B doesn’t have a D for dinner in it, does it? Added to which, I am car-less (funny that) and my dog-friendly B&Bs have all been located at least two miles from the nearest village or town and unreachable by foot (at least, after a long day’s walking – I have never been that hungry). Relying on a taxi or hackney in those remote parts is out of the question and irish country taxi drivers are about as far down the friendly customer-oriented service scale, as it is possible to be without being a female german shop assistant. So my evenings are mostly supperless and short and consist of me and Stella winding down – if we are lucky in front of a fire, me with Macbook, Stella whimpering in her dreams of chasing sheep across endless fells.
So it is a treat indeed when I end up at a B&B at the end of a good days walking with uncomplicated friendly and good-natured hosts, for whom nothing is too much trouble, for whom Stella is a welcome addition to their extended family (which includes an Old English Sheepdog and a bad-tempered cat) and who happily invite me join them for supper and then feed me, till I am fit to burst, with roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and rhubarb pie with ice-cream washed down with as much green tea as I can hold. Happy days. Matt and Anne run the Lugnaquillia View in Starankelly on the Wicklow Way and will be my hosts for the next two nights running me back and forth on to and from the Wicklow Way as I make my final way north. The view onto Lugnaquillia Mountain from my bedroom window is inspiring and I can make out my way from Thursday from where I stand.
My walk here, or rather to Kildavin at the end of the South Leinster Way, started in Borris, where I left off yesterday, in pouring rain at around 0930. I had no idea what to expect, having only calculated that the walk could not be more than 23 kms, given that I had already walked 82 of the designated 105kms of this particular trail. And so it was – 23km from start to finish, most of them expended in a long climb up to the saddle which would lead up to the summit of Mt. Leinster. The first three hours of the four hour walking time were spent slowly approaching the magnificent Mt. Leinster which I had first seen in the distance on Sunday as I walked with Mick Kelly to Inistioge. Mount Leinster is the highest peak of the Blackstairs range and form a natural border between the counties of Carlow in the West and Wexford in the east. The view of Mt. Leinster and by extension the rest of the Blackstairs dominated the walk as we wound our way on quiet country roads higher and closer by degrees. The weather became more clement as the morning passed and, pretty soon, I was overtaken by a sky more blue than grey and changed thankfully out of my waterproofs.
Whilst the views were fascinating all day, the going underfoot was disappointing. We hardly left the metalled road at all – only on the section just before we dropped down from Brandish Hill into Kildavin – and by my reckoning almost 50% if not more of the entire Sounth Leinster Way was spent on tarmac roads, by far the most of any of the other trails we travelled on over the past three weeks. Also todays signage was a disgrace – I noted at least ten points at which a sign would have been essential to have a chance of following the route and several places where the signage only worked if you were travelling the trail from north to south, not the other way around. It didn’t impede me, as the route is well represented on the OS map, but for a walker relying on the signposting, it would have been impossible to navigate this section successfully.
Tomorrow we back-track after breakfast to Clonegal and pick up the Wicklow Way at the source. We are on our way home!