The title for this post comes from the branding applied to a leaflet the Boys are using to navigate the Sligo Way, starting today (Sunday). I use it here without irony, though I note it has since been superseded by Sligo: Who Knew. A none too shabby part of the world it is too….
I awoke to the excellent news that the Boston Red Sox had triumphed over the Detroit Tigers in Game Six of the American League Championship Series to win the AL Pennant and advance to the “Fall Classic” (I’ll call it that to save Bernie repeating his “there’s only one country that play in it, so how can it be called the World Series?” rant). No mater. Congratulations to the Red Sox.
With no dramas on the domestic front this morning, we were on the road for a reasonable time, which was just as well as the drive to the start point of the Sligo Way at Lough Talt was the best part of an hour. Our route took us northwards into new and unexplored territory via the N4. At this point it is no longer the wide, shiny, new super-highway which runs north from Carrick through the Curlew Mountains. Here it is an average, unimproved, two lane highway with curves and undulations as it threads its way through the countryside, though still with a 100 km/h “limit”.
The Road Authority have done their best to concentrate the minds of drivers using the route by placing retro-reflective white crosses at the site of a each road death within the last ten years. And let me tell you there are a lot of them. There are clusters around junctions, which we could understand, especially as some of them aren’t particularly visible, and then there are small clusters on long straights which suggest the outcome of ill conceived overtakes. There are also several with no obvious causation factor; which the group of professionals-in-this-field that we are, concluded were likely to have been unfortunate pedestrians. Almost everyone over here who ventures near a road on foot wears hi-vis, and with good reason it would seem.
Dave snoozed and Bernie read for most of the journey; clearly a positive reflection on a smooth and stress-free drive. There was only one minor hiccup en route when we encountered a group of lads (all in hi-vis, of course), mounted respectively on push bikes, the inevitable Honda 90 moped, and a quad bike, engaged in herding a small group of cows along the road. Luckily for us they were in the process of turning-off, but had managed to assemble a small knot of vehicles in their throng, no small feat as we’d barely seen another vehicle that point.
Off they set (it seems a trait of Dave’s that whenever he poses for a photo he looks like he’s about to be shot)
Once we reached Lough Talt and eventually reached a consensus as to where the walk should start from — not as easy as it should have been — the Boys donned their boots and set off. I continued west, over the exposed range of hills which regaled in the name Windy Gap, and down into Ballina (“The Salmon Capital of Ireland”). I didn’t linger here, other than a brief pause at a curious junction which not only had traffic lights controlling it, but a Stop sign as well. Belt AND Braces? My destination was literally a pin I’d (electronically) stuck in the map pretty much at random; the seaside village of Inishcrone (as the road signs call it) or Enniscrone (as the maps call it). As it was around 10:00 by then, the place was starting to wake up and a handful of folk were down on the beach, enjoying the fresh Atlantic air.
I walked out across the broad expanse of freshly smoothed sand to the receding water’s edge and dipped my toe in the Atlantic. Accepting Boston Harbour as counting as the Atlantic, 2013 has seen me carry out this ritual on both sides of the Pacific and both sides of the Atlantic – global show-off, huh! A hardy soul was out on a surfboard (or a variant of surf board which allow the mariner to stand and paddle, but he was trying to surf in the traditional sense too). The sun was doing its best to break through the fast moving clouds and the southerly wind which has been dominating pretty much all the while we’ve been here was making it not at all unpleasant.
Having filled my lungs with sea air, I returned to the car and relocated to the jetty, finding ample parking space allowing me to sit and type the blog in the car while overlooking the harbour. Truly the seaside at its best. Despite the abundance of space available all around, my peace was soon shattered by a knob in a diesel Honda who saw fit to park right behind me and keep his rattly engine running, complete with its electric fan which kept cutting in. It wasn’t as though his options of parking and having a superb view were limited. Why do people do that? After about 20 minutes of me seething under my breath, he drove off. Only to return a bit later and stop across the road (a little further off, thankfully) but still wasting his fuel and disturbing the otherwise serene peace.
Having written and posted Saturday’s blog, I went for another walk along the harbour wall and out along the short jetty. The jetty is built with a high wall on the seaward side, evidently a shield against the wind which has the entire width of the Atlantic to gather its strength before hitting the coast here. Indeed, it is a feature of much of the property around these parts that it seems low and squat, almost squashed into the ground – using the topography to deflect the wind. For me, however, the sun had broken through and the wind was very moderate. I reckon I saw Inishcrone at or near its photogenic best.
I continued my wide, looping route along the Sligo coast road, passing through a few small villages and lots of single, semi-isolated cottages which are dotted along most roads around here. Some are quite new and, in some cases, rather extravagant. Others are showing signs of age or neglect. A few are obviously associated with farming or small-holding, but most just seem to exist because someone though this would be a fine place to build a house. A feature that the overwhelming, astonishingly large majority of houses around here have, is a front wall. Invariably built of breeze block (as, I suspect most of the houses are), with stubby pillars at 10′ intervals which are capped with shallow coping stones. The walls (both boundary and house) are then stuccoed with plaster or concrete and washed in a ubiquitous creamy, sandy, off-white. None of which is to be critical, simply to point out that there seems to be a really small c conservatism when it comes to domestic architecture in western Ireland.
I found myself in a place called Aughris around lunchtime. I found myself there mainly because the brown tourist signs indicated there was a pier (a.k.a. a public jetty where drug smugglers, er, sorry, pleasure craft owners, can freely launch their boats). The attraction to me was the potential of a photogenic view of the coast. At Aughris this paid off as there is a beach (or ‘strand’ in local parlance) and a pub – the unimaginatively named but rather charming Beach Bar. I decided to look in to the pub, mainly with the idea of a sandwich. As it was, the ‘lightest’ thing they had on their menu was irish stew. I stumped up my €10 and was particularly delighted with the result. Very tasty. I resisted the almost obligatory Guinness to wash it down with, sensibly opting for Diet Coke instead. The dining part of the pub was empty but for me and a family enjoying their Sunday lunch. The bar area, however, seemed rather full of locals putting the world to rights. A perfect blend of both tourist-friendly and local-friendly hospitality.
The Beach Bar at Aughris
Retracing my path along the rather narrow and by now somewhat busier lane between the coast road and the beach (these dead end lanes are rather prosaically signposted as ‘cul-de-sacs’ in an odd Gaelic nod to the Gallic). I decided to head to the rendezvous point, despite it only being mid-afternoon. Having reached the scientifically calculated half-way point of the Sligo Way at a tiny hamlet called Gorthakeerin, I parked up and waited. I was more than content to sit and pass the afternoon here; I had a lovely view over the countryside to a range of hills beyond, a 3G signal and various electronic sources of entertainment. As it was, it was Bill Bryson’s latest work which largely kept me entertained; “1927: One Summer in America”. I even had a long and enjoyable FaceTime chat with Kay thanks to the aforementioned 3G.
The view from Gorthakeerin
A text from Chappers alerted me when they were about an hour away – which was helpful, given that I was expecting them around 16:00 and they didn’t show until 17:45. When Chappers strode into view on his own, I politely enquired what he’d done with Bernie. Turns out Bernie was a little way behind and ambled in about ten minutes later. Apparently Dave has ‘form’ for racing ahead toward the end of each walk – his excuse being he is reducing the amount of time before he can rest his feet! Apparently a lot of this particular walk has been on tarmac and both have suffered sore feet and joints as a result. To Be Fair; they have worked out that they’ve walked 80 miles so far since arriving in Ireland (not counting walks to the pub).
Back down to the N4 and our home from home with another uneventful journey. Dinner was another slow-cooked masterpiece by Bernie in the form of sausage casserole (a little hot for both my and Dave’s tastes, but we both finished it off with barely a hint of complaint!). As is now our routine, we let dinner go down and adjourned to the pub. Bernie had predicted it would be busy with it being Sunday evening and he wasn’t wrong.
Another view of Inishcrone