The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Finally! A "walkabout" that we can't "complainabout"! And all it took was three tries. (As you may recall, our first walkabout had BJ and I, among other disasters, lost in the Burren with a 28 mile first day, no pubs and driving rain. And our second attempt had BJ sick in bed for 36 hours mid-way through an unreasonable Limerick to Dublin forced march.) This one went without a hitch.
Taking advantage of the new (for Delta and Worldspan) Dr. Martin Luther King holiday (after a late Saturday night at the Worldspan Holiday party!), BJ and I left Atlanta Sunday night (in Business Class), arriving at the Dublin airport around 1000 on Monday morning. Unlike last year's trip, we hit the ground this time without any real itinerary other than "let's head towards Drogheda", a point about 20 miles distant, as the crow flies.
At BJ's suggestion, we chose to go ahead and get some walking in on the first day, rather than taking public transport to our just-decided starting point, Malahide.
Both of the previous trips, we had bussed from the airport to our starting point, then had jet lag kick in and knock us out around 3pm (causing us to awaken the next morning several hours before the proprietor of our chosen lodging.) We chose Malahide because we had spent a night there several years earlier, on an Ireland driveabout, and knew that it had enough restaurants and pubs (and B&B's) to keep us busy...AND...it was 5 or 6 miles away from the airport. We changed clothes, bought money and a current B&B guide, and headed out from the airport around 11am Monday morning. We headed north on the N1 (a major highway that happened to have sidewalks all the way) to Swords, then headed east on...an R-road...(I don't remember the number...M's are the expressways, N's are the highways, R's are typically two lanes) that carried us into the seaside resort of Malahide. This walk totaled about 5 1/2 miles. We found a room at the first B&B that we stopped at (Somerton, run by Mary Sweeney...Excellent!), in the heart of town, dropped our packs and toured the town, the grocery store, the waterfront and several pubs. And finally, to bed at a reasonable hour for the first day (well...for us...probably 8:30pm, but it did get us adjusted very quickly).
Tuesday morning, after a "full Irish breakfast", we headed out. Did I mention the weather? This morning there was a touch of frost on the ground, with the temperature in the low thirties early, and the high thirties/low forties in the afternoons, but the skies were mostly clear, and no rain. That report describes the entire trip. Some days were more clear than others, but they were all perfect for a walking trip. Leaving Malahide, we skirted the Malahide Estuary, intending to make it to Lusk in the early afternoon, and overnight there (B&B availability in January being the limiting factor of target towns). A beautiful walk along the waterfront, and a short trip "off road" (on purpose! We weren't lost!), along a creek, brought us back to the N1, for a brief stint, until we could get back on an R-road. We got into Lusk much earlier than we thought we would (before noon), had a pint, got the map out, and performed a re-plan on the spot. We decided we would skip overnighting in Lusk, pass on walking out to the seaside town of Rush (lack of B&B's), and head straight for Skerries (where Monday night we thought we would be on Wednesday night).
Skerries is another seaside resort town, with plenty of B&B's, that BJ and I visited years earlier. We knew it would meet our requirements. About a mile out of Skerries, after perhaps 10 total miles today, a taxi stopped and offered us a ride the rest of the way ("Need a lift? It's free". We can't pass up free!) Tuesday night found us unable to stay at our first choice...a placed called O'Leary's, in the heart of town, with thatched roofs!! It was full, but the proprietress(?) walked us around the corner to her friend's place (The SailMakers, I believe...Lily is the owner. It's not Bord Failte registered, but it was very nice, and the cheapest accommodation we had for the entire trip) and we dropped bags and toured Skerries. (Most places in town were full, due to a widely publicized funeral on Wednesday...visions of our last walkabout, where I learned the Irish tradition of the family buying drinks for everybody that walks into the pub where the post-funeral wake is held...headache....gladly, for me, we would be gone before the funeral).
Wednesday morning, after a "full Irish breakfast" (sound familiar?), we continued northward. We walked on a R-road that ran along the coast, above the Irish Sea, towards Balbriggan, the only major town along our walk today. This was a really pretty walk, including several turn-outs overlooking the beach, with horseback riders galloping in the water.
Real picture-postcard sort of stuff. A quick stop in Balbriggan at noon (for a pint), and then we continued north (well...we started out south, in error, and had to backtrack about a half a mile...I misunderstood some directions...you know...those Irishers...they speak a foreign language...English.) We walked onward, back on the N1, which had shrunken to a lightly traveled two lane, still occasionally within sight of the ocean, to a little town called Gormantown. North from here would have been a long walk, with towns few and far between, so we jumped on a train, that took us in to our northerly destination, Drogheda.
After a 12 mile day (which would have been 11 had I understood spoken English), we were ready for a place to crash. There seem to be plenty of B&B's "near" Drogheda, but very few were close enough "in" for a couple of walkers without a car. After an unsuccessful attempt to secure a room at the neat little "Laurent Inn", we ended up staying at the bigger Hotel Westcourt. Nice, but pricier than the B&B's...but centrally located, which had become our deciding factor on Wednesday. Walking around Drogheda, we spotted these two adorable dogs waiting for their owner to come out of the store. The black one seemed to be in charge.
Thursday morning, uh, after yet another "FIB", we headed out of Drogheda, along an R-road, for what turned out to be probably the best walking day we have had in Ireland.
Our chosen route today had us walking 4 miles along the River Boyne, back to the coast.
Once at the coast, we left any and all pavement, and walked about 3 miles on a "waymarked trail", which wandered along the sea, through beautiful sand dunes, tall grass, sea oats and other neat beach things (that they keep you off of, here in the States).
The last 1/4 mile of this part of the walk, into Bettystown, had us walking in the dunes, between the sea, and a St. Andrews-looking golf course. Breathtaking.
After lunch and a pint in the Neptune Hotel bar, we completed today's walk with a mile or two to Laytown, where we again jumped a train back to Malahide. (We needed to be within striking distance of the Dublin Airport for a 10am flight out on Friday morning, so we chose to return to the Somerton.) Thursday night, back in Malahide, we revisited some of the places we'd sampled Monday night. A relaxing evening, including a before-dinner walk along the Seacoast Road and back.
Before heading to bed, we decided we would take the 8:20 bus back to the airport, rather than the 7:30. The 8:20 would certainly put us at the airport (only 5 walking miles away) in time for our 10am departure.
Friday morning, much to Ms. Sweeney's disappointment, we skipped the "FIB" (we didn't want to make her get up early enough to allow us to eat, and still make our 8:20 double-deck bus ride). The bus showed up reasonably on time (8:25), and got us back to the airport at 9:00. As we walked up to the short line at the ticket counter, to check in, an agent called out "Anyone here for the Atlanta flight?". They moved BJ and I in front of the 15 or 20 folks waiting to check in for the JFK flight at 10:55...(this is 9:00, remember), and checked us in, with a closing remark of "Don't delay. Gate B25. They're boarding now". We hurried out to the gatehouse, which was virtually empty, by now (everyone else was already on the plane), collected our boarding cards (not the last people to do so, but almost), boarded our much appreciated Business Class seats, and relaxed as the plane pushed back 40 minutes BEFORE scheduled departure time. Ten more minutes, and we'd have missed this one. A quick flight to Shannon, where we spent an hour (and all the rest of our Irish money) in Duty Free, and it was back to Atlanta. Tired but satisfied that we had finally "beaten" Ireland. Ireland 2 - Morrises 1.
Tony and BJ