Eachtra aisling Éireannach means an Irish dream adventure. That’s an apt description of the trip I recently completed. Here’s how it came about:
Almost two years ago I began to develop the notion of doing a half marathon overseas. I’d participated (by walking) in several relatively local half marathon events (as well as Bay to Breakers), and I thought it would be interesting to participate in a half marathon in a more exotic location. Part of the experience, in my mind, would be to stay after the half marathon for some sightseeing and perhaps some hiking. Eventually I decided to sign up for the 2014 Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Dublin, Ireland. I’ve just returned – and it was, indeed, a dream adventure!
When I began planning my trip, a friend suggested going up to the north coast to see the Giant’s Causeway, one of the top sightseeing destinations in Northern Ireland. As I did more research I learned about several interesting-sounding hiking trails not far away. Soon I had the following general itinerary planned:
I would arrive in Dublin 2 days before the half marathon – enough time, I hoped, to adjust to the 8-hour time change and do a bit of sightseeing. For the day after the half marathon I signed up for a day excursion to a Neolithic site called Newgrange, which is part of a larger complex called Brú na Bóinne. After the tour I would take the train to Belfast, overnight there, and continue to the small resort town of Ballycastle, where I would headquarter for 6 days of hiking on the Coastal Causeway Walk, the Moyle Way, and Rathlin Island. Then I would return to Belfast, hopefully with time for one final short hike near Belfast Castle before returning to the Bay Area.
The map gives a geographic overview. Dublin and Belfast, both on the east coast, are shown with stars, as capitals of Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively. Near the top right is a small boomerang-shaped island, which is Rathlin, just a few miles from Ballycastle.
There were some notable highlights for the trip:
- People were friendly and helpful. If I asked a question, or even looked confused or lost, someone would be happy to offer information
- Ireland really is as green as its reputation! This is clearly due to the frequent rain (the cover photo for this post is from an umbrella that I couldn’t resist purchasing)
- By serendipity I met up with two couples in town for the half marathon, and we ended up carpooling to/from the event, warming up together, and waiting for each other at the finish – a truly special part of the event
- The day of the half marathon was sunny and dry
- The places I’d decided to visit were interesting and beautiful
- In particular, the coastal scenery was stunning
- Each day I got more proficient at keeping myself and my gear dry, and at way-finding on the trails
By the numbers: Here is a summary of my walking and hiking during the 12 days I was in Ireland and Northern Ireland. As is my usual practice, I carried a GPS to track my walking/hiking route and distance. When I added everything up, I was a bit startled to see that I’d covered 130 miles!
I plan to post write-ups of my adventures, so stay tuned!