A NEW book that details the best walks in Ireland has named two Donegal routes among the best in the country.
Tipperary mountaineer and author John G O’Dwyer has just launched his latest book entitled ‘50 Best Irish Walks – Easy to Moderate’.
Readers may be familiar with the author’s writing from his regular column in the Irish Times. A keen hillwalker and rock climber, he has almost 30 years experience leading hillwalking and mountain-climbing groups in Ireland, the UK, Europe and Africa.
Horn Head and Glencolumbkille to Port Loop are the two Donegal trails to make it into this pocket-sized volume.
The collection ranges from easy to moderate walks taking anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 hours to complete and they are accompanied by beautiful photographs of the stunning Irish landscape.
He begins and finishes his tour of Horn Head at Croaghnamaddy and advises walkers that it is a “moderate standard walk, with little in the way of navigational difficulties. Nevertheless, constant vigilance is required when walking above exposed and windy coastal cliffs”.
Describing the scenery he says: “The heathery terrain was tedious and uneven in places, but stunning views of the rugged Donegal coastline provided adequate compensation. To the west, Tory Island seemed postage-stamp miniature amid the unrelieved emptiness of the great blue ocean. Upon reaching the coastline, I was immediately bathed in sunshine and found myself standing above forbidding cliffs that toppled unpredictably to the eye-watering whiteness of the booming surf below.
He continues: “Alone, with just a gently whispering wind for company, I sat down to take in the spectacle of this most elemental of shorelines. To the south, the hydra-headed coast reminded me of the sublime tree sisters on the Dingle Peninsula, while northwards the sea had ground out great fingery bays that meandered lazily into Donegal’s wildest heartlands.”
After his 8km trek John reflects: “Like most people who come here, I left Horn Head feeling happier and with more contented thoughts.”
Further south the Thurles native takes on the longer 14km Glencolmbkille to Port Loop. Describing the suitability for walkers he says: “rough underfoot conditions in places demand sturdy footwear while a full set of protective clothing is required to cope with the high, exposed landscape. In mist, navigational skills are required on Beefan and Garveross mountains.
“If ‘a place apart’ can survive in a globalised world this sequestered glen ticks the right boxes. Startlingly green, while surrounded by sombre hills, it is easy to see why St Columbkille chose it for a monastic site, since it has contemplation and seclusion writ large on its weathered face.”
He provides some history of the area and talks of the bustling tourism hotspots along the way.
“I had heard of the magnificent Sturrell Ridge before, but I was still astonished by the scale of it: The great fang of vertiginous white rock trusting imperiously into a turbulent ocean. Transfixed by the vista, I stood for a while in this wildest of places before reluctantly continuing downhill by the coastline.”
As well as Donegal John brings the reader on a journey across the country, north and south, taking in what he believes are must see routes for avid walkers.
‘50 Best Irish Walks – Easy to Moderate’ has been published by Currach Books and is available in bookshops now.