Oisín's Irish Trail
by Cathleen Leonard
|In the summer of 2018 English Long Rider Cathleen Leonard and Romanian Long Rider Vlad Coman rode the length of Ireland.|
600 miles across from the southern most point in Ireland to the northern most point.
Note: we would have liked to spend more time exploring some more of the peninsulas in Cork and Kerry but either the weather was too wet and miserable to see any of the views or the roads were too busy so we didn’t attempt them. We had also planned to head west to Connemara and up into Ballycroy National Park when we left Mountshannon, but unfortunately due to the addition of a little one-eyed mule to the pack which slowed us down and due also to the fading light and colder weather, we rerouted in order to take a more direct course north.
03/08/2018 West Cork Equestrian Centre, Bandon to Tullineaskey Equestrian Centre, 17 miles
Mostly on quiet lanes but passed through Timoleague and Clonakilty.
04/08/2018 Tullineaskey Equestrian Centre to between Baltimore and Skibberreen, 25 miles
Took a long way round via small, quiet lanes in the hills to avoid main road, then, after being offered a stop with Jane Scully, we headed right through the middle of Skibberreen and down the main road towards Baltimore.
05/08/2018 and 06/08/2018 Baltimore
We rested with Jane Scully (fellow long rider Tracey Elliot-Reep also stayed here several years ago!)
07/08/2018 Skibberreen to Schull 17 miles
Dakota pulled a shoe. We waited for the farrier to arrive and then set off. Nice quiet roads most of the day avoiding N71 as much as possible. Through Ballydehob and down to Schull, using an old Butter Road/footpath, which luckily was passable with the horses!
08/08/2018 Schull to Mizen Head 19 miles
Stunning scenery along some reasonably quite back roads. The weather was glorious!
09/08/2018 Mizen Head to Durrus 18 miles
Found a lovely scenic route along the coast with stunning views across to the Sheepshead Peninsula and the Bearah Peninsula beyond.
10/08/2018 Durrus to Bantry 13 miles
Quiet mountain roads for most of the way, then right through the centre of Bantry where we stopped to get some spare reins. Out along the busy N71 at rush hour for a few miles until we reached our destination.
11/08/2018 Bantry to Kilgarvan 21 miles
Wet and misty day over the mountains. Shame about the weather, I think the views would have been amazing!
12/08/2018 Kilgarvan to the Black Valley 22 miles
Back roads most of the way to to Kenmare and then on to Moll’s Gap, but a few miles on the N71 couldn’t be avoided. After a false lead for somewhere to stay well off route towards Killarney National Park, we ended up in the Black Valley for the night.
13/08/2018 The Black Valley to Castlemaine 22 miles
Rode over the Gap of Dunloe, where the pony and trap drivers at Kate Kearney’s Cottage helped us find somewhere to stop for the night and put us onto a good farrier for Oisín. We headed off away from the mountains across flat country towards the Dingle peninsula.
14/08/2018 Castlemaine to Inch 8.5 miles
All busy main road! When we had set up camp we took the horses onto the beach for a good gallop and their first introduction to the sea!
15/08/2018 Inch to Dingle 15 miles
More long stretches on the main road. Dakota felt off on one of his hind legs by the end of the day.
16/08/2018 and 17/08/2018 Dingle
We rested at the Dingle Camphill Community for a day to make sure Dakota wasn’t going lame.
18/08/2018 Dingle to somewhere between Cloghane and Castlegregory 13 miles
Went over the Connor Pass. It was so misty we could barely see a hundred yards and missed all the views!
19/08/2018 On towards Tralee 17 miles
More than half the day was spent riding on a lovely sandy beach between Castlegregory and Derrymore, then a few miles on the main road again before we reached our stop.
20/08/2018 Tralee to Knocknagoshel 20 miles
Through town. Stopped at Lidls to restock on food and at Halfords for gas where we were nearly escorted off the premises by an over-zealous security guard.
21/08/2018 Knocknagoshel to Monagea 20 miles
All road work. Mostly avoiding main roads. A kind family let us camp in their garden and the horses had the field beyond.
22/08/2018 Monagea to Crecora 23 miles
All road work. Heavy traffic with a lot of big lorries all the way to Croom.
23/08/2018 Crecora the Broadford 19 miles
Went straight through the middle of Limerick and out on a busy R-road to Broadford. Saw some mules in a field and made a few enquiries.
24/08/2018 Broadford to Mountshannon 16 miles
Bought a barely handled mule with one eye. Called him Mícheál. Gave him a crash course in traffic and being led over to my mum’s place.
25/08/2018 – 07/09/2018 Mountshannon
I rested at mum’s for two weeks and worked on handling Mícheál while Vlad went back to Cornwall to do some work.
08/09/2018 Mountshannon to Lough Grainey 10 miles
Nice easy day over the mountains and bog on rough tracks. Mícheál wasn’t keen on being led off the horses so I walked with him most of the way.
09/09/2018 Lough Grainey to Peterswell 14 miles
Took best part of 3 hours to catch Mícheál. He still didn’t lead well off the horses so one of us walked with him. Tethered him when we found somewhere to stop to prevent repeats of the morning.
10/09/2018 Peterswell to Shandrum, Peterswell 4 miles (1 mile in right direction, and 3 spent back tracking)
It was raining and we were fed up. Thought maybe bringing Mícheál was a mistake. Took a kind lady up on her offer of a cup of tea and ended up stopping there for the night. She said we could leave the mule there with her goat and pick him up when we’d finished the ride. It was tempting
11/09/2018 Peterswell to Carrabane 19 miles
Mostly followed quiet roads, me leading the mule. He’d been easier to catch that morning with the threat of being left behind. It was getting dark and we hadn’t found anywhere to stop. Finally met a sheep farmer who directed us a mile back to his barns for the night.
12/09/2018 Carrabane to Skehana 15 miles
We had trouble finding somewhere to stop. People seemed wary of us. Eventually found a kind farmer who let us sleep in his barns and the horses had an enormous field of rich grass.
13/09/2018 Skehana to Mountbellew 12 miles
We struggled to find anyone to ask about somewhere to camp. Finally, after asking a few people and going backwards and forwards along a very busy road, we found a lovely couple who let us sleep in their hay barn while the equines enjoyed some good grass.
14/09/2018 Skehana to Creggs 11 miles
Nice tracks across the bog to Tully Village and then quiet lanes most of the way to Creggs. Oisín took fright at a cyclist and Dakota narrowly missed hitting a car when he bolted to keep with his friend. Mícheál did not react. We found a stable to sleep in in the village.
15/09/2018 Creggs to Ballynaheglish 11 miles
The farrier came to shoe Dakota so we set off late. We had a few offers of somewhere to stop early on in the day. When it was time to look for a stopping place, we asked several people and had no luck until a young couple living in an old school house said we could let the horses graze their front field and we could camp on the lawn.
We had a day off helping Brock and Edel with their poly-tunnel and letting the horses make the most of the lush grass.
17/09/2018 Ballynaheglish to Elphin 14 miles
Quiet roads crossing flat, boggy marshland for most of the day. Beyond Elphin we managed to find a dairy farmer who said we could let the horses graze the lawn in front of an abandoned house there. There was a storm coming in so we set up our tent in an empty shed.
18/09/2018 Elphin to Drumshanbo 17 miles
Countryside became more hilly and beautiful. A kind farmer offered us a spot to camp off the beaten track, by the river Shannon, way down through a few acres of forestry.
A big storm blew in during the night, the tail end of a hurricane from the USA. We were in a relatively sheltered spot so stayed put for the day. Up away from the river lots of trees had blown down in the road and there were power cuts.
20/09/2018 Drumshanbo to near Ballinagleragh 9 miles
We stopped in town for supplies and got chatting to the locals. Off along lovely quiet mountain roads that ran parallel to the main road along Lough Allen. We found a lovely family who organised us a field for the horses and barn to pitch the tent in. They also brought us dinner! We really noticed how cold it had become at night!
21/09/2018 Ballinagleragh to near Glenfarne 13 miles
Nice going, even the main roads were quiet. Stopped to find gas in Dowra and discovered that Mícheál likes salt and vinegar crisps! On over mountain roads. Found a kind woman from Cornwall who let us camp in her barn and who even gave us a hot shower!
22/09/2018 Glenfarne to Rossinver 12 miles
Main roads were quiet. In Kiltyclogher a woman recommended we visit renown local fiddle player, Ben Lennon. We diverted our route towards Rossinver and found a farm near Rossinver where we could set up camp before going to meet Ben and his son Maurice.
23/09/2018 Rossinver to near Leggs 14 miles
Crossed into Northern Ireland at Garrison and followed as many quiet lanes as we could. It was getting late when a jogger with a London accent invited us back to his for the night. We slept in the shed. It was freezing cold!
24/09/2018 Leggs to somewhere between Mallaghduff and Killeter 11 miles
Set off late because the family were so lovely. Steady going through beautiful countryside weaving backwards and forwards across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It was getting late and we hadn’t found anywhere to stop when two people kindly let us put the horses into their overgrown garden and offered us the spare room.
25/09/2018 on to somewhere between Killeter and Killygordon 11 miles
It was quite windy. Going was slow. Found a nice farmer who didn’t hesitate to offer us the use of his empty sheep shed.
26/09/2018 on to Raphoe 13 miles
We realised we were nearing the end of the journey and started trying to work out how we were going to get back to Cornwall.
A kind family invited us into their house and let us sleep in their spare room.
27/09/2018 Raphoe to Sappagh 18 miles
Uneventful going across increasingly mountainous, barren landscape. A man who owned a quarry offered us the use of his old tack room for the night which kept the chill off!
28/09/2018 Sappagh to Dumfries 12.5 miles
We detoured and went over the mountain pass towards Buncrana, then followed back roads to Dumfries where a nice man let us camp outside his house for the night and the animals grazed with a field of curious cows.
29/09/2018 Dumfries to Carndonagh 10 miles
Over the mountain pass to Carndonagh. We stopped for supplies outside a shop and several people came to chat. Among them Toni, who helped us find a field for the horses and invited us back to her house for a shower, hot meal and offered us her eldest son’s bedroom for the night.
30/09/2018 Carndonagh to Malin Head and back to Carndonagh 24 miles
We left Mícheál in the field with a big gypsy cob mare for company and rode the horses the last leg of the journey to Malin Head. It was very windy!
01/10/2018 – 08/10/2018
We ended up staying with Toni in Carndonagh for a week while we tried to organise a way to get home and to get Mícheál’s passport to us ready
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