Ireland trip

In brief, our Ireland itinerary was as follows:

Friday night- fly to Dublin

Stay in Dublin until the Monday

Monday- collect the hire care and drive to Kilkenny.

Tuesday – drive to Waterford

Wednesday drive to Killarney, where we stayed until Sunday

Sunday- to Clare

Monday- to Galway for 2 nights

Wednesday to Westport

Thursday to Derry

Friday to Belfast (via Giant’s Causeway)

Saturday drive from Belfast to Dublin to fly home

First up, Ireland is absolutely beautiful. I’d never been (not even a weekend trip to Dublin which seems crazy given how close it is) and of course knew it as the Emerald Isle but there was gorgeous stunning scenery at every turn. We expected rain so were pleasantly surprised with lots of blue skies, and only one day of rain in the whole two weeks.

Loved spotting the green postboxes of course

I took my running bits with me, as I was aiming (and managed) to visit 3 parkruns, but I did a few other runs here and there, particularly in Killarney as we were there for a few days and it had easy running routes close by.

So, for a little more detail, read on…

Poolbeg parkrun

Dublin was wonderful and I would head back again in a heartbeat. After my parkrun near-disaster at Poolbeg, the rest of the time was spent walking around the city, going to the big library there to see the Book of Kells and the amazing collection of books, walking by the river, going to the Guinness factory, walking in the parks and enjoying lots of food (they have a Leon there, and one night we treated ourselves to a Wagamama in the restaurant rather than a takeaway). Through the excellent Happy Cow app (amazing for finding veggie and vegan places when travelling) we found The Rolling Doughnut who made amazing vegan doughnuts, and a few places that did delicious acai bowls so breakfast and snacks were sorted too! I even found a café that did a London Fog (usually only find them in Canada) so I was very happy!

On our drive from Dublin to Kilkenny (South Park anyone? Or just me?) we stopped at a big house and gardens for a walk around, and also stopped at Ireland’s tallest waterfall which was very impressive, green and lush.

Kilkenny itself was a pretty town with a castle (there were castles pretty much everywhere in Ireland) and a park- the map to the park had the parkrun start and route on there which I was super impressed with. We were not there on a Saturday but enjoyed a walk around the park in the morning before we had to leave.

On our drive to Waterford we stopped at another castle to have a look around, and then Waterford itself was very interesting as it had a history of Viking invasions.

On our drive to Killarney we stopped off in Cork to break up the journey and stretch our legs. The traffic was a nightmare as the road we needed to the car park turned out to be closed, but once we found somewhere to park and had a wander the iced chai we found made up for it.

Up until this point we’d stayed in hotels, but we had booked an Air BnB for the next few nights so we could relax a bit more. I discovered some nice running routes (the artwork above was all along the wall of an alleyway), we drove around the Ring of Kerry for some stunning views including white sandy beaches, and one day we hired bikes and cycled into the national park (as cars aren’t allowed on the roads there).

Chai latte, sunset views from our Air BnB, riding the bike through the national park

The Star Wars island in my selfie- can you see a porg?

After parkrun on Saturday we walked 2 miles up a mountain to see the most stunning views across the lakes and national park. I absolutely loved it there. We watched Death on the Nile in the evening as we needed to chill out and rest our legs after all that walking.

Up the mountain and very happy

On our drive to Clare we stopped off in Limerick to get some lunch, and then headed to the cliffs, which were phenomenally windy- I was worried my phone would blow away if I took a photo!

Awesome cinnamon rolls from a vegan deli which sadly has now closed, plus vegan pancakes from the Lighthouse Café 

Galway was a really lively place to stay for a couple of days, and perfect for vegans as there were loads of little independent places. I think I visited the Lighthouse Café each day, for cake, for a chai latte, for brunch and even for a sandwich to take with us on our journey the day we left. One of the days was when it rained most of the day- we had a walk by the coast which was lovely, and even saw a dolphin out in the harbour, and it was only drizzly rain so not too bad.

The drive from Galway to Westport was like driving through the Scottish highlands- beautiful lochs and heather covered mountains, until we reached the coast and then it was blue skies and the sea stretching as far as you could see.

Derry scenes- Guildhall, Derry Girls mural, views across the city to see all of the murals and the peace bridge

Having watched the new series of Derry Girls that week, it was exciting to be heading into Derry- the cast had been at that mural on the launch day. I didn’t know what to expect- growing up in the 90’s meant lots of scary news coming from Northern Ireland, and being there felt a bit like Berlin- with a difficult past but with that past being acknowledged if that makes sense. We walked around the city walls (around 2-3K I think) and it had information boards at regular intervals to find out more about the city. We also walked into the Guildhall which had the most stunning stained glass windows (this had been mentioned on the Derry Girls podcast as a location for a future episode, so I am keeping my eyes peeled for that).

Our hotel had great vegan options so we ate there for dinner in the end, but of course found a vegan café to get some takeaway cake for later.

Then we were up early to get up to our booking at the Giant’s Causeway. It’s National Trust so if you are members you can get in for free, but be warned, you need to book in advance! It was amazing to see the rock formations, but a little strange to see people clambering all over them. I would have thought they would be more protected?

My two souvenirs- a Dublin mug and pebble art from Giant’s Causeway.

And finally we arrived in Belfast for the afternoon/evening. The city hall was lit up in rainbow colours (and of course we found a vegan doughnut) and we walked over to the river so I knew where I’d be heading for parkrun in the morning.

It was great to bookend the holiday with another parkrun, and the timing was perfect as I just had time to get back to the hotel and shower before we had to check out and drive back to Dublin.

All in all, a pretty perfect holiday.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Do you like road trip holidays?

Killarney parkrun Ireland

For the middle Saturday of our Ireland trip we had a fab Air B’n’B in Killarney (staying from the Wednesday to Sunday) so I had plenty of time to figure out where the parkrun was. The parkrun is located in the grounds of Killarney House, right in the centre of the town. We were staying 2 miles from the centre, but a very easy route (straight down to the main road for about 3/4 of a mile, then along the main road until the park entrance) and I’d run there earlier in the week to check. I left with plenty of time and arrived with time to take photos, hear the run briefing and soak up the atmosphere.

I saw deer in the field on the way to parkrun!

The weather was gorgeous. Bright blue skies, a little breezy and perfect running weather. I wore a long sleeved top over my t-shirt and found a bench to leave it on during parkrun. The parkrun was just so scenic too with views of the mountains surrounding it.

It was a perfect example of a small but perfectly formed parkrun- 126 runners on average- the week I was there they had lots of people from the Cork & Kerry Sanctuary Runners- they posed for a team photo and had a shout out at the start. There were friendly marshals on the way around, and the run report was the most detailed that I’d read– I was included in a list of shout outs (from the club with the longest name!) and they even listed the total number of parkruns that I’d been to. Very detailed.

It was just over 2 laps as hopefully you can see in the map- very simple to follow. The grounds were totally flat and you just had lovely views whichever way you were facing. It was varied, with an avenue of cherry trees to run through, some more open fields and a shaded path near the edge of the park.

The bottom two photos were from their facebook page- the person doing the run report had even worked out a picture to link with the text about my running club which was very impressive!

I couldn’t hang around at the end as it was Andy’s birthday (the Grand Prix qualifying was on so happily he was fine with me heading out to parkrun) and we had plans for the afternoon. I ran the two miles back as a cooldown (may have walked up the steep hill to our cottage) before we got on with the rest of our day.

We drove to nearby carpark and then hiked 2 miles uphill on a mixture of rocky paths and boardwalks with quite a few fake summits- thankfully to be rewarded with the most amazing views of the lake. We had to rest for a while at the top before going back down as some of it was quite steep (a little scrambling on rocks here and there) and the 7 miles run from earlier had tired me out a bit!

So there we go- my 82nd different parkrun venue.

Do you like to visit parkruns while you are on holiday? I know I am lucky as there are lots close to me (within an hour say) but a lot of my touring has been if I’ve been somewhere else for the weekend and have been to the closest one- all of those are adding up. It doesn’t always work out- last year in Scotland we were there when they restarted, but the closest one was over an hour away and it just didn’t fit with our plans (we had to check out that day and head in the opposite direction to where the nearest one was) so I had to skip parkrun that week.

Stevenage parkrun, vegan goodies and sunrises for morning runs

Recently we needed to pop to the garden centre, and went to the little farm shop that is next to it to have a mooch- I was quite excited to give the vegan lemon curd a go (I love lemon curd on a toasted hot cross bun) and the chai drink too. The March tea club had another adorable postcard (they are all so good at the moment) and of course some fab themed tea including Hot Cross Bun tea.

I also got these Oggs millionaire bites in my latest vegan box- again, so delicious. But the best news was that the mornings are now light enough to go for a run around the fields instead of sticking to streets! (This only lasted until the clocks went forwards, but will be back to being light again soon). I just love running around the fields and through the woods, hearing the birds and being away from traffic.

A happy face in the woods and some beautiful sunrises!

It feels like such a treat to be around to view the sunrise- because it’s so quiet in the morning it feels like not many people see them.

I was up early one morning (not a run day) and decided to head out for a walk as I could not sleep.  It was a frosty clear morning so again I was treated to wonderful views. I was meant to be getting my hair cut so it was a pre-haircut photo, only the cut ended up being postponed.

On the Saturday, Dad had asked me to pick him up and take him to Stevenage as he had to get the train from there later, so of course I was happy to oblige. We had a wonderful morning at Stevenage- the weather was again glorious and it was fantastic to be out enjoying the sunshine. After we went and got breakfast from the café and sat outside on the terrace looking out over the water. Such a good start to the weekend. I dropped him at the station and then headed home, where Andy had ordered Crosstown doughnuts for the weekend. After some work, I headed out for my haircut, and it was so warm I got a smoothie on the way back home. We get a drink from Caffe Nero each week via Vitality, and they have recently included Innocent smoothies, which I would prefer over their barista fruit drinks (not quite sure what they are made with?). I am always a bit suspicious of spirulina as I tried some once and it tasted so fishy, but luckily this only had a small amount and I could not taste it.

The “green juice” did make me think of The Dropout (the series about the Theranos company)- but I promise that’s not why I had it!

Baking and back to the 20/20 route

A couple of years ago, WGC created a 20km circular route around the city, to mark the centenary. In the first lockdown I started to explore the paths and eventually joined them all up, and often used part of it as a running route. However, the parts close to me are quite muddy so I’ve not been on them during the winter at all.

On the Sunday following my Finsbury Park trip, I decided to rectify that and head out on part of the route. It was a beautiful sunny day and most of the paths were fine (a few small muddy patches here or there, but no need for trail shoes). I had forgotten quite how hilly it is though! I don’t think there’s a good way to run it, but I tend to run anti-clockwise as I think the hills are slightly less steep in that direction.

I enjoyed most of it, although when I was running though some fields I kept hearing shots (like bird scarers but more frequent) and realised I must have been near a clay pigeon shooting range or something, which made it not very relaxing.  Also, near the end I had one not very nice dog encounter (and I did pass lots of other dogs that were either on leads or their owners distracted them while I ran past). I was running down a path and a dog raced over to me, barking. The owner was way back and not paying much attention. I stood still and it growled as it got closer and then sort of shoulder barged into my leg- it was very strange. I called to the owner to control his dog, and he raised his hands and laughed in a sarcastic way, saying “she’s not usually like that”. I did tell him that it didn’t matter if she wasn’t normally like that, but she just really hurt me (my knee sort of twisted and is still a bit sore a few weeks later) and she should be on a lead if she can’t be safe around others. Honestly, I know it’s a small minority of dog owners but they really impact negatively on my impression of dog owners.

Anyway, the rest of the run was good. Once home it was time for an amazing cinnamon bun (we’d picked it up on the way back from the station the day before) and then time to get on with some baking. I hadn’t baked for ages and really fancied it- I made bourbon biscuit tiffin from the Slice of Sunshine blog, and it was very tasty indeed.

After the usual weekend errands we settled down for a movie- Turning Red, which I really enjoyed. It reminded me a lot of Studio Ghibli films- not just the panda being like Totoro but the style of music too.

Finsbury Park parkrun

On the 12th March I took myself on a little solo tourist trip. Dad was away, so I could either go to Panshanger, or venture further afield.   I had seen that the Vegan Runners were doing a takeover a Finsbury Park parkrun, and it is fairly near to me but I’ve never been, so I decided I would head there. It’s on the same train line from Welwyn Garden City, although the train aren’t that frequent (2 or 3 an hour), so I had to be prepared.

I was at the station just before 8am and arrived at Finsbury Park station at around 8.20am. Plenty of time, and I’d allowed time in case of delays and cancellations etc. It turned out to be very lucky indeed, because I first got lost in the train station (there are two exits and I tried to go out of the underground exit and so my ticket didn’t work- I had to go back under the tunnel and out of the over ground exit), and then once out I got totally confused about the direction, and turned right rather than left. After walking for a bit and seeing no park (on the map the park is right next to the station), I did what any sensible person would do, and first put on my Garmin to track my run, and then looked on maps on my phone to see where I was. Yup, the wrong direction totally.

Once I was pointed in the correct direction, it didn’t take long to find the park, but I am glad that I didn’t get the train that was meant to arrive at 8.45 as I would have been panicking at that point.

The park had huge wide paved roads, and was filled with runners going in all directions. I was not quite sure where the start was, so wandered around taking photos until I saw a big group of people gathering. There were lots of people with the Vegan Runners vests and tops and buffs, and most of the volunteer roles had been filled by the club. I was on the lookout for Ed Miliband as I hear he often does this parkrun, but no joy this week.

The new runners briefing (which I think is soon going to be called the “welcome” which I really like) was super- 2 laps, and a hill- simple.

Then we walked to the start and the main briefing was given. The RD was a vegan and gave a few wry comments about how poor vegans are all malnourished and how he hoped some of them would make it to the finish line…

And then we were off! It seemed very busy- possibly the busiest one I’ve been to since lockdown (over 500 runners) but it was well spread out so it felt fine in that respect.  There were a few hills- one was OK but the second of each lap was much tougher. All the cheerful marshals helped of course! As I was coming up to finish my first lap, the leader raced past on his second, and I saw later in the run report that he had broken the course record in 14:58- what an amazing time!

I really enjoyed visiting there, and when I looked at my results later I realised that it was my 80th different parkrun event- 4/5 of a Cowell! I love going to parkrun with my dad (and brother when he comes along), and of course the fab OH ladies, but sometimes it is nice to take yourself off and do something on your own. It also made me realise that I need to do a bit of prep before my next parkrun tourism as I cannot just rely on getting my phone out once I am already lost- I need to look at the directions properly in advance!

Post run, the lake before the run, mid run photo and finish token

I had a while before my train so took my time heading back to the station, and popped into Pret to get a croissant for breakfast (when in Rome…). I had looked up the train times and there were 2 around 10am, one was a slow train which departed first but got home a few minutes after the fast train. I nearly got on the slow train but when they announced the stations I didn’t hear WGC- turned out it was stopping before then, so it was lucky that I listened to the announcements and didn’t just rely on the train times that I’d looked up.

Andy walked to meet me in town, and so by the time we’d walked back and I’d had a shower it was quite a late breakfast, watching the latest With Me Now vlog as is now tradition for Saturdays.

Do you like to tour alone or with others? How are you with directions?