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?

Ormeau parkrun Belfast- squeezing it in before the flight home

For the final Friday of our Ireland trip we stayed in Belfast, happily close to a parkrun. We had to check out by 11am, and the parkruns in NI don’t begin until 9:30am either (something I kept checking on their websites), so it meant it was a bit tight for time. As the crow flies Ormeau park was less than a mile from the hotel, but as it was on the other side of the river it meant more like 1.5 miles away. Thankfully it was a straightforward run and we had time the evening before to walk a bit of the way (so I could see the bridge)- I did not want to get lost again!

I saw a few people in milestone tops walking in the same direction, but it turned out they were tourists so it was lucky I didn’t rely on them! I was very relieved to see the park sign.

The park itself was gorgeous. You can look on a map and see a city centre location and have in your mind a patch of grass surrounded by big buildings, but this was a real gem. It was really varied with woods filled with tall trees, some wide open spaces, play parks, little coffee vans, outdoor exercise machines- it had so much.

The course was two laps that differed- one was 3k and one was 2k. At times you could look through the trees and see people running further ahead on the course- I always like this type of course as it really feels like a community running event when you can see so many others.

One gross thing to mention was a guy that kept spitting on the course- even before Covid this was disgusting but now it’s even worse! Just bring a tissue if you need to… Anyway, it meant I sped up quite a bit for part of the run to get ahead of him.

It was much busier than the previous two parkruns, with 302 runners. However it didn’t feel busy, even at the start.

After getting scanned, I started to head back to the hotel with time for a quick shower and breakfast before checking out and driving to Dublin airport (it’s less than a 2 hour drive).

So, parkrun event 83 for me- gradually creeping towards the next big milestone!

Are there parkruns that have surprised you with their courses? 

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.

Poolbeg parkrun- lucky Ireland meant I somehow managed to get there

For the Easter holidays, the two of us had planned a trip to Ireland. Neither of us had ever been, and so we mapped out a road trip, beginning and ending in Dublin, but taking in a lot of the Ireland (NI and ROI). Andy is usually in charge of holiday itineraries, and with parkrun I try to manage to get to one if possible, but it doesn’t always happen and that’s fine. Happily he mentioned to me that every Saturday we would be somewhere with a parkrun- result! 3 more parkruns to visit!

We flew to Dublin on the Friday evening (which I found very stressful, having not flown for a couple of years, and finding the experience stressful pre-pandemic), and our flight was delayed taking off so we didn’t check into our hotel until gone midnight. In Ireland the parkruns don’t start until 9:30am, so it meant I had a bit more time in the morning. After my disaster going to Finsbury park (I went the wrong way out of the train station) I realised I needed to be more prepared, so I had written out instructions from our hotel to Poolbeg parkrun, the closest one to our hotel- around 4km away, so a nice warm up and cool down. I loaded up the map onto my phone, put in my headphones and headed off. Andy told me he had every confidence in me (clearly a mistake) and reminded me to look at my surroundings on the way so I would recognise the way back.  It was fairly straightforward- a lot of “go straight on”, so when the maps stopped talking to me in my ears I didn’t think anything of it at first. I kept turning around and looking behind me to see landmarks that could help me find my way back later. I had seen some of the landmarks on my piece of paper, and thought I might be parallel to the route I’d mapped out. However, after 2 miles I stopped and found out that despite getting the “welcome to Ireland” text, roaming was in fact not working, and I’d not thought to download the maps so they worked offline. I tried to head back the way I had some, but it was no use, I was around 2 miles from the parkrun, at around 9:10, and with no way to navigate there. I could have just run back to the hotel, but I really didn’t want to miss parkrun- being so near to one and with it planned in just seemed like such a waste.

I was actually aiming for bottom right of this map- where it says Irishtown. So yes, I was lost. Also, when I went to save this, the title “lost” was already taken. That’s saying something!

By some stroke of luck I ran past a queue of taxis, so then had a bit of a back and forwards (ask a taxi driver, “are you taking fares?”, no, but he is, ask him “do you take credit cards as I have no cash?”, no, but he does…), finally finding one who would take me. He was so friendly, and very amused that I had got lost running- it took a while for me to explain I was running to an organised run. He tried a couple of places as I could not load up the website to give instructions (and my paper instructions were no good to anybody), and then when we finally arrived the credit card machine wouldn’t work at first. It was by this point 9:30am and I was still half a mile from the start- I dashed out of the taxi and as I ran past some people walking asked them if they knew where the parkrun started. “Keep going to the end of this path and then turn left, but you’ve missed the start” thy told me, and I called back that hopefully I could catch up with the tail walker. As I rounded the corner I was so relieved to see a group of runners and high viz covered volunteers still stood around- the briefing was still going on! I hadn’t missed it!!!

It didn’t start until 9:40, so I had a chance to catch my breath and calm down (I really was panicked) and then I could enjoy the parkrun- my first in Ireland. It was really beautiful by the water- there was a big power station (or electricity factory as I called it), and the course ran around a small park, out and back along the bay and then through the park again.  The out and back part along the coast had a fairly steep hill on the out section, which you got to run back down again on the way back, so I took a few photos there- it was so pretty with the sun shining off the water, even on an overcast day.

It was a speedy one- I was 77th out of 84 finishers, and the tail walker finished in 42 minutes (obviously this could be different each week) so I was glad I didn’t start behind as it would have been hard to catch up!

At this point I thought that text messages were still working but the internet wasn’t (due to me receiving the welcome text) so I sent one to Andy telling him it started late so I’d be back later than expected, only of course that message didn’t send. I then had to somehow get back to our hotel….

I looked at my handwritten notes and tried to work them out in reverse- I could picture the map so knew I needed to keep the coast on my right and gradually head left and up, but basically I would run along for a bit, stop and ask someone “which way to the city centre please?” and then head off in the direction that I was pointed in. When I was closer to the centre I found a council worker in a high viz jacket and so I asked him for directions to our hotel, and he gave me excellent directions (and even made me repeat them so I didn’t get muddled)- I was so relieved to see some of the shops that I had spotted earlier on. That run ended up being 3.5 miles- you can see below that I didn’t take the most direct route (and went totally wrong once) but thankfully all the people I asked pointed me in the right direction and I made it back.

Andy was rather worried as I had estimated I would be back at around 10:30 but the late start combined with the longer run back meant it was nearly 11am by the time I got back. Time for a quick shower and then a walk to get some breakfast (delicious acai bowl)- on Friday we’d had a sandwich in the airport at around 6.30pm and that felt like a long time ago by this point!

So, more lessons learned (always download the map so it works offline….) but my 81st different parkrun visited, my 6th parkrun country, and another really enjoyable course.

Are you good at navigating? I have the worst sense of direction.

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!