Last year I walked “The Way”, the La Compostela de Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago where St. James’ bones lay in the Cathedral, and on to Finisterre and the sea at the edge of the world. On the pilgrimage I gradually came to understand I love long distance walking and the simplicity of a pilgrim’s day. I met many Irish people which got me thinking about my upcoming trip in 2016 to Ireland. A few months after walking 1200 kilometers on The Camino I arrived in Ireland for a 3 month visit. My original plan was simply to be there for the 100 year anniversary of the Irish Easter Rebellion against the British Empire. Just that was a fantastic experience for me being of Irish descent and owning an Irish passport. I had always loved Irish history and was now experiencing it.
My incredible spiritual experience on the Camino caused me to seek a similar pilgrimage in Ireland. I found on the Irish website “ActiveMe” a long walk of 730 kilometers on the E8, European long distance trail. Dublin to the edge of Dursey Island off the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and then back to Killarney, Kerry. It was an Irish Camino.
The Irish people are amazing. They are the most friendly, hospitable people in the world. Nine of my Camino buddies from 2015 met me in Dublin. On April 24, several of us marched from the GPO a few kilometers to Glasnevin Cemetery where they were unveiling a new monument dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Rebellion. A magical day for me and to do this walk with fellow Camino pilgrims was quite special and moving. The picture below is me with some of my Irish Camino buddies in Los Arcos, Spain on the Camino; left to right, Fiontan Campbell, Padraigh Blaney, Darren Campbell, me, Enda Bracken, and Paddy Blaney who all met me in Dublin that first few days in Ireland.
A few days later, 3 of my Irish buddies, Maire1, Maire2, and the Millionairess met me in Marlay Park and accompanied me the first few hours. Maire2 was wearing her Camino shell, that many of the pilgrims to Santiago hang from their backpacks. It just happened to fall off and I picked it up off the ground to give it back to her and she instinctively said, “No, you keep it for your Irish Camino”. What great karma to start this 35 day walk.
The first leg of the Wicklow Way was rough. Cold, wet, wind, hailstones, sunshine, cloudy. What I came to find to be a typical Irish day. At the end of the Wicklow Way, another Camino buddy, John Nolan, picked me up in Clonegal and drove me back to Wexford and took me out for a meal and had a B&B reservation for me already paid for. He told me that if I tried to pay they would punch me(LOL). That night we stopped at a local pub for a pint and another Camino buddy, Mick, joined us. The 3 of us had last broken bread together in Muxia on the edge of the world in Spain and the very end of the The Camino. Below me and John and Mick enjoying our pints at The Undertakers Pub in Wexford:
The next day John drove me back so I could resume my Irish Camino on the E8 Long Distance Trail. Leg 2 is the South Leinster Way.
I walked on for 28 more days covering the 730 kilometers and growing more in love with Ireland than I could imagine. For 2 weeks after John left me I saw only one other walker, a Dutchman, doing the Coastal Way from Portage to Dublin. I eventually made it to Killarney and was shocked with all the Americans and other tourists there. I was grateful for the solitude of the Clonegal to Killarney stretch. And looked forward to the final leg; the Beara Way. Ran into some other walkers mostly Germans but it was a fabulous walk and the weather was brilliant as I completed the Beara Way Loop. The highlight was the edge of Ireland on Dursey Island. Pictured below are my home for a night on Dursey, followed by the sunset, and last my sleeping quarters. For a few hours that day and evening I was alone and had the sea, the sky, the birds, the sheep, and Ireland all to myself. MAGICAL!
This was the end of the E8 from Istanbul to Dursey, but I had only done the Ireland part. Perhaps some day I will walk to Istanbul. I knew I was not done so I walked on finishing the Beara Way in Kenmare. The next day though was beautiful not a cloud in the sky so instead of taking a bus to Killarney why not walk back the 28K. As I walked I came to the path below and it reminded me of the Camino. So I think of the next part of my 2000 mile walk. In late July after touring Ireland with Denise I will head to Le Puy, France and walk 730K to St. Jean Pied de Port and then 910K to Muxia and then backwards on the Portuguese Way a few more hundredK ending somewhere between Porto and Lisbon.
See you in October in Lisbon.