Saturday 8 November 2014

Lough Boora Discovery Park

I’ve been meaning to get back to Lough Boora for a few years. I think I was last there sometime around 2004 or 2005 shortly after the sculpture trail opened. My memory of it was that it was an odd but very evocative use of a post industrial landscape. Since then it’s been updated quite significantly but it hasn’t lost its charm at all. There are now a number of way marked walks, fully paved cycle trails and a lot of really nice infrastructure. The discovery centre has a well maintained, secure parking lot which is sadly needed in many places these days, a nice restaurant, toilets and even a bike hire shop which is a really clever idea. There are a range of fully mapped and sign posted walks ranging from about 2.5km up to 20km. I covered two of them today and they were really well maintained. My only gripe would be that someone should double check the signs. It’s kind of hard to get really lost but it’s also confusing in parts. For example this Y junction has a map, that is not oriented to match what you are looking at, and no arrows to say which path to take for which route. It’s not that hard to figure out but it’s also not that hard just to be thorough with your way mark signs.

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Anyway, it’s a pretty minor complaint, on all other counts Lough Boora gets an easy 10/10 from me. These signs make me a very happy walker for example.

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I mostly followed the ~9km loop route that goes by the name “The Mesolithic Route” which heads through the sculpture park, then out west for a bit and then loops back around the southern side of the park.

As you leave the starting point at the car park and rest area one of the first things you come across is a pair of old Bord na Móna locomotives. Cute.

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You can never forget that this is all stripped bog land. Bord na Móna removed most of the peat from here quite some time back so it has had a chance to recover but you are never very far from the evidence that this was an industrial mining operation. When I’m here I can’t get the term “post apocalyptic” out of my head. Although to be fair I’m sure a real post-apocalyptic environment would be very different and not at all pleasant. Lough Boora is lovely by the way, I just like my apocalypses to be pretty I suppose. And I do think Bord na Móna are to be commended for doing this.

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The sculpture in the park is wonderful. My absolute favourite is “Sky Train” by Mike Bulfin. I’ve loved it since I first laid eyes on it and it never gets old.

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There are a lot of others though. These are some of the main ones. “Massive” is the general theme just in case you hadn’t realized. You can find out about he main pieces on the Lough Boora web site’s sculpture section.

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There’s plenty of nature. I wasn’t fast enough to catch the foxes that were dashing about but I did catch a heron, quite a lot of plant life and the fungi were thankfully not mobile and easy to photograph.

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It’s important not to forget that this is open expansive bog land and lakes. It’s lovely but it is flat, very, very flat.

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Sunday 19 October 2014

Bray to Greystones

Bray Head and the cliff top walk to Greystones seemed like a good idea after yesterday’s hike in Howth. The cats woke me up at “Oh my God, is that the time!??” O'clock so I was able to head out to Bray in time to see the sunrise. It was pretty but honestly, I’d have been better off throwing the cats out the window and getting back to sleep. Or maybe I should have brought them along and fed them to this dude.

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It was pleasant to be fair to the place, and there are a wide selection of walks. I wandered along the promenade for a while to let the light levels get up to a reasonable level and then headed for the top of the hill, taking the newly way-marked De Buitléar Way for a very bracing 4km loop up to the top and back down. It’s only about 180m climb but it’s pretty steep and definitely woke me up. It’s a nice walk but the full loop has some pretty rough and steep paths on the seaward side and there was a lot of mud and water on the paths. The view at the top is epic though and well worth the effort.

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When I got back down I headed out to Greystones along the cliff path. It’s a pretty easy walk for the most part, only a few sections are in any way steep but again there were quite a few muddy patches, and three or four spots where you needed good waterproof boots to avoid ending up with very wet feet. The first couple of km give you a really nice birds eye view of Victorian railway engineering at it’s best as the paths winds along about 50m above the railway line as it snakes along the coastline from Bray to Greystones.

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I think the last couple of km into Greystones are a bit dull but it’s good that the full walk is now a real path, it wasn’t the last time I was here. I have to admit that was probably close to 15 years ago though. Anyway it’s still a nice 12km round trip walk and Greystones is quite pretty itself and does offer a few nice spots to stop and have some food before heading back.

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Overall not a bad way to get in 21km before lunchtime.