I’ve written a few posts about my home county recently and hope it’s peaked your curiosity to come and visit the hills and villages that surround us? We spent a lovely couple of weeks looking around gardens at the Garden Festival which was quickly followed by a staycation where Mr G and I explored the Carlow hills and rivers, opening our minds to its potential as an eco-destination. Then I helped to put a group of bloggers together for the recent Taste of Carlow festival where we met several local food producers and visited a commercial fruit farm. For now I’m continuing on with the outdoor lifestyle theme and sharing the news about the Carlow Autumn Walking Festival that will be taking place here soon.
We’ve always considered ourselves fairly fit yet like many our age, as lovers of good, wholesome food Mr G and I have an ongoing battle with the bulges (me more so than himself!). As the years have advanced, it seems to have become increasingly more difficult to lose the wobbly bits so I’ve tried different activities to keep the weight in check. From the local fitness classes and swimming pool to running and boot camps, I’ve tried several forms of exercise.
More recently I’ve doned the lycra and have been cycling around the hills with Mr G and my neighbouring friend Michele, whizzing down the hills, through the forestry then slowly panting our way back up again to our homes, red-faced and hot, and not in a ‘hot’ way that lycra sometimes suggests 😉 However, throughout it all, walking has remained the constant. It’s free, it can be done any time and in any place, and walking for pleasure is a wonderfully grounding way of keeping the mind sane in this slightly mad and busy world.
I’ve seen similar leaflets in previous years to the one above for the local Autumn Walking Festival but have never picked one up before now. If I had, I’d have seen that walking festivals include something for anyone like me with an interest in outdoor activities, and this year’s Carlow Autumn Walking Festival is no exception.
From beginners to the super fit, 23 walking activities have been planned over the weekend 3rd to 5th October 2014 as well as other complimentary activities. For anyone not living close by, accommodation deals have been negotiated by Carlow Tourism that include packed lunches for walkers. There will also be a traditional Irish music session in O’Sheas pub and hardware store in Borris.
The walks have been categorised to help us choose the best ones for our abilities. They include:
Five category A Yellow walks (including an A++ one that’s for eight hours, 33km and a 734m climb) which are for very experienced walkers. There’s a limit of 15 people allowed on this walk.
Twelve category B Blue walks (including a B+ walk that’s for 5 hours, 15.5km with a 735m climb) for experienced hillwalkers and a maximum limit of 20 people.
Six walks for leisure/regular walkers where there are no limits on numbers.
The walks range from between €10 to €20 which covers the cost of experienced guides (up to four on each walk), maps of each route and sandwiches/refreshments at the end of each route as well as transport to start points in some cases.
I won’t list all the trails, some of which sound quite spectacular and something to strive towards and others that sound just plain
exhausting lovely. There’s a link to the online brochure here and you can book online here once you’ve decided if or which walk appeals to you. There are however, a few themed walks that caught my eye that you might be interested in as well as other complementary outdoor activities:
Introduction to Hillwalking
First of all, Walk 16 has been included in the programme to introduce people to hill walking. This is a great opportunity to gain an insight into the skills required for hill walking and coping with difficult situations, something Scouting Ireland cover very well but for anyone not involved in scouting, a skill you may have missed out on and would like to learn more about.
The walk covers topics such as first aid, navigation, emergencies, gear requirements, the environment and Mountain Rescue and when to call it. It’s not a formal course and basic walking gear will be required. The cost is €16.00 and includes transport to the start of the walk.
A Walk Through Time
If you’re interested in the historical aspects of Ireland and Carlow in particular, Walk 20, graded B for the more experienced walkers, is a four to five-hour mountain walk that will explore the history and archaeology of the Blackstairs Mountain area.
Artifcats that can be seen include standing stones, ancient rock art, dolmens, old settlements and aircraft crash site! Cost €15 and places limited.
Blackstairs Eco Trails
A Walk on the Wildside with Mary White, environmentalist and walking enthusiast, will include foraging for delicious edible greens and fungi, learning about the native trees and mammals around the area, identifying wild herbs and checking out the flora and fauna of Kilbrannish Woods. This is a two-hour C graded leisurely walk, costing €10.00 which includes a bus to the woods and back with a walking distance of 7.5km.
Walking with Wildway Adventures
Green Walk 11, a two-hour leisurely walk with Una Halpin from Wildway Adventures. The 6km stroll will begin at Clashgranny Lock and take in the trees, plants and insect life along the Barrow Way and through the Borris House Estate, ancestral home of the ancient Kings of Leinster, the MacMurrough Kavanaghs. A bus will take walkers to the start point and the cost is €10.00.
Safari Trail on the River Barrow
Three special canoeing events with local business Go With The Flow River Adventures are being planned for all three days of the festival. Trails have been designed with complete beginners in mind and will be led by qualified instructors who have years of adventure experience. Cost is €35 for adults, under 16’s €25, family of four €99. For more information contact Charlie Horan 0872529700 or email email@example.com.
Bike Rental and Bike Tours
Bike and Hire at Waterside Guest House in Graiguenamanagh offer bike rental and tours in the River Barrow Valley and cater for all ages and abilities including electric bikes, mountain bikes for men and women, tow along and children’s bikes. They can also provide helmets, hi viz jackets and other equipment too. Prices range from €10.00 to €25.00 per day.
If you’re interested in joining any of the walks or activities, it’s advised to book in advance. As mentioned, places are limited on the A and B categorised walks and the deals on the hotels will be snapped up too.
Not quite fit enough….
As much as I’d like to try one or two of the Blue walks, common sense is telling me to choose the Green, C listed walks this year aimed at the more leisurely walkers among us, but make an effort to get fitter and try a harder walk or two next year.
Walking festivals are a great way of meeting people and perhaps for Michele and me, who’ve been talking about taking up hill walking as we gaze over at the mountains every day, the Carlow Walking Festival an introduction to the local walking groups that regularly meet in the Blackstairs and surrounding hills.
Are you a hill walking fan? Are you tempted by any of the activities mentioned?
Please note that this post has been written for a Green and Vibrant project that connects bloggers with destinations. See disclosure policy above though would gladly have written it without being involved!