Despite the short, cloudy days – Ireland this winter is wonderfully mild and perfect for outdoor exploring. Yesterday I was treated to a road trip compliments of my pal Freddie, to awaken the senses and shake off the damp. We ventured north to Carlingford Ireland which lies just across Carlingford Lough (actually a huge estuary) on the Cooley Peninsula, with a spectacular view of North Ireland’s Mountains of Mourne.
Our mission for the day was to hike to the top of Slieve Foye, the highest peak on the Carlingford “Mountain” Range at a height of 588m (1929 feet) as well as the highest point in Louth County.
This area is rich in ancient history and folklore (as is almost every inch of this beautiful Island) with this particular mountain range said to be the resting place of Fionn McCumhaill (a.k.a Finn McCool) the great hunter and warrior of Irish folklore. The charming village of Carlingford is a beautiful collection of medieval castles, stone walls & gates, and Georgian shop fronts. Ruins of three castles still remain, the most impressive being King John of England’s dating from the 12th century built on a high rock outcropping on the edge of Carlingford Lough.
As we left the Main Street for the trail head, it was immediately apparent our ascent was not going to be an easy one. Winding straight up, following the muddy path along ancient farm field walls till the common ground area
opened up. There are three marked trails of varying lengths, hikers of all ages can follow, to enjoy the range with no definite path to the peak. We decided to blaze a trail straight to the top. The vast space of openness was dotted with white fluffs (sheep) grazing and enjoying a misty Sunday afternoon on the mountain side. The higher we got, the less ground cover and more rock surrounded with muck and droppings from the 4 legged neighbors.
Of course the mist became rain (it is Ireland), the footing became
treacherous, and my aging body was aching and cracking, but we pushed on until faced with rock paths even the sheep wouldn’t climb. The views, even with the low hanging clouds were breath taking, I can see why ole’ Fionn chose to spend eternity here.
The descent was much
quicker than ascent, courageously choosing steeper trails to stumble down, but hell on the knees. Our mantra for the way down…. At the end of every long road is a warm pub. And a warm pub we found indeed! In the heart of Carlingford is PJ’s, know for their oysters! It was packed to the gills but we squeezed our muddy
selves up to the bar, order a few pints and found a busy but wonderful waitress to take our order. Half a pint later our menagerie of gastronomical wonders arrived. Fresh oysters topped with garlic butter, herbed bread crumbs and fresh Parmesan-fresh crab claws swimming in a sea of garlic butter-chicken
gourgons (chicken strips we Americans call em’ ) and I could not resist ordering the Tex Mex Nachos. All winners to these two hungry, wet, mucky mountaineers! If ever you make your way to The Emerald Isle you MUST put Carlingford on your list of stays…. It’s historic ruins, multiple award winning eateries, charming downtown area and opportunities for outdoor exploring on land and sea are definitely worth a weekend visit!
To see more pictures of the day out in Carlingford go view the album at http://www.facebook.com/TheRucksackFoodie .
A quick product endorsement… I can not say enough good things about my Merrel boots, my Columbia omni-tech pants, and my multilayer Northface coat… all of which i found thanks to the help of the wonderful and expert staff at The Alpine Shop in St. Louis Missouri (Kirkwood, Mo. to be exact!) This amazing gear has kept me warm and dry and removing all forms of “muck” from a days exploring has been as easy as a spray of the garden hose!