I couldn’t sleep. I woke every two hours throughout the night. It’s because I’m giddy with excitement and feeling like a kid. Today we’re going to the sea. It’s a rest day and we’re driving down our beautiful river gorge to Salobrena… the 10th century castle capping the hilltop town, backed by the Sierra Nevada and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Andalucia.com tells me this is Continue reading
It’s our second day on the hills and I already know I’ve made new friends that will share plenty more adventures. What a bunch of super characters we’ve brought together in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountain and the soft, moist breezes from the Mediterranean Sea. We start with Continue reading
My heart is bursting – and it’s only day one. It’s not bursting from effort, or exertion, or altitude or attitude – it’s bursting because I’m among friends, doing wonderful things, in a Continue reading
I’ve just heard from Travel Department that our walking holiday in Spain is ‘flying out the door’. We’ve been planning the trip since last year, but all of a sudden I feel it’s really happening and I’m getting a thrill of excitement about meeting new friends and ‘walking my way to fitness’ surrounded by blue skies, high mountains, plunging rivers, snowy white villages and a full week of adventure and exploration.
We’ll be staying in a tiny little hotel nestled above the Poqueira River that carries snowmelt from the ice-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains to the sea. We will walk along the river gorge to the abandoned settlement of Le Cebadilla and stay in the hillside town of Capileira, the gateway to the mountains and the highest village that public traffic can reach…. relaxing after each day’s adventure with wine and tapas at the hotel pool. Capileira is the highest of the ancient, little, white villages that appear to
cling to the mountainside as though about to slide into the Poqueira Gorge. At an altitude of 1436 metres, it is one of the highest towns on the Iberian Peninsular.
A holiday is such an important part of the year; we need to come back with memories that will last for a lifetime. I’m confident that Spain’s magnificent Sierra Nevada will deliver. We’ve signed up local walking guides to show us all the special places and answer all our questions. Along with the stunning mountains and river gorge we get to explore the fortress of Alhambra in Granada. Dating from 889, Alhambra was rebuilt to grace Muslim Emirs before being claimed by Christian Monarchs and then European scholars. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just one of the many adventures on our list. We travel to the coast to the beautiful Salobrena Castle, have a full day sightseeing and shopping in Granada and still have time to sit by the pool at our charming rural hotel Finca Los Llanos.
This is a holiday that combines walking, leisure and culture. We’ll divide the trip into different groups, depending on how active you want to be. I like to walk slowly and enjoy all the beauty of the mountains, so there’s no pressure to be ‘speedy’ if you’re coming with me. The average walking distance is 8k on hilly terrain with some steep inclines, so bring trekking shoes and a walking pole. There’s a discount on your equipment and clothing at Great Outdoors, Dublin, if you’re going on this trip!
We leave with Aer Lingus on October 1st – but the holiday has started booking heavily in the last week, so don’t leave it until the last moment. Visit Travel Department’s website and have a look around our hotel’s picture gallery. If you’ve got any questions, give me a shout on my email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter. I’m looking forward to meeting you in Spain.
I sit for a moment in the car, huddled against the blast from the heater. Peering out through the misty windscreen I can see cloud shrouding the top of the mountain. I don’t normally need encouragement to get out into the hills, but this morning I feel that I need a cattle prod to get me moving. It’s the beginning of May and the start of the summer but the weather looks more like mid-November. It’s cloudy, misty and quite cold and I grimace as I open the door and climb out, reaching for boots and waterproofs.
The car-park here in Glendalough is virtually empty. That’s unusual for this time of year and a clear sign of how gloomy the day is looking. I sigh and surprise myself by considering a retreat, but I’ve driven an hour from the city to get here and it would be silly to turn back now. Adjusting my walking poles, I start to stroll towards the upper lake, and turning left, head to the bridge that leads towards the Poulanass Waterfall.
The plan is to stroll along the ‘white’ loop-walk; up over Spinc Mountain, across the bridge over the Glenealo River and down through the Miners’ Village to the Upper Lake. I warm up quickly as step out towards the wooded trail. Birds are singing everywhere in the rain dampened trees and the crackle and splash of the waterfall gets louder as I approach. It drowns out the patter of raindrops but the birds still pipe loudly through the cascade. Pausing for a moment I wonder about the power of the water dropping here to pools carved out of rock, from a hanging valley formed in the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. I wonder what the water feels like, how cold? I always promise to stop here during the summer when I’m warm and sticky after a long hike, take off my boots and plunge my feet into the white froth. Somehow I always forget. This year I’ll do it; definitely.
I reach the junction where I need to swing right for Spinc or left for the Derrybawn Ridge. I hesitate, with no sense of urgency in my mind. I meant to train hard today, to set a pace and work on my fitness, but I’m reluctant to push up into the cloud. Instead I potter around the river and take some photos of the water tumbling over the rocks. I’m familiar with the terrain around here and I have a map and compass; and so on a whim, I veer off the trail and into the woodland pushing ahead on an adventure and leaving the high trails behind.
Within moments, the roar of the waterfall is behind me, along with the brash, glare of the multi-hued, green riverbank. I’m entering into a carpeted, hushed arena beneath the bared bark of conifers stretching so high and thick above my head that the rain and cloud are banished. The change of atmosphere is dramatic, like stepping from the light and noise of a busy street into the sombre chambers of a cathedral. The light is amber, shaded by the canopy above and tinted by the russet carpet of fallen pine-needles and cones beneath my feet. Invisible birds make sounds all around me. I think I’m treading softly, but they hear the fine snap of twigs beneath my feet and clearly keep their distance.
I follow a gentle incline, moving steadily upward through the forest. I know Derrybawn is on my left and Mullacor is on my right and slightly ahead; but I don’t intend to push ahead that far. Reaching a fire-wall, I veer left, to meet a small stream rushing down from the ridge. I come back out into the light. There is no trail here and I have the river to myself. I potter around taking photos; and find I’m smiling and grinning at the sight of saplings and ferns unfolding, and clover in flower. This little glen has infrequent visitors and it’s showing no hesitation in sharing its secrets with me. I can almost imagine fairies dancing here in early morning sunbeams. Briefly I remember how it felt to lie beneath the yellow gorse in Roscommon as a kid fresh arrived from London; smelling the vanilla-scented pods of the furze, trying to whistle through stands of grass, watching fluffy clouds against a blue sky and dreaming of fantasy and wonder.
Eventually, I drag myself away from the magic glen and follow the river back towards the trails. I swing up left towards Spinc and climb the 600 wooden steps to the observation post high above the valley. Taking in the stunning views, I catch my breath. That will do for training for today! I swing down past Kevin’s Bed; the now inaccessible cave believed to have been used as a retreat by St Kevin and later for St. Laurence O’Toole; and down to the Upper Lake, past the 11th Century Reefert Church, the burial ground for the Clan O’Toole – the local kings or rulers.
Walking back towards the car to dump my damp gear in the boot, I glance at a teenage girl, dragging herself reluctantly from her dad’s jeep with a gloomy sigh. I smile as we pass each other, and I comment that I didn’t feel like going up myself this morning, but it was worth it when I got out there. “Really?” she replied. Not a bored ‘teenage’ reply, more hopeful and pleasant. Encouraged, I laughed and explained how I nearly drove back to Dublin without getting my boots wet, but ended up being thrilled by flowering clover, clever birds and silver spider webs caught in herbs and heather.
She smiled and said OK and headed for the hill. She may have been inspired, or maybe she thought I was ‘off with the fairies’. Although, I suppose, that could be inspiring too. Who can ever know what lies under a mountain of cloud and gloom? Like life itself, it’s often worth pushing on and giving things a chance. I may not have covered many kilometres of incline today, but I had fun and fed my soul. Sometimes it’s good to put the training regime aside and just enjoy the outdoors for its beauty and timeless simplicity. I’ve learned already, you can move mountains, just by ‘walking your way to fitness’.
I’ve been on holiday, but I haven’t stopped being active and having fun.
I’m just back from Torremolinas in Spain, where I took my dad to celebrate his 88th birthday. We stayed in the Sol Aloah Puerto 4-star hotel with a deal from Clickandgo.com travel – and I’ve got to say we had a ball. it wasn’t a freebie or a sponsorship or anything, so I’ve no avaricious reason to promote or advertise the travel company or the hotel, other than to say how brilliant they were and how fantastic they were in tailoring the trip to myself and dad. They really delivered and I think that’s worth a shout-out. Thanks lads.
The hotel is situated right on the beach between two Irish bars, walking distance from the Marina, with plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, and the sea-front promenade that comes alive at night with a magical display of impromptu music, traders and entertainers. During the day we soaked up the sun, ate too much, enjoyed happy hour and spent ages in the sea Although the Med hadn’t quite warmed up to Summer temperatures, it was certainly warmer than my Sunday swims in Malahide. During the trip, Dad came kayaking with me, and body boarding and sailing – which is all pretty impressive, given the fact that he doesn’t swim!
The snorkelling was going well too, until the mouthpiece snagged in his false teeth….
Joking aside, what a fantastic spirit my dad has, and what an inspiration. Every day he shows me how life is a dream come true – you just have to wake up and live the dream. I’ve got 40 years of fun ahead of me, to get to where my dad is now, and he’s still open to new adventures. I just can’t wait until tomorrow to see what we both do next. xxx