On May 28th, 2017 we set out to walk 490km across Ireland, from Dublin to Galway while taking a southern loop down the Wicklow Way, through Kilkenny and Tipperary, and over to Limerick before heading north to Galway.
Here is a 3 minute highlight reel from the trip, including some incredible drown shots.
The journey took 28 straight days (17.5 km daily avg.) of walking, and not a step was missed in route. On our longest day, the final leg of the Wicklow Way, we walked 48k (30m), almost 57,000 steps. That was a doozy.
That evening we stayed at the Huntington Castle and spoke at length with the owner who was X British Special Forces and a history buff. We discussed forced marches throughout history including the British in the Falkland Islands, the Confederates last days in the American Civil War, Germany in WWII in retreat on the Eastern front, and even Alexander the Great across the Gedrosian Desert. The elite British Marines even have a “30 miler”, the final test as part of their selection process. It was interesting to know that 30 miles is about the extent that troops have ever been pressed in a day, certainly while carrying pack and equipment. We felt pretty smug that evening of our modest feat of endurance.
Several fellows joined during the 4 weeks to take part in the walk and the charitable fund raising. What started off as a couple of pints each evening after the walk, led into one at lunch, and then soon one for breakfast. We’d power up each morning with a pint of Guinness at whichever pub in town was serving at 8:30am (surprisingly always one of them!). By the last week of the walk, our feet were so blistered and bruised that we made it a new priority to have a pint at every pub we passed in route. We counted up the pubs we recalled and totalled 64 during the 28 day consecutive walk, spanning 490km. I am fairly certain that is the record for the world’s longest pub crawl.
If you are curious about the details of the actual walk, here are some useful tidbits.
About 10 days in it became really enduring, with no end in site. The route we took through Kilkenny forced us to walk on some really dangerous roads with no off road course optional. The weather could change in a flash, from sunshine to howling winds and rains, so we were constantly switching out clothing and accessories. Summer pollen brought on allergies and Hayfever, which is a battle in its own right. By the last week our feet were beat up and we were limited to about 10km a day, where the first 2 weeks we were averaging over 20 km. That is the cautionary stuff.
As for the good stuff, well there is something magical about Ireland, especially when you are blazing a new trail. Some of the tiny villages we visited had never had travelers through them before. Pubs only ever visited by locals, and BnB’s that only accepted friends of locals. The Irish are incredibly hospitable and well humored.
The photography was incredible, even with just an iPhone. The pubs, food, and music were a highlight and unforgettable. No one could ever really understand why we were walking, and always offered us a ride to the next stop.
Cost wise it was very affordable, not including flights the trip cost me $4,000 (30 days). You really only have 3 out of pocket transactions a day. You have your bed and breakfast which averaged €40 ($48) a night, per person, and as suggested always included breakfast. Then you had lunch, and finally you have dinner. There really wasn’t the opportunity to spend more than that in most places. Pints of Guinness are very consistent and reasonable at €4-€5 a pint which totaled a fair percentage of the monthly spend.
If you have the time, I would encourage you do this or a similar walk. Perhaps even try blazing a new route. I had always wanted to walk across a country as part of my bucket list and Ireland checked all the boxes – good climate, hospitable people, safe with no predators, and big enough that it was actually a journey at 3-4 weeks. It also gave a variety of terrains to navigate.
The walk was one of the best experiences my life and continues to pay dividends in my memory bank. With the simple daily agenda of eat, walk, pub, relax, you’ll find a lot of space in your head to enjoy nature and conversations. The journey also gave the opportunity raise awareness for a good cause. With our friends and family’s help, we were able to contribute $15,000 to Child’s Dream to build 5 playgrounds in Cambodia in January 2018.
These were the daily stops during the walk
- Unnamed (next to The wedding Church) town just east of Coshill
- Cappamore (Millbank house and Angling)
In general we planned one day at a time, knowing the final destination was Galway. We’d end the day’s walk at a pub, speak to the owner and get suggestions and determine a general course for the next day’s walk. We felt this was a much more adventurous way to go about the walk. While at the pub we’d usually call ahead and book a BnB for the following night. In a few locations along the walk, this became problematic particularly in the midlands in Kilkenny and Tipperary.
- Clonegal to Kilkenny – in Clonegal I was advised there was not lodge in route to Kilkenny within a 1-2 days walk. The pub owner called ahead to his friend who lived in an unnamed town near Coshill, and he agreed to put me up for the night. Without this I would have had to take a major detour adding distance and time.
- West of Kilkenny to Freshford and onward to Urlingford were the worst walking days. The only walkable path was on highways and byways, often with no shoulders. It was really dangerous and uncomfortable.
- Tipperary west of Thurles was really interesting and rural. Upperchurch, we were not sure would have a lodge or pub but we decided to chance it and lucked out. Then we had to take a southern route through Cappawhite and Cappamore as there was no lodge on a more direct route to Limerick via Rear Cross.
The only real danger is if you are forced to walk on narrow roads with no shoulders, or lightning. Even if you needed to sleep outside, Ireland is a friendly country and you wouldn’t have any issues. There were no aggressive dogs or people we encountered, but I would advise to be careful walking across private property. We heard several gunshots ring during the trek.
My Parting words to Ireland
So long Ireland. Thanks for the incredible month. Thanks for your wonderful culture and people. Thanks for the endless pubs, and green rolling hills, the care and love you give to your environment. Thanks for endless friendly dogs on the country side and the offers for warm tea as we walked by. Thanks for the great humor that you all have, and for your passion for sports even though, I’d never heard of half of them. Thanks for the 27 nights at your cozy bed and breakfasts and for your supporting us with your hospitality as we walked 300+ miles across your country. Thanks for caring about what matters most – family, friends, and good chat. Thanks!