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Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 offered many great days out exploring Ireland

DUE to the vagaries of Irish weather, we had nicer days in November and December than we had in the summer.

Macgillacuddy Reeks

I’ve had reason to remember one horrible day — a long-planned day to cycle the Great Western Greenway, in Mayo.
Setting out from Westport, the morning didn’t look promising; by lunchtime, the rain was lashing and your hapless cyclist was already soaked to the skin. Eventually, after almost making it to Mulranny, about 13km from the final stop at Achill, we had to turn back: not so much because of rain, but a driving head wind blowing in from Atlantic was almost impossible to pedal against.
It was also a day when we couldn’t see any of the much-vaunted scenery because of low cloud. The greenway itself is mainly on a disused rail line, but there is more of it on the public road than we expected.

Signage could be improved, especially by putting up warnings to cyclists to slow down coming to acute bends at the bottom of slopes on the greenway, which can be tricky to negotiate at speed. The plan is to return on a, hopefully, better day in 2017, due in no small part to the service provided by Travis Zeray, of Clew Bay Bike Hire. The Canadian just can’t do enough for visitors and his local knowledge is superb, down to where the best black pudding can be got in Mayo.
Another standout memory from 2016 is a trip to Garinish Island, Glengarrif, on a glorious day, in August. The ornamental garden of tropical plants was also being visited by hundreds of other people, while white-tailed sea eagles roosting in the area were also attracting attention.
Still in West Cork, great to see the evergreen Matt Murphy, an environmentalist before the term was coined, has lost none of his passion or crusading spirit.

He’s the editor of Sherkin Comment and the latest issue contains an interview with professor emeritus Brian McKenzie Bary, first professor of oceanography at University College Galway. The professor, now 97, did lots of useful research over a long, distinguished career.
On a sad note finally, Eileen Cronin, an old friend and a woman known to countless hillwalkers in The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks for decades, died before Christmas after a short illness. Most people climbing Carrantuohill pass by Eileen’s home, near Beaufort (widely known as Cronin’s Yard), and she had a cheery salute for one and all.

In the 60s and 70s Cronin’s Yard, was base camp for the Kerry Mountain Rescue Team. A most hospitable woman, Eileen would make pots of tea, served with her delicious apple pie, for rescuers, gardaĆ­, media people and anyone who dropped by. Eileen will be missed greatly. May she rest gently.

Donal Hickey