Walking the Beara Breifne Way in February 2019
This is possibly the BEST walk that we have ever undertaken. It was 714km. according to our gps watch, from Dursey Island Cable Car in South West Cork - Belcoo in South Fermanagh. What a beautiful Country, everyday something new something exciting. 250km in Co.Cork what a surprise ! The weather seemed to favour us, 3 wet and 2 snowy days in 32, in Ireland in February.
The walking route takes in amazing terrain, from the High snowy Caha Mountains in west Cork to the Glen of Aherlow in Tipperary, the quaint little Towns and Villages with such warm welcomes, some we never even heard of before,[ but will revisit ] to the Cavan Burren and everything in between, it's thrilling just thinking of it all.
It must have taken a lot of organising to get it to this stage, and a lot of co-operation from each of the Sections along the Route. It is in it's infancy by comparison to other walks. The walk was launched on 31st January 2002, the 400th Anniversary of Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beara's March, with the promise of updating in 2012. The walk Passports are relatively new, maybe 18 months, with some places being issued with them only since January 2019.
Upon reaching O'Rourkes Castle in Leitrim Village, there is a sense of an anti-climax, as we expected a Castle !
We would definately walk the Beary Breifne Way again, and plan to walk the Lung / Lough Gara Way as soon as it is updated and the Maps become available.
As already stated this was by far our most enjoyable walk yet.
We have some observations that we hope if taken onboard, will help to improve this walk and take it from strength to strength in the future.
In general Co. Cork has it well underway. There is a couple of places that could benefit from some wooden wire meshed planks to keep the walker on drier ground and one stream that needed to be jumped, a bit doggy.
Tipperary needs to look at the need to bring the walker through farmland when there seems to be perfectly suitable alternative side roads, which seem to us to be safer than traversing pot holed uneven farmland with the threat of farm animals in every field. The number of electric and barbed wire fencing seems to be a bit irresponsible, either on the part of the organisers or of the farmers. Farmers are surely the guardians of the land, but they have not fenced off a section along the headland to divide the walker from their farm animals, this is a must. It gives the impression that they seem happy to have Stiles on their land but not happy to have walkers use them or to walk on their land. The organisers could review this situation and make contact with farmers and remove Stiles and signs where they are not welcome.
Co. Galway should consider whether to re-route the walk of approximately 6 km. in the region of the Gun and Clay Pidgoen Shooting grounds at Ballinasloe as it is despicable, filthy, not something to flaunt to visitors to our country. Clean it up or cut it out ...Now...
It is very frustrating to have to turn back and find an alternative route, when the day's planned route becomes impassable, this is the situation in a number of places. The maps need to be revised also. The gap between the Ormond and Hymany Way should be filled in. The Suck Valley Way map is confusing as to where to leave it, or continue on the Loop Walk. It's a pity that the Lung / Lough Gara Way map is not available yet. We live in the area and are familiar with the roads, but it leaves a lot of guess work for the tourist. The change of route in the Curlew mt's has signage going in two directions.
Each region could have an inspection at least every 2/3 months, and take note of any maintenance needed, such as Way Markings knocked down by Hedge Cutters, or pointing in the wrong direction, remove ones that are not in use. Keep the walker out of the water by installing more wire meshed boardwalks, the ones that are in place are very appreciated. Most walkers don't carry a second pair of footwear. These are areas that will still be wet during the Summer.
Accommodation is sparse and too distant from the end of the day's walk route. It is also too expensive for the walker who wishes to complete the walk at one time, especially those from abroad who may just have one stab at it. There are a lot of derelict buildings in towns and villages such as old farmhouses, old mills etc. Bunk Houses could be the way to go, as walkers are happy to have a dry shelter. Camping places or timber huts could also work. It would bring business to the Shops, Restaurants, Chemists etc.
As we crossed the Shannon heading for Leitrim Village and O'Rourkes Castle, we were full of anxious excitment, sensing the relief , the joy, the sadness of the Ones who undertook this March in Times Past not for pleasure but for survival.
Then we turned into the Harbour but there was no instant obvious feature. We saw the Wall and wondered if this wall is part of the Castle, and then we saw The Head Stone. While it was great to read the inscription, it just doesn't seem enough.
Since the Castle is long since gone, with just one portion of wall remaining, perhaps this wall could be cleaned up and embelished in some way. An audio visual presentation with information on this Epic March by Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beara with 1,000 people seeking refuge, says so much about the Man and of the people of Ireland, Us ! our ancesters just a few generations ago. A larger than life sculpture could also give recognition.
As a result of our walk, our local school has taken an interest in O'Sullivan Beara and this epic March. Comparing it to the Worlds Refugees today, makes it more real for them. They along with their headmaster are working on a project which includes an e.book. An information centre at the final destination may be of interest to them and to other schools as well as to the Beara Breifne Way walkers, from home and abroad. Short sections throughout the walk could aslo be highlighted and of interest to schools or for family outings, as we discovered so many magical places along the Way.
We would be happy to share our views with any and all who have an interest in any aspect of the walk, and are contactable on the Forum.
We are also happy to offer shelter and a hot meal, or cooking facilities, to anyone walking from Cork and carrying a walk Passport shor' we could even work on getting the sought after Stamp or creating a unique one of our own.
The Tipperary Inn in Toomevara, who do have the Stamp, offer free camping space behind the Pub, and the use of a washing machine free of charge. More of this or similar would create interest.
The Passport doesn't entitle the walker to any concession, and could therefore be given freely to encourage the fun of the Stamp hunt. Lots of places don't have the Passport Stamp although they are listed on the official website. Some places that might possibly have one are not open at regular hours, and some places would love to have a Stamp but have not been offered one.
The where abouts of the Final Stamp is yet unknown.