it's cold here, it's gray, it's nasty, the sidewalks are covered in ice, january was lousy and february looks much the same.
let's go on vacation.
A long walk from Sutton to Howth
we took the DART from dublin to the small town of sutton on a glorious autumn morning. because it was ireland, we didn't trust the weather, and brought our rain gear. but as the day went on, the sun came out and the clouds grew harmless and billowy.
our guide was "walking dublin," a great little book by irish journalist pat liddy. he mentioned an eight-mile hike along the coast to the pretty suburb of howth, and so here we were.
you can see the book in doug's hands; we appreciated its small size, but wish liddy would have made it maybe one page longer because the directions from sutton to howth were not exactly precise.
as you shall see.
we started along the "dangerous cliffs" (so said the signs, anyway) of fingal county and quickly started climbing a narrow little goat path that ran along the edge of dublin bay. (that's me in the picture, that little speck.)
there were no other people around. the goat path eventually turned away from the bay and headed steeply up through the prickly and golden gorse. it was beyond lovely. there were no markers, other than one stone at the top of the hill with a little arrow.
we followed the arrow. and we promptly got lost.
we ended up at a fork: we could go right, down a little dirt road. or we could play golf. (a big, sort of in-the-wild golf course stretched before us to the left.)
we chose the road, but the road wound back around down by the golf course and didn't seem to be getting us any closer to Howth.
stymied, we stopped. we took in the little golf carts, noticed a small and charming building that could be a gardener's cottage or could be the clubhouse, and thought about walking over there and asking directions.
and then we heard the shouting. "you're in grave danger! grrraaaaaaaave danger!" in an almost Scottish burr.
we turned and saw a short, stout golfer rushing toward us. "this is a golf course!" he said, in tones as excited as if he were saying, "this is a mine field!"
we explained that we were hiking to howth and had gotten lost, and he said that we weren't lost at all. he pointed out a row of small white stones that we had thought were golf balls. they marked the trail we needed--it went right across the golf course.
doug was dubious. he didn't think this could possibly be right. but the golfer explained that the path had been here before the golf course, and apparently re-routing the path was unthinkable. so golfers and hikers must co-exist. (you'd think liddy would have mentioned this.)
so we took off at a dead run (even though, frankly, we couldn't see any golfers), dashed across the course, and ended up in a beautiful birch forest that looked just like home.
after awhile, we came out of the woods and promptly got lost a second time.
now we were on a hilly, paved road, and there was a crossroad, and Pat Liddy was absolutely silent on which way we should turn. we saw some workers driving slowly in a van, and when they saw us, they stopped. we asked for directions. they told us that they were lost, too. we laughed, and consulted the Liddy book, which didn't help, and the workers gave us a sack of hard candies and wished us well.
sucking on the sweets, we headed back down the hill. maybe this was right. and it was.
(here's what liddy says about this part of the walk: "there are many paths and tracks in the area and it is easy to get confused, but even if you take a wrong path head east all the time and you will re-emerge somewhere along Windgate Road." and that is, indeed, where we were. but then he doesn't tell you which way to go on Windgate Road.)
we were at the halfway point, our legs were trembly, we'd braved grave danger and goat paths and forests, and we still had miles to go.
what to do? time for a pint.
we found the summit inn, which liddy mentioned as a good place to go for "victuals and repose."
i must confess that i remember little about the second half of the walk. perhaps it was the two pints that blurred my memory. (although we did also have lunch as well.)
i do remember a wider dirt road, and passing some backyards with laundry flapping in the breeze, and encountering a few more walkers, and going through something called "the bog of frogs" and past an old quarry. eventually we came out on the top of howth, with the pretty harbor spread out below.
we walked through the town and visited the church ruins and doug photographed the Cock Tavern because we couldn't believe our luck, stumbling across a place with such a name, and wouldn't a picture of that make a perfect CD cover for the next compilation he made for his ice-fishing buddies?
(as i said, we'd had a pint or two.) and then we went into the cock tavern and had a bit more refreshment because you can't just walk past a place with a name like that.
and we walked through the town and passed a small house that had a picture of Samuel Beckett in the window, i don't know why, and then we found the DART station and trained back to dublin.
and when we got back we were still in ireland, and we were still on vacation, and we still had days and days of leisure ahead of us. and there is no better feeling than that.
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