a walk in my shoes, or runners or hiking boots…hikes and trails

While gazing at Instagram during that lazy week between Christmas day and New Year’s day when time seems to stand still, bleary eyed from late nights of endless games of Monopoly, and watching films at 3am , I came across a friends Instagram story that stopped me in my scrolling.

He had posted snow filled photos with drifts that were as high as his chest. Intrigued I messaged “Where are you? The North Pole?” To my surprise he replied that the arctic photos had been taken while he was trekking at Keeper Hill.

This exchange reminded me, as I sat wrapped in a fleece blanket in a warm house, that I had always wanted to try hill walking, and with the New Year resolutions looming, I quietly made a promise to myself that I would follow up on this long held ambition.

My experienced hiking friend suggested I join the Ballyhoura Bears club, which I had looked into many years ago, but just never got around to joining.

Mud filled, squelchy runners

So my first hike was up the Castlegale Loop near Kilfinnane. I met with the club members at the base of the trail. They were all kitted out for their trek, with hiking boots, trekking poles, fleece headbands to keep their ears warm and back packs filled with bottles of water, nibbles and warm drinks. I decided to try out my new venture to see if I enjoyed it, before I committed to buying the T-shirt, or equipment.

As we climbed the first part of the trail, my runners did not stand me well as my feet kept slipping in the squelchy mud, and they were soon filled with water. We climbed a stony slope, ducking under fallen trees, through sludgy pools, slipping and sliding, laughing like children as we tried to stay upright.

Eventually we reached the summit and the views and beautiful scenery made the climb worthwhile. As the wind howled and swirled around us, I was amazed at the sense of achievement that swept over me, a little bit of that Everest feeling that mountain climbers must feel, from conquering the elements.

Me windswept at the summit of Castlegale

Runners alright on the Greenway

At this point I decided to join the club as I had enjoyed the last hike so much.

My membership card


The next outing was a 13K charity walk on the Greenway which started at the back of Rathkeale Hotel and goes to Newcastle West.

Like many of these Greenways around Ireland, it used to be the old railway track, and is now a great trail for both cyclists and walkers.

The countryside scenery was lovely, a different angle on an area I have known most of my life. This time my freshly cleaned runners were the right footwear for this walk, that was more of a test of endurance than skill. I found my pace and reached my destination, where a welcome cup of tea awaited us, it mostly spilt all over me as I struggled to hold the mug in my numb hands, but the drop of tea I managed to sip never tasted so good.

Hiking boots first outing in Ballinaboola

My new hiking boots were christened in the Ballinaboola Forest, they weren’t really necessary, runners would have sufficed, as there was a good roadway through the forest. This also seems to be an ideal track for mountain bikers, as we passed many of them on the way.

Physically I found this the most challenging hike so far, as it was a continuous upward incline, and the way back down was tricky too.

Good for the mind, body, spirit

I have enjoyed my adventures with the Ballyhoura Bears so far and look forward to discovering more tracks and trails in our beautiful countryside. Is Everest calling? You never know. For me nothing can beat the outdoors, being active and being in the heart of nature.

It’s both physically and mentally stimulating, and in a time when we are constantly being reminded to mind our mental health, it’s a pastime that ticks all the boxes. Maybe I’ll try mountain biking next.

I would like to take my dog, but since she finds a fifteen minute walk around the block challenging, I think I would probably end up carrying her most of the way.

From Custard Creams to Afternoon Tea?


Wondering what all the fuss is about Afternoon Tea?

You can remember a time when a packet of custard creams, or chocolate fingers were produced as a treat in the afternoon to have with your tea in your favourite mug, so what’s the big deal?

 Custard Cream             Image from Wikipedia

As our pace of life becomes busier and faster, this Victorian tradition is becoming more and more popular, maybe this trend is a sentimental longing for a period in time when sitting and chatting with friends and family face to face was seen as a valued pastime.

Dainty sandwiches, warm scones, artistic cakes served on tiered cake stands, silver service and china tea cups, are a novelty. And for anyone with special dietary requirements, my being a coeliac, has never been an obstacle to getting delicious food, in fact it’s even better as I get my own cake stand, everyone else has to share theirs.

I love making a day of it and travelling to sample menus in different parts of the country, in hotels, castles, historic buildings and going to places that you wouldn’t normally see.

It gives you a chance to admire the architecture, décor and is also a nice way to sample different establishment’s menus. Some hotels have started combining it with a spa day.

Afternoon Tea for two, is a great gift if you are stuck for an idea, or want to give something different for Easter, Christmas, birthdays or any occasion really. I have given Afternoon Tea gift vouchers as presents and they have always been received with delight, and you might even be lucky enough to be invited as the plus one.

So where did this tradition begin?

In 1840 the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, who was a close friend of Queen Victoria has been credited with starting the tradition of Afternoon tea in England.

Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford. Image from Wikipedia

At this time people ate just two meals a day, breakfast, and dinner which was served at eight o’clock.

The Duchess became hungry around 4pm, so she asked for a tray of tea, bread, butter and cake to be brought to her room.  This became a daily event that she enjoyed so much she invited her friends to join her.

The Duchess  introduced the concept to Queen Victoria, and in the 1880’s it became such a fashionable social event that ladies would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between 4pm and 5pm.

Jam or Cream First? Image from Wikipedia

Jam or Cream First?

So are you a jam or cream first on your scone person? Do you pronounce scone like ‘tone’ or ‘gone’? Do you hold your tea cup correctly with your fingers curled underneath? These are just some of the fun debates that have developed around the Afternoon Tea Ceremony over the years.

Whatever way you like your Afternoon Tea, I hope you enjoy the experience, especially the company you spend it with, that’s the best part, the shared fun and memories.

Custard Cream                  Image from Wikipedia. Afternoon Tea Dromoland Castle, photograph Louise Harrison

Feel like a Goddess on Mother’s Day?

As you eat your cereal and burnt toast in bed, which was lovingly prepared and carried on a milk sodden tray to your bedroom by your little ones this Mother’s Day, do you feel like a Goddess?

Yes? There’s a reason for that.

In Europe the ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated mothers and motherhood and held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

So remember you are a goddess as you clear up that mess in the kitchen made by your children’s heart-warming efforts to give you a treat.

Later, Mothering Sunday, in Europe, fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was a religious day when people would return to their mother church for a special service.

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition became a more secular holiday, and eventually merged with the American Mother’s Day which was founded by Anna Jarvis in 1914.

Carnations or Roses?

White carnations, are associated with Mother’s Day in the US because they were the favourite flower of Anna Jarvis’s mother, because the carnation does not drop its petals. This symbol of the carnations hugging the petals to its heart, Anna likened to a mother’s love, as they hug their children to their hearts, because their mother love never dies.

Afternoon tea or face cream?

So what would be your favourite Mother’s Day present? It has been said that the gift of time is the most precious gift you can give someone special in your life. A spa day? An overnight stay? Afternoon tea? Shared experiences like these mean shared happy memories.

Flowers, perfume, beauty products, chocolate, shoes, clothing, a watch, jewellery, are also great presents to show your appreciation. There is something to suit every price range now, depending on how much money you have in your pocket.

“I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is”. Oprah

To all the spiritual teachers out there, have a great mother’s day, you deserve it.

Dorothy Kavanagh celebrates 40th anniversary of Special Olympics in Ireland

Dorothy Kavanagh has been involved with the Special Olympics for the last 40 years, since it began in Ireland.

July 2018 marks the 40th Anniversary of Special Olympics Ireland and it is also the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics International which was established in 1968 when the first competition was held in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Dorothy first got involved as a supporter in Special Olympics through the Daughters of Charity, St. Vincent’s, Lisnagry where she was training as a nurse, then she became a volunteer and eventually a coach.

“Our Special Olympics athletes develop so many skills through their chosen sport. However it is also true that coaches, volunteers, officials, family and friends have learned as much and more through Special Olympics. I am one of those privileged people,” said Dorothy.

Dorothy Kavanagh

By supporting and helping her at the games Dorothy said her family have always been involved in Special Olympics, and have become better people because of their involvement.

“I have learned humility, to be respectful, to be patient, how to have the craic and the potential that is within all of us. I have learned all this not through the sports Special Olympics offers or through the other coaches or volunteers, but through a very unique group, the Special Olympics Athletes.

“Through Special Olympics my four girls have developed a very positive attitude to people with an intellectual disability and realise the potential and skill within our athletes. They know a lot of our athletes in Lisnagry and have a very good relationship with them,” added Dorothy.

The Lisnagry Special Olympics team who took part in the Ireland Games of 2018.
Back row: Regina O’Reilly, Caroline O’Donnell, James Murphy, Matthew McInerny, Brian Ridgway, Caroline Torpey, Josie McMahon, Susan Torpey.
Middle: Dorothy Kavanagh, Christy Moore, Seamus Doyle, Kieran Wagstaffe, Laura Brennan, Roisin Flanagan, Phil O’Regan.
Front row: Nathan Hayes, Brian Clohessy, Alan Quinlan, Eoin Hanley, Aileen Hickey , John Jordan and Susan Kenny.

Dorothy also has a nephew who is a Special Olympics athlete and has seen him blossom, grow in confidence, experience travel and staying away from home, public speaking, being part of a team but also being his own person through Special Olympics and he has a large circle of friends.

“Special Olympics has been a great support for families and athletes, an outlet to develop all the skills needed for specific sports, but also a place to make friends and have regular social interaction.

“Athletes learn how to enjoy a win and be graceful and respectful in defeat. Special Olympics teaches new skills but also challenges both athletes and families to strive for more,” said Dorothy.


friendly Fern helps save lives

FERN the four year old female German Shepard/Retriever is helping Limerick Suicide Watch (LSW) save lives.

Owner Mike O’Mara said his four legged friend has proven a valuable asset to LSW and has been involved in numerous interventions and has helped many people in distress.

Mike who has been a trainer for the Irish Guide dogs for the Blind for many years often thought while patrolling the Shannon over the last five years, how he would like to introduce a dog to see if it would help people in distress to interact with the patrol more quickly through the dog.

“I did a lot of research through other Therapy dog groups and got a lot of expert advice from people working within the mental health area. The response I got was incredible and so Fern was introduced to patrols on a trial basis, and two years down the road she has proven a valuable asset to LSW after being involved in numerous interventions helping people in distress.

“She is very calming when she interacts with people and has a natural ability to pick up on a person when they are low, and just approaches them and looks for a hug, and snuggles in to them. The response from these people is amazing to see and they usually open up to us much quicker while hugging or rubbing Fern.

“We believe she is the first dog to do this kind of work and we are all very proud of her. As you can imagine she is very popular with all our volunteers and gets spoilt by everyone,” said Mike.

Mike O’Mara and Fern

Fern was a pup that Mike was training for the Irish Guide dogs for the Blind but was withdrawn from advanced training as an Autism assistance dog two years ago because she was too friendly, she wanted to greet every person or dog she met while out training.

Mike has trained pups for the Irish Guide dogs for about 9 years and has a number of dogs now working in full time roles with both visually impaired and Autistic clients around the country.

The process in becoming a puppy trainer involves an Irish guide dogs supervisor coming to your home to access your suitability to take on the role. Then training is done on an ongoing basis through classes with other puppy trainers in group and individual situations.

“A pup will remain with me from eight weeks for about 14 months before returning to Cork to be accessed for suitability for either Guide Dog or Assistance Dog and then continue on to advanced training in the center.

“As you can imagine letting the pups go after such a long time training them is extremely difficult and is the part of the experience I dreaded every time it came around. They became a part of the family very quickly even if you tried not to get too attached,” added Mike.

Since early 2017 Fern has also become a Therapy dog with Brothers of Charity where she calls to their center in Bawnmore and visits a number of clients who are intellectually challenged.

“She gets an amazing response from all the clients and staff alike in the center. The staff have told me that it is the highlight of the week when she arrives on site. She also does individual visits to houses in the community,” said Mike.

Fern also remains an Ambassador dog with The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and does many events such as school and business visits and supports many fundraising events around the country.

“She is a very busy lady but loves all the attention and fuss she gets in all the work she does,” added Mike.



Author Patricia Byrne on researching and writing her latest book

Author Patricia Byrne delves into on of the darker chapters of Irish history for her latest book, ‘The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland’.

It recounts the story of an evangelising colony established by Edward Nangle on the slopes of Slievemore, Achill in the nineteenth century. The colony became infamous during the Great Famine with charges of enticing people to change their faith with promises of food and material benefits known as ‘souperism’.

“I have a special affinity with Achill Island and its stories. Over the years, in visiting Achill, I came to realise that within its shores were packed some extraordinary stories, none more so than that of the Achill Mission Colony.

“The colony is a microcosm of nineteenth-century Ireland, famine, emigration, landlordism. I became engrossed in the story and could not let go of it. It was as if, by researching and writing it, I was walking through my own history,” said Patricia.

Born in County Mayo, Limerick became Patricia’s home in the 1980’s when she relocated to work in Shannon Development, where she worked on regional and economic development in the mid west.

Patricia has a BA from Maynooth University, an MBS from University of Limerick and in 2006 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, and since her retirement has been writing full time for about ten years.

Patricia has already published a poetry collection, ‘Unstable Time’ in 2009 and her book ‘The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama’ which was published in 2012 tells another Achill story, about a notorious island crime of 1894 committed at the Valley House in north Achill.

Patricia Byrne

She most enjoys writing narrative nonfiction, “I research my stories but write them using fictional techniques to read like a novel. I also like to write memoir essays where aspects of my own life are intertwined with other material as in my essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’”.

Patricia was included in last year’s list of ‘Notables’ for Best American Essays for her piece ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ which linked her life in Mayo and Limerick, “through the prism of Heinrich Boll’s essay on Limerick in his Irish Journal”.

“I find that when I am immersed in research and writing a story it becomes an obsession. Even when not directly involved in the work, it never seems to leave me.

“I find I feel compelled to visit the places where the story takes place. So there have been many trips to Achill Island, to Dugort and Slievemore, to the Deserted Village and other wonderful places in Achill”.

Preferring to write daily and in the mornings, Patricia’s favourite spot is at a desk on the first floor of her house that catches the morning sunshine, from where she can admire a horse chestnut tree in her garden and a neighbouring cat that crawls along the top of the wall to keep her company.

For more information see www.patriciabyrneauthor.com

how bestselling author Roisin Meaney copes with chronic Insomnia

Bestselling author Roisin Meaney, has just published her fifteenth novel, ‘The Anniversary’, despite suffering from the debilitating condition chronic Insomnia.

According to the Health Service Executive (HSE) website, Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, some of the side effects are feeling tired, lack of concentration, irritability and not being able to mentally or physically function effectively for normal daily routines.

Roisin, who has lived in Limerick most of her life, has had insomnia for more than ten years, and has tried every type of exercise and alternative remedy to have a full nights slumber.

“I’ve meditated, I’ve lain on a yantra mat, I’ve done yoga, I’ve listened to whale music, I’ve taken supplements that are known for sleep inducing properties… you name it, I’ve done it, or swallowed it.

“I take half a sleeping tablet that I buy over the counter in Spanish chemists. After trying a gazillion other remedies, alternative and otherwise, this is the only one that works. Every few nights I don’t take it, and I don’t sleep,” said Roisin.

Though she has no idea what might have triggered the insomnia Roisin said, “I have no mental or physical issues that might be causing it. Perhaps the creative process has something to do with it, I used to think it might be, but now I’m not so sure. If I’m not writing I’m generally thinking about the next book, but I’m not convinced it’s the culprit. I mean, I’m currently on book number sixteen, you’d think my system would have adapted by now.”

Despite having Insomnia, Roisin still manages to keep her busy routine of writing daily, and all that being a modern successful author entails, such as book readings, speaking at book festivals, interviews for television, radio, newspapers and keeping her social media up to date as well as replying to fans of her books.

Though she has tried to structure a nap into her daily routine it has not worked.

Roisin Meaney

“No matter how tired I feel I seem incapable of napping. I so envy folk who can grab half an hour of sleep whenever they want. Thankfully, I’m still producing a novel a year. Of course, they might be better novels if I slept well, but that’s for another day,” joked Roisin.

‘The Anniversary’ which is now available in bookshops, centres around a couple, Lily and Charlie, who split up four years earlier and who are coming together to spend a weekend in the house where Lily grew up, and where they spent summer holidays when the children were small.  Accompanying them are their respective new partners, their two adult children and their daughter’s partner.

Last October Roisin purchased a small cottage in Miltown Malbay in Clare, where her cat has also settled in and she goes for regular early morning walks on the beaches.

“Since then I’ve been dividing my time between Clare and Limerick, and I’ve been met with nothing but friendliness and warmth from the locals. I’m a total blow-in, but they’re OK with that.”