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