Road to Aghavannagh – an Irish walk

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The Irish road to Avagannagh

From the diary – Monday: Glendalough – Aghavannagh
Glenalough Youth Hostel. 8.30 am, quick wash, breakfast. The four of us leave the hostel to go our separate ways. Me – off to Aghavannagh; about 10-12 miles down the road. It’s a clear day and I feel good about being healthy when a lot of people have colds in this season. I stop at a phone booth to ring and book a bed at the next youth hostel. Seems that I’ll be the only one there.

I turn right at Laragh and set off along the road. Plenty of large trees all sporting their autumn hues, similar to those of the Lake District in England. It’s great to be out walking in this part of the world. A car pulls up and the couple inside offer me a lift. We chat for a bit. I thank them but prefer to keep walking while the going is good. Before driving off they give me their address in Dublin to visit when I return. The pleasures of travel.

The wet road winds through hills and valleys. There are occasional light showers. I rest from time to time. I pass some old men cutting trees. Their draught horse pulls the fallen trunks over to the roadside.

Around 12.30 I’m tired and need a lunch break. Luckily I reach the village of Drumgoff and go into the Glenmalure Hotel. Only the lady of the house is there. I enjoy many cups of tea and two rounds of pork sandwiches with hot English mustard. In this weather the hot mustard is welcome and has a beneficial heating effect.

I leave feeling refreshed and ready to walk the final five miles to Aghavannagh. This area is out in the middle of nowhere. There is an army firing range, but is not in use today. The road continues up a long incline and I’m happy to get to the top.

The distant mountains are covered in snow. Now it’s all downhill and I finally spy the familiar sign for the Irish Youth Hostels. The Aghavannagh Y.H. is a large 17th century Georgian building which once was a military barracks. It’s located on the Military Road originally constructed between 1804 and 1809, in the wake of the 1798 rebellion. Aghavannagh Barrack was one of a series of barracks built along the the military road, to house British forces and give them access to the Wicklow Mountains where many 1798 rebels, such as Michael Dwyer, sought refuge. 

Les, the hostel’s warden is refurbishing it. Twenty school children from Dublin with teachers Kay and Miriam arrive, so there’s lots of noise. Miriam invites me to join them for tea. Tim, a cyclist then arrives. He’s looking for a new lifestyle in Ireland. Tea is a fairly noisy affair, but delicious.

We discuss the merits of feminism and associated matters after tea and the children are taken on a ghost tour. Only the dining room has heating, but there is hot water. The Irish youth hostels are a lot more Spartan than the English ones.

Update: The Aghavannagh Y.H. is no longer operational due to maintenance difficulties.

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