It was bright and sunny when we got up Friday morning, and since we had nothing in particular we had to do that day, we had breakfast, filled the Klean Kanteens, packed the backpacks with our water, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fruit and headed out to the river.
There are a few different ways we can get there, but on this day we walked down the sidewalk alongside the road on which we rode into town. There’s a big map there that I never paid much attention to before, but I stopped to look this time. I was hoping that if we took the river path we might get all the way to Lough Mask, which doesn’t look like it’s that far away. This map showed various recreational activities available in the area with a big “you are here” by the dot representing Ballinrobe and there was the river with a little walker icon right near the Ballinrobe dot and then another one near the lake. I was hopeful as we continued on our way.
We got to the walkway we’d found before, went down to the path and went left. Before long we came to a spot where the water was falling over some rocks--such a great sound! Then we came to some ruins, which seem like they are never very far away here. I examined the bridge above and the surrounding area and thought we could probably walk over the bridge and be right there, and made a note to do that sometime.
We walked on and passed many other walkers, some with their dogs. There are several benches and even a bench or two with tables along the path. We crossed a bridge and came to a spot where the water had been used to power a mill. We saw sheep and horses in fields on the other side of the river and lots of cows hanging out near the fences along the path. After about an hour of walking, we came to a set of steps, at the top of which was a gate leading out to the very narrow road. It was the end of the line. I wanted to see if the path picked up somewhere on the other side of the road, so I waited until I could not see or hear any cars coming. The road is a typical rural Irish road--narrow, curving, without any shoulder, and with cars zooming around like they’re training for NASCAR or something. Crazy.
When I spotted an opening, I dashed across the road to the other side of the bridge and looked in vain for a pathway beside the river. I was a little bit bummed. There seemed to be nothing else to do but turn around. I might have started walking down the road to see what I could see, but I didn’t see any sidewalks and Bill was urging me to come back, saying it sounded like there was a car coming.
We started back the way we’d come and shortly encountered an older guy walking with a younger one. I asked the guy if the path continued on anywhere past the road and he told me it didn’t but that if I kept going and went over a bridge and under a couple of others, I would find myself right back in town! He was very helpful, as almost everyone is--they assume we’re tourists. In a way, we are!
I was disappointed that we didn’t get to the lake, but really happy that we’d found the walkway, which, I learned later after consulting our new book Ballinrobe: Aspects of a Visual History, is called Bower’s Walk. I can see myself packing the backpack with lunch, water, a book, a crochet project and paper and pen and spending hours by the river walking for a bit and then finding a bench on which to settle back and hang out.
On our walk to the end, we’d noticed some gates and pathways in a few places along the way. On the way back, I decided to see where they led. The first path brought us to a residential area. There were houses along the road that were occupied, but right in the middle of this area, in what was probably a field a decade ago, was a cluster of new homes--all of them looked empty. We walked further toward the main road and then saw the abbey ruins in the background, so we knew where we were and we turned back toward the river.
When we got back to the cavalry barracks ruins, we walked under the bridge and found the steps built into the rock wall. We went up those and up the path, where we came to the town green--there’s a playground for the kids, a sports field, a clubhouse, and a walking/jogging path around the field. I turned left and headed for the bridge to the ruins. There was a gate that kept us out of the fields surrounding the ruins, but we could stand there on the bridge and look at everything--the ruins, the stone walls, the sheep, and the river below. The wind was blowing, the sheep were bleating, and the birds were talking. I felt so peaceful standing there. We stayed there for quite a while, just taking it all in and eating our lunches.
On the way home, we stopped to look at the map again. As we were looking, this guy came up, asked if we were tourists, and then suggested we drive down to Cong and walk the loop there. It’s a new trail, he said, built as part of a government scheme (I always find this terrible amusing--there are no government “programs” here, rather there are “schemes.” After all I have read about the way things operate here, the word “scheme” with its connotations of something slightly underhanded and manipulative, seems entirely appropriate!!). We smiled and thanked him. I decided to make a list of things I wanted to look up the following day at the library.
I looked for information on walking trails in or near Ballinrobe and found that there is one in Neale that would be possible--we could walk to Neale in an hour, do the walk, and come home. But that would require us to try and walk along one of those narrow curving roads--not only without shoulders, but sometimes with a stone wall right up against the road. Probably not a smart thing to do. I looked up Ballinrobe to Lough Mask and the directions have someone driving up the road and around the lake to the other side! I tried “walking trail from Ballinrobe to Lough Mask” but all that came up was the Bower’s Walk. I gave up on that and tried to find a book about walking trails in Ireland, but met with failure again. By then my computer battery was almost dead, so I gave up. I decided that the map in town showed the little walker icon twice--once near town and once near the spot where the river meets the lake--because there’s a path in town and possibly a path closer to the lake, but nothing in between. Oh well. I will enjoy what I’ve got!
We got home from the library on Saturday just before the rain started. It was a lovely, rainy, blustery day on Sunday, too--another great day of hanging out spending hours with the newspaper and reading a novel. On Sunday night I listened to a documentary that consisted of elders talking about their childhoods and then a history show. Yesterday was another quiet day spent with a book and later, my thread and crochet hook while I listened to the radio again. This morning I woke up to Bill saying that we had no electricity. We wondered how long that situation was going to last, but we soon saw three yellow ESB (Electricity Supply Board) vans heading down the road. About an hour later, I heard a click and went to look at the water heater timer--sure enough, the “off peak” light was on. The power was back. I went straight for the coffeemaker.