Time to let your feet do the walking

HOLIDAY funds dried up or washed out?

Weekend plans put on hold or scaled down? Why not take a hike? Or a stroll? During the Celtic Tiger years half of Ireland seemed to be in the air or overseas at any one time, we blew the seemingly good times on trips away, and wasted carbon with abandon, while high costs here of just about everything told visitors we weren’t really open to, well? visitors.

Now, engineer-turned-to-the-hills Adrian Hendroff has a plan to get this forced Staycationing country back on its feet. It is all uphill, all the way, and then (fortunately) back down again.

An arrival from Continental Europe to these shores back in the latter half of the 1990s for professional work reasons, and now aged in his 30s, this engineer-with-soul has fallen deeply, irrevocably, in love with Ireland’s upper echelons, its hills and mountains. He brings a fresh eye to our upper crust (in geological terms) he wants to share that passion, and he’s well on the way to it.

We island natives are a pretty sedentary bunch, really. We have only a handful of real mountains, and lots and lots of hills, but only rarely venture up into them: in fact half the time we need a charity or a challenge to get us to go up them.

Example? A considerable 4,720 people have climbed all of Scotland’s 283 ‘Munros,’ that is its peaks of 3,000 ft (914 metres high) and higher. Here, in Ireland, while we’ve just 13 mountains of Munro height, just four (4!) people have walked (note the different verb) Ireland’s 268 summits which are over a ‘mere’ 600 metres in height. Adrian Hendroff is one of those select four.

Now a qualified mountain leader and guide, and clearly a man of a range of talents, stout legs and heart, he’s just published his second book, a literary, informative, uplifting guide to walks in south west Ireland, giving three fingers rather than the customary two fingers to sedentary armchair travellers.

His current book, The Dingle, Iveragh & Beara Peninsulas: a walking guide with the Collins Press, is an insight to those three jutting digits Dingle, Iveragh and Beara, and it’s a hymn-sheet of elegantly-phrased (and stunningly photographed) praise to their glories. He lyrically describes Dingle as a pointed finger, Iveragh as a plump knuckle and Beara as the little finger — and goes on to select 28 finger-food tasting and graded routes from this extremity of Europe.

A Scottish/UK reviewer of his earlier 2010 book From High Place: A Journey Through Ireland’s Great Mountains spoke of Hendroff being “besotted by the wild place of his homeland” — but, even as a blow-in, he’s entitled to this besottedness: he’s literally scaled our peaks and (as an under-employed engineer who gave up valuable work options to roam freely here) he’s entitled to spiritual citizenship, he’s walked more of Ireland than, well, all but three others.

“In this rushed and weary world,” Adrian observes and appropriates, “our glorious outdoors allows one to reach higher, think deeper, look farther and breathe easier. And in this sense, it’s something positive we can take away from the current negative climate.”

Amen. This writer must make a vested-interest confession: he’s only done a half dozen or so variations (and that’s an exaggeration, say three or four) of the walks outlined in Hendroff’s personable book.

I blame the publisher. Oh, about 15 years ago I ventured on the lengthy Comeragh Bog Trot route with mountaineer and publisher Con Collins, he of the Collins Press, who effectively left me for dead in the low (enough) hills of inland Ireland, on a day-long forced march and a long. long way through Tipperary and Waterford. Con takes no prisoners, and he suffers no dead-weight. My knees suffered for a decade afterwards.

I did some (too much) of the Sheep’s Head walk with Con this past winter, and I suffered again, but thankfully to a lesser degree.

So, the beauty of the south west’s higher and wilder echelons has bitten again (trying the ridge of Reeks walk in Kerry in February was another deflating yet uplifting experience) and the bug is back. I’m packing Hendroff’s new book in the Volvo, down-loading OS maps to my i-Phone and am going to learn how to use a GPS reference as well as a compass.

Sure, there’s no shortage of books about on selected Irish walks, but this one I love; it concentrates 28 graded, itemised, eulogised and informed walks (less-travelled, but including some blockbusters like Carrauntwohill, Hungry Hill and Brandon) into the one weatherproof, well-bound guide, reassuringly scattered with five-digit GPS references, and enhanced by simple graphical route maps, etc., to stir the soul. And sole.

Break out those boots.

* www.adrianhendroff.com

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