Belfast behind us, we drove west for a long way, following the motorway. We arrived in Strabane in the evening, a town right on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; picked a random road that looked relatively promising, leading towards the river that marked the border, and stopped when we found an adequately out-of-the-way clearing beside the little road bordered by farms.
Next morning, we drove the minute or two into town and made for the tourist information office. No great help there, just an armful of assorted brochures. I’d found mention of a walk online at the Telegraph, so we bought the referenced map instead and prepared to do the walk, made a packed lunch, filled the water bottle, packed the pack…Then I noticed an odd discrepancy on the map. Where was Strabane? A quick check with Nigel revealed that we were, in fact, about an hour’s drive away from the walk’s starting point.
D’oh. Another thing that apparently drives me crazy. I threw up my arms in dismay, Katherine told me to settle down, it wasn’t a big deal. Turns out she was right — we had a very pleasant drive following the official scenic route, or trying to; the road signage had a tendency to lead one down a dubious-looking road, then leave one to one’s own devices when presented with an intersection. We made it with no problems though, thanks to some creative navigation on Katherine’s part. At one point, we nearly drove over a bridge marked with a 3 tonne limit, before it clicked that we were 3.5 tonnes. Yikes. Thankfully there was another bridge with a 7 tonne limit. We started checking bridges very carefully after that.
We arrived in Moneyneany, the town near which the walk started, and followed the directions to the starting point. This was a rather tiny road that got tinier as we continued; no obvious parking spots in sight. On a whim, we turned up a side road that turned into an interesting pseudo-4WD experience that Nettle handled splendidly.
It was a bum lead though, and we ended up finding ourselves a lovely wild camp the other side of Moneyneany, beside a creek and a forest. I cooked us up some zucchini fritters with some brilliant cinnamon-y curry powder, a meal with nicely portable leftovers for a packed lunch.
The next morning we were ready to give it another go. Katherine sorted out the pack, I scribbled our approximate route down on the map, made sure we had the textual directions available on the iPhone, and we took Nettle back up the indicated road. This time we found a good out-of-the-way park beside an abandoned house (there are lots of these in Ireland!). We climbed into our waterproof gear and headed out.
Our walk took us switchbacking up the side of Crockmore mountain in the warm sun, panoramic views over the surrounding mountains and green-and-yellow patchwork plains. We were stopped for a moment while two farmers herded some sheep between paddocks. Upon reaching the top, and passing over the summit, everything became dark, a fierce icy wind started up and it began to rain. We threw on our raincoats and hunkered down, and where minutes ago we were too warm, we were suddenly quite chilly.
We could see we were in the cloud layer, clouds scooting by in front of our faces while in the distance we could see fields in full sunlight. Within a few minutes, the clouds had risen, presenting us with a clear view over the previously completely obscured mountaintop.
Now well off the path and following fencelines over the bog, skirting wet patches of bright green moss that our boots sank into, we descended the mountain into a glen marking the beginning of the Drumderg River. The rain had stopped by this point, and the wind lessened. A brief stop for lunch, then we climbed the other side, and down a track/creek that became a road.
Through an obscure side fence, past a bumblebee the size of a bus, legs dangling comically beneath it when it flew, like a Pixar character, then down across the all-grown-up Drumderg River and back through fields to Nettle.
The six mile walk had our feet aching a bit, so we lounged around for a while to recover. Then we piled back into Nettle’s cockpit and headed out south-west, for Ireland, the Republic of.