Tracks and Trails
Featuring spectacular walks and cycle tracks in stunning locations all over the country, the programmes will be presented by a different personality each week in this five episode series.
Episode 1 - Valentia Island
Gerry Murphy is a meteorologist and presents the weather forecast on television. A five and a half hour drive from Dublin and an hour and half from Tralee, is the starting point for Gerry's walk. Caherciveen is a small but bustling town that sits in one of Kerry's most scenic areas. Gerry knows this area well and lived here for six years. He is doing two walks over two days. The first starts off at Renard point just 3 kms outside Caherciveen. From here he goes by ferry to Knightstown on Valentia Island. Once on the Island Gerry will walk along the roads of Valentia ending his walk atop Bray Head. His walk is 15 kms in total.
Knightstown is on the southeast of the island and Gerry's first stop is the heritage centre where he meets Pam Twentyman who points Gerry in the right direction and gives him advice on what to see and where to visit. The lighthouse on Valentia is synonymous with the island and was one of the last lighthouses to have a lighthouse keeper living there. Gerry talks to Paul O'Connell who gives guided tours of the lighthouse and knows its full history. He also meets Míchéal Lyne who is a local historian and has many stories associated with this part of the island particularly the landing of the first transatlantic cable.
Valentia is a picturesque island and Gerry's walk takes him to the historic Bray Head. During the second world locals arranged stones in the ground to spell out the word 'Éire' so that American or German bombers wouldn't mistake Ireland as enemy territory.
Gerry's second walk is in Caherdaniel in Derrynane which is a 45 minute drive from Caherciveen. Derrynane is the ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell, one of Ireland's most historic figures. The walk takes Gerry to Derrynane house, through the magnificent tropical gardens, along the beach nature trail and around the mass loop to finish at Abbey Island. The house is full of O'Connell's artefacts and personal and family belongings. Chris O'Neill of the Office of Public Works guides Gerry through the exquisite gardens and Vincent Hyland shows Gerry some of the local fascinating seaside wildlife.
Episode 2 - Mayo
Cork native TV presenter Sinead Kennedy is in County Mayo on the western slopes of the Ox Mountains which are the location of some of Ireland's finest walks. The Larganmore Loop, not far from Foxford, takes Sinead through some unique habitats and scenery.
Sinead's first trail is a cycle on the Greenway from Castlebar to the National Museum at Turlough starting at Lough Lannagh. Lough Lannagh is a wonderful amenity for Castlebar with lovely views of Mayo's most famous landmark, Croagh Patrick. The Greenway has plenty to offer cyclists and walkers along the route through treelinned countryside habitats and it takes Sinead into Turlough Park. The Parkland of 37 acres of lake and woodland walks date back to the 19th century and was laid out by the Fitzgerald family at Turlough House. A branch of the family lived in the Victorian Gothic house until 1991 when it became part of the National museum of Country Life.
Sinead travels to Foxford for her next trail. Larganmore Mountain is about 8 Kms from Foxford. Foxford is famous for its woollen mills which is one of the last hand-craft weaving mills in the West of Ireland. The journey to the Larganmore Trail head goes through lovely scenery around Ardmachugh and Glenduff Lake. The first part of the Larganmore loop takes Sinead down the mountain road. Sinead's guide, local farmer Jean Beattie who helped Mayo County Council design the loop walk, guides Sinead through a variety of country roads and laneways that circle the mountain to the base of Larganmore where they climb the mountain before returning to where they started. The landscape is a mixture of fertile fields side by side with wild areas of uplands covered in blanket bog and heather, revealing stunning views of the Ox Mountains in Mayo.
Sinead takes a detour to visit Tom Hennigan's Heritage Museum in Killasser. Tom tells her stories about growing up in the cottage and shows her his collection of old shoes which are on display in the museum.
Back on the Larganmore Loop Sinead finds out more about some famous Mayo folk and historical heroes from locals Noel Gillard and writer Stephen Dunford as she walks with them through the boreens. To her delight she finally sees some wild Irish goats.
The final part of the walk is the most challenging for Sinead which is the off road ascent to the other side of Larganmore to the mountain road where she started her loop walk but as the rain fades off in the Ox Mountains, the winds fall easy, the clouds part and streams of light appear over the heather clad uplands. The breath-taking views make it all worthwhile.