Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Went Walking - Phoenix Park

Last month, Fear Rothar and I headed over to Ireland for a couple of weeks to visit with friends and family. We stayed at his childhood home about 6 miles from Dublin City Center, just at the far side of the Phoenix Park, one of the largest city parks in Europe. The wall surrounding the park stretches for almost 7 miles, enclosing 1750 acres of grasslands and forests. With miles and miles of trails and quiet tree-lined roads to explore in the park, I had plenty of opportunities to get out walking.

After our overnight flight to Dublin had us arriving in the early hours (both body clock time and local time), we gave in to our desire to sleep away the first part of our first day, but then we emerged re-energized and headed out for a short walk along the Royal Canal to shake the cobwebs out. The Royal Canal Way is actually a 49 mile long towpath/trail alongside the canal stretching from Dublin to Cloondara in County Longford, but we only walked a mile or so west from Castleknock train station for our first outing.

The next day John helped me reacquaint myself with the area by accompanying me for a walk to the Phoenix Park. Sadly, he wasn't up on the current state of greenway construction along the Royal Canal heading east toward the city, so we only made it a short ways before hitting the closed and gated off area under construction. When you've been away for 20 years, you are no longer a local! Good news, however, is the greenway should be complete soon, and will make for a lovely way to head into, or out of, the city.

Despite the diversion onto footpaths on nearby streets, we found our way over to the park and had a nice stroll there, followed by lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant at Farmleigh Estate, a former residence of the Guinness family, but now the official guest house for the Republic of Ireland. When not occupied by visiting foreign heads of state, the gardens and house are open to the public.  After a warming coffee and bowl of soup, we wandered around the grounds a bit more and then made our way back home.

A swan at home on the Royal Canal, near the Castleknock train station

Fear Rothar on Sli Rothar

Love the traffic lights!

Reflections at Farmleigh

Monkey Puzzle Tree at Farmleigh

Armed with online maps and the knowledge that I had miles of nearby walking opportunities in the park and along the canal, I kept myself quite busy while John and his brother, David, headed out cycling over the next week. Look for a post from John soon about this! (I will keep pestering him, I promise.) In the meantime, you can check out his great photos on instagram, google+ and flickr.

And thanks with our awesome free International data plan from T-Mobile, I was able to use my phone's GPS, maps and camera a lot over the next two weeks to both find my way around and document my travels. I mapped out walks on RideWithGPS and used a cuesheet app on my phone to help me navigate, along with Strava to track it. Indeed, the camera on my phone saw lots of use as I snapped pictures along the way. Twitter and Instagram followers may have already seen some of these photos. My first day out on my own, I headed out toward Chapelizod, and explored the southside of the park.

The always knowledgeable Matt Roy informed me this interesting growth is a disease called Witches Broom

Gas lighting lines the main road through the Phoenix Park
The first few days were warm but cloudy. However, after that, brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures made for truly glorious days out. I mapped out a route that (accidentally) took paths within the Dublin Zoo, but decided to pass on the zoo trip until I had company.  I did take advantage of lunch at the tea room near the zoo entrance.

I had a few more opportunities over the two weeks we were in Ireland to get out to the park, and sunshine continued to defy the reputation of a rainy Ireland.

Another grey day :-)

The Castleknock
On one of our final days, John and I decided to walk into the city through the park on yet another mild and sunny day.

The Wellington Monument
I've always had a bike on our previous trips to Ireland, and find it to be a lovely and magical place to ride, but I must say I am so grateful to have had the Phoenix Park right out our backdoor for so much exploring on foot. And we were amazingly lucky with the weather for early December. Back home in Boston, it was bitterly cold, and we flew home into a snow storm - quite a shock to the system.

Stay tuned. More posts to follow on my walks along the Royal Canal, the River Barrow, the Hill of Tara, as well as John's long anticipated posts on his cycling adventures...

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