An early start, to make sure my host’s efforts in getting up to make me a full Irish breakfast weren’t wasted, and I had a go at clearing the table. If you put cereal there then obviously it’s meant to be an intro, and went well with the kiwi fruit she’s lovingly cut up, before the main course. Fabulous, and over an hour and a half to parkrun.
The drive from Ballyhea to Macroom was easy enough, and for the sake of my sanity it was lucky that there weren’t any more places with Bally in their name. Every time I see a sign I give it a “ba-eeee” just, as computer game players from the 80s might remember, as the game intro used to go.
Thought I was a bit better prepared this time, with the phone sat marked with the right point for parkrun, not just a ‘find the town and the rest is gravy’ view, but I still did a loop of the centre before I spotted that I’d hit the right point, gone on and so the phone was, in the u-turn free fashion it prefers, taking me back there. Get to Macroom, look for castle gates, go through them. Still, although I’d checked previous results the kerfuffle over getting to the start, and then the distraction of chatting to two people in 50 shirts, run directors from Tees barrage over visiting relatives, meant I forgot to check for competition. At the end, in fact, one bloke said “I picked you at the start” to come in first; professional short shorts, apparently. At any rate, I headed off with the chances who took the lead and seemed to know where to go, round a lap of the GAA field (later covered in tiny tiny people leading the rules, cute factor 10) and on down the hill to the lake. Here I found myself taking the lead without much effort, so now I was in the hands of the marshals. And a smily, happy and resolutely unpointing lot they were too, but I was running easily enough that I could talk to them for directions. The run goes past the water, up a short sharp hill and along, then round a cone and back on itself, and you do that section twice so get a fair idea where you are in relation to others. The finish is uphill, the distance thoroughly approved of by my garmin which gave it 4.99. And the organiser is a one woman dynamo; I was chatting to a runner who is coming back to it after years off, and having to tell himself that 10,9,8 m/mile is okay-until Achilles’ tendon tears put him out, he was a 14min 5ker about to go to Oregon on a scholarship. The lady who runs the leisure centre and parkrun had a rackets court that wasn’t used, so she and staff stripped it and manually repositioned the gym. That despite a 6k grant to do the same – I didn’t ask what became of the money, though the implication was certainly that it could be better used elsewhere.
After a pause for a photo of the visitors I took a quick pic of the castle gates and headed off to killarney. On the way I couldn’t resist the signs for the toy soldier factory, which was an interesting enough short stop-amazing detail, and amazing prices, over 10€ a figure. Chess sets come with free worldwide postage, but without a price. I suspect if you have to ask…
After some faffing I’d decided on Neptune’s hostel and it turned out to be a good choice. Right in the centre of town but with parking a few hundred metres away by the cathedral, it has comfy beds and large communal areas. It was also rammed with people-they’ve 150 beds, so if full, there are a lot of people, though without feeling massively in your face.
Friendly Kung-fu staff member Ian (didn’t actually get his name, but he should have one) had suggested walking back down to the national park entrance by the cathedral, from where Ross’ castle was a half hour walk, so I did that, losing myself on the various trails. On the way in to Killarney I had wondered if I’d become inured to the sights, with a mountain range failing to leave my jaw dropped, and I strolled blithely through the shady paths of the park. Thinking about running, as I remember. It turns out that although from a distance the mountains seem grand and imposing, once you’re closer up they become shy, even coquettish, and so it was that I walked blithely through the wooded park only to turn a corner and find the mountain peering at me through a gap in the trees. Jaw duly dropped again, running forgotten, head back on nature. I liked the town already, and that walk made me think, really for the first time fairly seriously, that I could live here. Voted Ireland’s best large town to live in, 2012, I learnt later. Although the castle is about a half hour walk, once there you’ve the whole of Ross Island to explore, and can easily do several more miles. Governor’s rock gives a great view over Lough Leane, as does Library Point, and there’s a mining tour to follow. No actual mining visible, as the copper mine was abandoned to flooding in the early nineteenth century. I thought the coolest bit was the cave, marking Bronze Age open air mining. Atmospheric.