Day Nine was my preplanned and eagerly anticipated rest day in Clonmel. My other half (more about her later) and two more friends came to join me for my day of rest and recuperation. Here’s my advice for rest days, treat them like Christmas. Eat a bit too much, drink a bit too much (water), fall asleep frequently and relax as much as humanly possible. By Clonmel, I had 267km covered by foot and was nearing the halfway stage of my journey. It was the first real opportunity I had had to stop and reflect on the adventure so far and to also make some running repairs. Despite being wetter on a few more occassions than I’d hoped and perhaps dehydrated once ortwice, I was doing pretty well. The following morning arrived and after a day of resting and eating and yet another bath (truly the rediscovery of the trip, my love for baths) I was ready to go, a fond farewell or two later I was off on the road, to be joined by two more friends who had belatedly decided to join me, what a treat! What elation to have unexpected company. We set off along the Suir, departing its banks swiftly thereafter and beginning a sumpremely steep welcome to the day, veering left off Raheen Road and following the waymarkers along the roadway up Scrouthea Hill.
A surprisingly intense climb of 200m in quick fashion later, we turned right and flanked the lower reaches of the hill, tumbling on occasion through overgrown brambles and thickets, this leg of the East Munster Way may need some love and attention. Following the way markers, we crossed open field and a stile before a steep descent and a hop over a fence, led us to the back of a farm. Questioning whether or not we should cross what appeared to be a working farmyard, we tentatively opened the gate, gestured to the farming queryingly before getting the subtle nod to continue onwards. Turning right after the farm, we strolled along a long stretch of road, after which two quick left turns brought us into Russelstown Forest, a gentle and meandering trail which we 100% managed to get lost on leading to a brave and most certainly courageous fording of the river by all involved. Our misadventure did however give us an up close glimpse of Carey’s Castle, curiously tucked away in the forest.
Continuing our journey upwards, we followed the path, views of the Knockmealdowns opening up before the path deposited us on a stretch of road, dropping continuously before a junction. Here, turning left the tiny village of Fourmilewater lay ahead, it should be noted that if seeking supplies or refreshments in the village, you will be sorely disappointed. It is truly that tiny an place. Turning right out of the village, more country road lay ahead, gently swelling and falling as we crossed the River Nire, the road rising we were greeted with views of the river snaking its way through the farmlands below. After a long, gradually rising stretch along the road with trees for shelter and views stretching to our right, we turned right and, after a short descent, left onto the road leading into Newcastle, the life and people of the village starting to greet us back into some version of reality. It was here my companions departed, after a quick drink and some time spent admiring a 110 year old motorcycle.
A sadness grew in me each time friends departed but a thankfulness for the time and effort given over to my journey. After a stop for supplies and water, I left Newcastle behind, continuing onward and up Bothar na nGall at a fork in the road. I set out traipsing along the battered and worn old road before turning right in the direction of ominous rain clouds and very boggy, mucky and wet Knockroe and beyond that down toward the Liam Lynch Monument. Here, I met a man who was on his own journey, a challenged far beyond my own. This man was attempting to have a 99 in every county in Ireland and by the time I met him I believe he had chalked off quite a few, mostly on his bike. We complained briefly about the turn in the weather before I bid him farewell, reflecting on the joyful oddities the trail can bring.
Tiring after a long day and now saddled with somewhat wet gear, I began to seek a place to camp, knowing that Clogheen was just out of my reach for the evening. I followed the East Munster Way as it joined the Liam Lynch Loop Walk before segueing onto the Tipperary Heritage Way. Here, a left turn took me through muddied and boggy fields before a small ascent and a gentle right turn saw me enter a forested area, still seeking a place to camp. Eventually, exhausted and quite wet, I found a suitable camping spot beside the Glengalla River, alas, summer and water in the wild can mean only one thing, midges! I managed to erect my tent before they could completely devour me and settled in for a damp, uncomfortable but well needed night’s sleep.