I found myself alone in a strange landscape as the taxi drove off in the rain. I looked around at my foreign landscape and could see for miles – and for miles there was nothing or no one. Not even a tree. I felt like Katniss at the beginning of the Hunger Games – but instead of mutant dogs there were cows staring at me wondering, “who the hell is this invading our land.”
Moments before in the taxi, the driver – an old Irish guy who smelled like smoke and reminded me of my grandfather – asked me in a somewhat worrisome tone, “Do you know where you are going?”
“Not exactly,” I replied as I started to unfold my piece of paper, “I have some instructions that I’m going to follow.”
He continued driving up the hill, turned on the windshield wipers as it started to rain a bit and then asked, “You have a phone right?”
“Yes I do. However, I don’t know if I’ll have a connection up here,” I nervously laughed.
We arrived at the drop off point – an old, muddy farm road. Before I got out of the taxi the driver gave me his card and looked me in the eyes and said, call me if you have any problems. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he seemed a bit uneasy just dropping me off in the rain and leaving me there.
I was perched high up on Black Head a local name given to this Northwest section of the Burren in County Clare Ireland. The Burren (meaning Great Rock) is one of the most alien-like places I’ve been in the world. The landscape is made up of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks known as “grikes”, leaving isolated rocks called “clints”. This is a fascinating part of the world with more than 90 megalithic tombs in the area, portal dolmens, a Celtic high cross, and a number of ring forts. However at the moment I didn’t even notice the landscape beneath my feet as I stared out in the distance over the Atlantic where I could see the next storm approaching. I pulled my raincoat hood up and tightened it, looked at my instructions again, and started walking.
This is exactly what I wanted – when planning this trip the whole idea was to be able to travel solo but still do adventurous things. Just because I was alone didn’t mean I couldn’t hike and that’s where Ireland Walk Hike Bike came in. Once I found out they offered self guided walks I was all set. Granted – I hadn’t wanted the rain, but it’s Ireland – and you just learn to live with it. There’s something I absolutely love about being in adverse situations on my own – it makes me stronger. And it seemed fitting that I was in the rain on this barren landscape filled with cows and endless rock fences.
Since I was hiking solo, I did take extra precautions. I had marked the waypoints on my Google maps on my phone and I had my Telecom Square mobile device so I did have a cell/data signal and a way to see where I was going, and I could contact people if I needed to get help. My B&B owner knew when to expect me back as the hike had me walking directly back to the B&B I was staying at in Ballyvaughan. And occasionally Linda, from Walk Hike Bike, called me or texted me to make sure I was ok. It was nice to know that I even though I was hiking solo, people were watching out for me.
Soon I was climbing over fences, sloshing around in the puddles, talking to cows and I even got to witness a Rumble in the Burren with two goats relentlessly fighting.
During the whole 5 hour 13km walk I never saw another person which made me feel even more remote and badass. The Burren trail was varied, moving from grazing fields, to little farms, to forest areas, and river beds. I found my way pretty easily until the end when I was practically in town and seemed to get lost a bit in the woods. But I was able to find my way and decided to reward myself for another solomission accomplished. I didn’t take me long to find a warm, welcoming pub and pint of Guinness in Ballyvaughan.
It was a great day of being off the grid and on my own overcoming adverse weather and proving to myself that I could do self guided hiking in Ireland.
How you can do the Burren Walking Trails Solo:
Ireland Walk Hike Bike: self guided hikes. This walk isn’t actually listed on the website as a standard walk – but simply contact them ([email protected]) and tell them you’d like to organize the Black Head walk. They will arrange the B&B, taxi to the drop off point, and arm you with all the info you need. They’ll even text you to check up on you during the hike!
Gear: Make sure you have a cell phone that has coverage, rain gear, sturdy shoes, and of course a camera!