The winner of our recent 21-day walking challenge competition is Olive Keegan from Emo, Co Laois, who shares this favourite walk.
“I have always loved walking by the Forty Foot or up Killiney Hill in Dublin. However, my current favourite walk is Emo Wood in Co Laois. I have by default become my mother’s primary carer, while at the same time ‘working from home’ in her house. Every day now, I try to get out the door by 8am as the school bus is leaving, I can walk 5km and be back to the house to start work by 9am.
“As I enter the wood, I feel myself relaxing. The sight of the trees on both sides, touching overhead, is just magical. It’s as if I am saying hello to my friends (the trees) every morning and they are giving me a hug. I find my mind just drifting and I can feel my mood lifting. I look forward to meeting the neighbours, mostly out walking their dogs or running, it is so nice to say good morning/smile to a now familiar face.
“Winning a break in Fota would be a lovely thank you to my husband Gerry, who has been a great support, helping me with Mammy. I could not do it without his help and support.”
Olive will enjoy a two-night stay for two adults at Fota Island Resort in Cork with breakfast each morning and dinner on one evening in the Amber Lounge, with access to the many facilities including the world-class spa, indoor swimming pool, on-site walking trails, exclusive Cove restaurant and much more. See www.fotaisland.ie for more.
We also received many other wonderful entries, so much so that we chose four runnners-up, who will each receive an Irish Farmers Journal hat to keep them cosy as they continue their walking challenge into the future. Thanks to everybody who took part.
Edna Cannon, Rinville, Co Galway
“There are so many beautiful walks in Ireland, but when I get to Galway, I look forward to heading on this walk. It’s Rinville Park and coastal walk.
“This walk takes you through a park, woods and along the coast. I vary the walk depending on how much time I have. Through the woods I get to see and smell beautiful flowers and along the coast I have the fabulous views out on Galway Bay. I get a different experience no matter what time of day I get out, depending on the weather. There are always people on this walk.
“To end the walk, I can have a tea/coffee at a little trailer and I grab myself a rock and just soak up the views. This is definitely a walk you will enjoy, so get on the runners and get yourself out there.”
Diarmuid O’Flaherty, Co Sligo
“My 21-day challenge takes place in Ballisodare, Co Sligo. I live near the village. I can walk into the town and walk under the Sligo to Dublin railway bridge along the River Ballisodare. This brings you into the national forestry park, run by the National Parks & Wildlife Service.
“The park is over 250 acres with many different routes that you can walk/ramble from 5km to 50km. You can enter/ exit from many different locations.
“The park is full of nature. You can see many different species of birds from jays, ravens, chiffchaff and sparrowhawks to buzzards high in the sky.
“You can see red squirrels collecting acorns. You can also see fallow deer, but you need to be in early in the morning.
“In the park there is a hill with a large rock on top surrounded by forestry. It’s beautiful up there. You can see Ballisodare bay, Sligo town and Knocknarea up there.
“It’s also a great place to walk, run or do mountain biking. I normally do 5km and 10km runs with my friend every second day. My wife and I are doing the 21-day challenge. It’s a great place to go and take in the scenery, fresh air and wildlife.
“You always come home fully refreshed and feeling better for it. I would recommend everyone to get out daily to keep yourself fit and healthy. It is also a place you could meet family, friends and neighbours.”
Marie Murphy, Co Carlow
“Being an avid walker from a young age, I have continued it into my 60s supporting all charities along the way – walking from Wexford to New Ross (25 miles) being my claim to fame! I am a stone’s throw away from the beautiful St Mullins-Graiguenamanagh area and what a walk. It is a beautiful 8km trail taking you along the River Barrow with scenic lock houses/gates along the way. So peaceful, suitable for all abilities and cafes at each end for refreshments. Our cancer fundraiser each year is a major success with all families getting active for it and dogs are welcome on their leash. Having lost my younger brother to the dreaded disease recently, the peacefulness/solitude of this route helps with my grieving. What a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors and keep active.”
Mary Coleman, East Cork
“My leisurely walk takes me out for 30 minutes each day. The reason I am putting pen to paper is to encourage older people like myself, that no matter ‘how slow you go’, there is walk for everyone. My walk plan is to go with the fall of the ground. I live in a hilly area, so my favourite walk leads me to my local woods. Here I can lean against the wooden bridge and enjoy my surroundings while watching the super-fit run and cycle up the hillsides. I listen to the ripple of the stream, breathing in the fresh air while experiencing the ever-changing seasons. Carrying my phone, I can take snapshots of the wildlife who regularly cross my path. I’ve spotted red squirrels, foxes, horses, cattle, badgers, buzzards and fledglings taking their first flight. My grandchildren join me on their visits and I teach them games we played with ferns, soldiers and foxgloves. As a family we collect nuts and berries. The secret to my walk is that I get collected and don’t have to hike home. I warm myself up with a cup of tea, but dream of Fota spa.”