Hiking Solo in Ireland: Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai Trail from Millstreet to Ballyvourney
Welcome to the second installment of my Irish adventures! In the previous part, I shared my experience on the Blackwater/Avondhu Way. I decided to cut it short and arrived in Mallow, where I took a train to Millstreet to start the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai.
This trail can be walked over 3-4 days by experienced hikers, I did it in five days. The official description says it's 50 km long, but according to my ViewRanger, it's more than 70 km. I will get into details of my take on this trail in a moment, but let me preamble it right here by saying it is a beautiful trail that I can highly recommend. It's filled with fantastic views, challenging walking, and is steeped in culture. There is really only one small downside to it - right at the very end, which I hope will be remedied soon, to make the trail genuinely excellent.
Disclaimer: This post, in addition to some high quality content, may contain affiliate links to respected retailers for your convenience. It means that if you buy anything through those links, I receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Day one on the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai: Leaving Millstreet
I started hiking pretty late, as I arrived in Millstreet midday. The train station is not in the center of the village, which I realized only after I arrived. I was lucky, though - two older ladies showed mercy over me and gave me a ride. We had a friendly chat, and they wished me well on my adventures.
I couldn't start walking right away, as I just can't. It's like something was blocking me if there is anything that could serve as an excuse to stop - I will. I know it's the anxiety playing with my mind, but I got used to it, so don't fight it when there is no need.
This time the excuse was the village itself - cute and colorful, but also a cafe and a post office. I bought some postcards (which were hard to find in the store, I guess they don't have many tourists buying Millstreet postcards!) and stopped for a coffee. All this walking back and forth, drinking coffee, buying stamps, and what not, meant I started the trail after 2pm.
Dark clouds tried to scare me with upcoming rain, but mostly I just felt sweaty from all the nasty humidity. The path took me steeply up almost instantly. It started on the road, but pretty quickly, the Way turned into beautiful woods. At one point there is a lookout point, with steps for a better view. I was lucky - not only could I admire a lovely vista of the valley in front of me, but a young deer came to model for me as well. I rarely have a chance to see wildlife, so I was pleased about this one.
In the first section of the trail, it shares the path with other ways, so the name "Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscharai" doesn't appear. I saw Duhallow for a short while and then West-Northern Cork Way. There was a lot of climbing involved, but the walking itself was pretty even. The views of mountains with dramatic dark clouds over them were enough of a reward for the effort and sweat.
Later on, the path took me through wet high grasses and uneven bogs, so my boots were wholly drenched on the outside and slowly soaking through. I was looking for a spot to pitch the tent, but there was no place for a camp anywhere I looked.
So I walked on.
Day One on the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai: Wind Farm
I arrived at a wind farm, and I could walk a bit faster thanks to a bog bridge taking me above the uneven ground with bogs and high grasses. I love wind farms, the mechanical giants look stunning against the sky - and at that time, the dramatic weather only added to the monochromatic images.
Soon, I arrived at the foot of the enormous turbines. Wherever I looked, I could only see windmills and empty land. When I checked the map, I saw green areas of woods, and a river or stream. It looked promising as possible places for a camp. But when I got closer, it was evident that the land was unsuitable for pitching a tent. I wouldn't find a place even for a bivy. Everything outside of the path was rough, boggy, and muddy. Not only that - when I arrived at what was supposed to be a forest, I realized these were farms, and most of the trees were already felled, the rest waiting for felling. The roads were prepared for heavy trucks, and the land was one open wound. I couldn't even get close to the stream I saw on a map to refill my bottles, as there was a fence blocking access.
I walked on, tired, and worried about the size of this industrialized area. When I was close by a small building hosting offices or such, I could get close to a narrow stream and filter enough water to have for the evening and the next day. That definitely rose my spirits. Now, I only had to find a place to camp.
I walked up the wide, dust-covered road. All the plants on both sides of the road were covered in grey dust from it. The next day I could see very clearly how much dust trucks moved with each wheel turned.
Not far from the stream, I arrived at a big flat area, looking like an old parking space, with no proper fence. Which meant - it was open to enter. It seemed not in use, so I walked to the very end and decided to stay there. I pitched the tent and hoped there was no security team waiting to kick me out.
I didn't spend much time outside - this was the night with the worst midges on my whole trip. Another moment when I was happy to sleep in a tent and not a bivy or hammock.
First day in numbers:
15 km; 700m gained, 386m lost.
Day Two on the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuschrai: Meadows, woods, and views
I woke up to the sound of heavy trucks going up and down the road with tree trunks. No one was bothering me (I actually wondered if the drivers even saw me so far into the parking space), so I took my time in the morning. Thanks to the midges infestation the night before, I had the insides and outside covered in them. YUCK.
For a while, I had to share the road with trucks and hide whenever one was coming, not to breathe the dust they were lifting. I was glad there weren't too many of them. After climbing the road for a while, I could finally leave it and turn into a proper off-road trail. This was obviously made path for the hikers, not long ago. The track was wide, sometimes muddy or rocky, but it was comfortable to walk on it. I was happy to filter some more water from a lively stream down the path. I could now look for a sweet spot for a cup of coffee. I didn't want to stop by the creek because there were too many flies there.
Day one on the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai: Coffee, gardens, and bulls
I walked for a while, not finding any suitable place. I soon reached a wider dirt road, and the view opened up to some fantastic sights. I stopped by the Way, as it didn't look like it was much in use anyway. But I was mistaken - once a car went by. A lot of the woods were farmed and felled. I took my time during the break. Let my feet rest and breathe a bit. I also booked accommodation for the night. Good thing I did - there was nothing left later on.
Knowing that there was a dry and comfortable spot waiting for me, I moved down the road. I enjoyed the excellent views of fields, pastures, and hills. I soon started to cross a real labyrinth of paths across meadows, over dozens of stalls, passing by sheep, cows, and even bulls (although, thankfully, separated by an electric fence). The herd of young bulls even took some interest in me and started following me. They were beautiful but also caused some anxiety as I wondered if the electric fence indeed could keep them away from me. The trail took me next to their pasture for quite a while, and I was relieved when the path switched to take me between gardens and overgrown orchards.
It took me a while to find my accommodation (the Abbey hotel) in Baile Bhuirne (Ballyvourney), as the map on booking.com must have had the wrong address. I actually didn't have to go off the trail - the hotel is right on it, on the main road N22. But all the troubles were forgotten when I arrived in my room and discovered it had a bathtub. A real bathtub.
I'm pretty sure I spent two hours soaking in it.
Day two in numbers:
12,3 km; 217m gained, 534m lost.
Take a look at some of the gear I used when hiking in Ireland.
Most of it you can see in the photos above:
As you can guess from this post, I really enjoyed hiking the first part of the Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai trail. By that time, I’d spent about a week in Ireland already, and yet I still was stunned by how green this land is. Every possible shade of green, changing depending on weather and available sunshine. No matter if I walked through the more “wild” hilly areas, villages, pastures or industrialized wind farm - I loved it. In Ballyvourney I’ve noticed that there were more signs in Irish language only - not the typical official English + Irish. I was now in the area, where Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) is still spoken as the first language by many.
Are you intrigued by the gear I use? You can check out a few of my reviews below:
Tent: TarpTent Double Rainbow
Backpack: Gregory Maven 45L
Sleeping Pad: Term-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
Sleeping Pillow: Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow
Stove: Jetboil MiniMo
Boots: KEEN Targheen III
Water filter: Katadyn BeFree
Come back in a few days for the second part of this fantastic trail!
Have you walked this Way? What were your impressions?