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Friday, 28 October 2016

Annascaul Walking Festival

This morning Mary and I packed the car and set off for the village of Annascaul  which lies among the mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys in the heart of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. We were making the 400 mile drive in order to take part in the 2016 Annascaul Walking Festival which starts on the Friday night and finishes on Monday. The village is famous as an Irish Mecca for hiking and hillwalking and has been described as a walker's paradise where hill and dale, river, lake, sea, conjure up an ever changing tapestry,vividly coloured with the richness of the wild Kerry flora and fauna. Annascaul is also famous as the home of the famous adventurer and explorer, Tom Crean, who was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica: 1901-04 Scott's Discovery Expedition, 1911-13 Terra Nova Expedition and Shackletons Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Crean was a remarkably brave explorer made famous by his 56K solo walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans and also as a member of a small crew who volunteered to make an open boat journey of  1,500 K from Elephant Island to South Georgia to get help for Shackletons Endurance crew who were stranded. In 1920 Crean retired back to Annascaul where along with his wife Ellen he opened a pub named, the South Pole, where he lived until his death in 1938.
What an experience we had this afternoon visiting this famous pub where we enjoyed not only a drink and lunch, but also the opportunity to pursue the many original  framed photographs from Toms Expeditions and newspaper cuttings.
The walking festival organised by the Annascaul Walking group from Hanafins bar started this evening with a torch lit Tom Crean Walk. We didn't know what to expect so it was a pleasant surprise to find over 100 people ready to do the walk from the front of Hanafins. This was a three hour walk on the quiet rural roads that undulated around the surrounding countryside and included a visit to Crean birthplace and final resting place. It really was a Halloween experience as we walked around the dark country graveyard lit only by the flickering and dancing beams of torch light. We enjoyed the company of locals, people from all over Ireland and even a couple from Cornwall. Tomorrow we start the serious hiking with the Acres Hill walk over the Doorah Range where sheep paths will lead us to the edge of Dingle Bay.

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