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If you haven't been hillwalking in Ireland, be warned - the title of this article is very apt. For the 21 years we've lived here most of our hillwalking has been done in Nokkia wellies (previously called Bogtrotters), one of the few ways known of preventing webbed feet. Ireland (north and south) has 212 Hewitts and 455 Marilyns - listed in Clem Clements' booklet The Hewitts and Marilyns of Ireland (TACit Press, 1997) and updated in The Angry Corrie 37. If you're running short of hills to climb in GB, the short flight or ferry trip across the Irish Sea will enable you to start ticking new lists. Irish hills provide the same range of experience to be found in GB, with 'big boring bogs', 'excess tree density', 'pretty but painful' and 'get off my land' categories all designed to challenge you and your resolve.
At the start of 2001 I had 150 Irish Marilyns and 154 Irish Hewitts, with Frances less than a handful of each behind. During the year the Marilyns increased by 18, the Hewitts by 3. Rather slow progress, although all but one were done in August. After returning from the LEJOG cycle we opted for a week along the west coast, and having not done all the Achill Island Marilyns we pointed the car in that direction. Knocknarea (45E) to the west of Sligo was done en route. The summit cairn is reputed to cover Queen Maeve's tomb. If she does lie beneath then she was given a resting place with magnificent views over Sligo Bay to Benbulbin and over Ballysdare Bay to the Ox Mountains. Achill Island disappointed - cloud down to sea level and not much better the next morning. We managed Doogort Hill and Menawn before it got really wet and windy by midday; we decided to leave Knockmore and Derreen for another time and drove on to Connemara. At Letterfrack the rain relented so we went up Diamond Hill (47B). Summit views extended all of 30 metres.
The overnight return of wind and rain didn't exactly encourage us to stay in Connemara. Where to go was the question? Wet in west, drier in the east, so it was across to the Wicklows pursued by the rain. (A useful tip - if travelling by car always carry all maps, you never know where you'll end up). By the time we reached Blessington the rain had fizzled out so Sorrel Hill and Black Hill (a SubHewitt) occupied the late afternoon. Our last remaining Wicklow Hewitt, Lobawn, was done from the farm above Donard village next morning; the farmer's son allowed us to park behind the house. Summit views were very similar to those on Diamond Hill. Later that afternoon, with the clouds parting and sun making an appearance we took ourselves up Trooperstown Hill above Laragh - a remarkably dry hill.
Little Sugar Loaf and Carrick Mountain could not have provided greater contrasts. LSL gave an easy ascent to a rocky crest for views of Bray and the coast, CM had a sting in its tail after initially easy forest tracks - the summit ridge provided a struggle through thick heather, hiding boulders and outcrops, tall bracken and dense conifers. Someone had tied plastic tags to the trees to indicate the way through. We wondered if this route was used in navigation or orienteering exercises by nearby Tiglin Outdoor Centre. An outcrop just beyond the trig column appeared to be the highest point.
Croaghan Mountain (SubHewitt and Marilyn) filled the next morning in pleasant sunshine, conditions appreciated by numerous peacock butterflies encountered along the forest tracks. The afternoon was devoted to Mount Leinster (54B) and its east top - both Hewitts, and the former also a Marilyn. A downpour greeted our arrival back at the car. After an overnight stop in Graiguenamanagh we attempted Blackstairs Mountain following the route suggested by Dillon. Only Superman could get out of the forest from there. To cut our losses we drove back to Graiguenamanagh and did Brandon Hill with its massive summit cross, trig column, litter-filled concrete bunker and view indicator.
Our remaining seven Marilyns of the year were all in Donegal, and we now have fewer to do there than in any other area. Silver Hill (45C, SubHewitt and Marilyn) had never been ascended despite numerous visits to the Blue Stacks, so we put that to rights in September with a walk along the main spine of those hills. A variation on the Glengesh horseshoe, south of Ardara, added Mulmosog Mountain and Common Mountain, and just to demonstrate that we climb non-listed hills as well, we went over Croaghavehy and Glengesh Hill after doing the two Marilyns. Derkbeg Hill (45C), Moylenanav and Gregory Hill (45B) formed three separate ascents while heading home.
For several years now we have done the Glover Highlander challenge walk, organised by the Northwest Mountaineering Club, on the second Saturday in September - a stiff 12 miles and virtually 7000 feet of ascent. It follows an excellent route from Muckish to Errigal, in the north of Donegal. If the weather gods are smiling it offers views of coast, offshore islands and mountains, and includes five Marilyns (Muckish, Crocknalaragagh, Aghla Beg, Mackoght, and Errigal). The first and last are also Hewitts and the middle one is a SubHewitt. It has become customary for us to stay overnight after the walk and take in a Marilyn or two on the way home. Last year we headed out to the Crohy Head peninsula south of Dunglow, and from the single-track coast road climbed Croaghegly (45C). And that rounded off our Irish Marilyns for the year.
There are probably few people actively pursuing Irish Marilyns, nevertheless it would be good to hear of others and their doings.
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