Ireland day 0297. Friday 22 July 2022- Skerries2

Ireland day 0297. Friday 22 July 2022- Skerries2
Today’s summary Took the train up to Skerries and then walked over to Ardgillan via the beach.   Came back through Skerries village and more beach.   A bit too much road-walking but a lovely day nevertheless.   Val working at the Casino today.
Today’s weather Dry and sunny.   Light easterly breeze.   About 20C
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of my route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where I walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Skerries Ardgillan figure of eight

Some days are just so perfect outside that you simply can’t stay indoors – you have to go out and make the most of the weather.   Unless of course you are at work – as Val was today – in which case you have my sympathies.   But your time will come.

Having headed south from Malahide several times lately, I thought that I’d use the opportunity afforded by the good weather and the convenient railway line to go north, up the coast, for a change.    There are two spots on the coast a few km up from here – Skerries and Ardgillan – that Val and I have in fact visited in the past, and which we both really like.  So today I thought I’d see if it was possible to get from one to other on foot – meaning that a return trip to Ardgillan (nearest train station Skerries or Balbriggan)  from Malahide by public transport would be feasible.

I mistimed my arrival at Malahide station fairly spectacularly- I just missed a train and had 57 minutes to wait for the next departure for Drogheda to come through.   But the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm, and I had my Ireland’s Eye mystery book to be getting on with, so I settled down and had a good read while I waited (by way of a spoiler, William Kirwan has just been found guilty of the murder of his wife and been sentenced to be hanged).

Eventually the train came and I was swiftly transported to Skerries (it only takes 12 minutes and costs €4 for the return trip).   It’s a nice town – originally a fishing village but now caught up in a bit of an urban sprawl.   But it’s got a beautiful coastline with some fantastic beaches and two characteristic windmills on a hill to the south of the town.  You can see one of them in the banner image at the top of the blog.   Curiously one mill has five sails, the other has four.   They, and a watermill on the same site, were used for milling flour.   Nowadays they have all been fully restored and the complex is a major tourist destination (although one of the sails on the five-arm mill was missing today – presumably away for repairs).

I wanted to see if I could get along the coast from the station to Ardgillan without too much road walking.   I was semi-successful in achieving this objective.   The first half of the walk to the demesne entrance (the whole thing is only 4km / 2½mi) does go along roads through a housing estate.   But then, if you are fortunate enough to reach the coast at low-ish tide, you can drop down a track to the beach, and walk the second half along the sand, which is entirely more pleasant.   I was in luck today so was able to walk on the beach, with the Mournes hovering overhead and a small flotilla of training yachts out to sea on my right.

I headed up into the demesne via the Lady’s Stairs and immediately the real world seemed to drop away.   The woods were cool and shady, then the huge areas of grassland were neatly manicured and full of wild flowers.   I love it there.   So of course I had to pause to have the packed lunch I’d brought with me (I thought I better give the café a miss after yesterday’s extravagance of €5.50 for a cup of tea and a biscuit) and to enjoy the view.

I don’t like retracing my steps on a walk if I can help it, so I left the demesne via the southern entrance and headed back down to the coast along what I hoped would be a quiet byway.   It turned out not to be – indeed it seemed to be the favourite haunt of large new SUVs cruising up and down – but fortunately it was only short, at 1km / ½mi.   Once back on the coast, I wanted to head back to Skerries along the shore.   I thought that maybe the coast at low tide would have a walkable beach or, failing that, I was pretty certain that the coast road would have a pavement.

Once again, this turned out to be a triumph of hope over experience.   There was neither sand nor pavement, so I had to hot-foot it down the main Balbriggan road, dodging the SUVs, and hoping to get to the pavement-ed area as fast as possible.   Fortunately I did make it in one piece, and was able to relax after a couple of km when the footway alongside the road reappeared, then a little further on again when the rocky shore gave way to a proper beach (albeit shingly) at North Strand.

I walked past the harbour out to Red Island (it’s not really an island, though it probably once was – these days it’s connected to the “mainland” by a built up tombolo, a bit like Howth).   It was buzzing today – lots of busy seafront cafés and bars packed with punters enjoying a Friday afternoon off.   From there I continued my coastal journey, looking out as I walked onto the Skerries Islands of Colt, St Patrick’s (where St Patrick is said to have stepped ashore after returning from England), Rockabill and Shenick.   They are all protected seabird nesting colonies and looked a bit like the UK’s Scilly Isles, basking out there in the sun this afternoon.

I dropped down onto the South Strand – a Portmarnock-style grand exposure of flat sandy beach – and then after a short while, cut inland and up to the station through the Kybe park and past the two windmills.   I timed my arrival at the station much better this time – I only had a 17 minute before the train pulled in and I was whisked back to Malahide.

It was a lovely day out today, connecting as it does two beautiful spots.   I did enjoy the walk, but I think the excellent weather flattered it a bit.   On a cold grey day in the wind and rain, I think the roadwalking sections might be a bit tedious – if not downright hazardous.   So I think if I were doing it on anything less than a perfect day like today, I might just do the road / beach walk out to the Lady’s Stairs and then accept the inevitable and retrace my steps on the way back.  Or perhaps try to press on up the coast to Balbriggan – accepting that it’s a road walk all the way, but at least there is a pavement.

But it’s all dependant on the tide, and have realised that I now fuss over tide tables almost as much as I used to fuss over PowerPoints and spreadsheets.   Altogether a far more rewarding experience, all round!


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

At Skerries station this morning.   Fantastic track reballasting machine in the sidings.   This was on magnificent display at the Inchicore open day a few weeks ago.   I didn’t know it lived here though. Summer holiday activities – messing about in boats.   What could be better?   Certainly not doing internships producing PowerPoint slides in offices.   Young people have the rest of their lives to do that!  (My views only I should add)
On the beach north of Skerries up to the Lady’s Steps into the Ardgillan demesne.   By looking at the state of the tide on the way out to Ardgillan and then again when it had come in a bit on the way back, I reckon the beach is walkable throughout the day except for 2 hours either side of high tide.  At that point the sand will be covered and you would have to navigate the boulders higher up the beach above the high water mark.   That’s always hard going and with lots of ankle-breaking potential.   By the way, the route south from the beach where the boats are in the previous photo as far as Skerries is rocks-only, even at low tide.   So realistically you have to walk along the road (which has no pavement a lot of the way) In the Ardgillan demesne, with the iconic view north to the Cooleys and Mournes
I always feel a mixture of revulsion and fascination when I come across jellyfish.   There were loads of them pulsating their way through Skerries harbour this afternoon.   Another perfect excuse not to go sea-swimming! A decent fleet of fishing boats was harboured on the Skerries pier.  There were about nine boats moored there today, but I don’t really know if that is a lot or a little.
One of Skerries’ many beaches, looking down towards the harbour.   A stunner of a day today – bright sunshine, but not too hot in the cooling breeze.  Everywhere was looking very photogenic.
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 13499 m
Max elevation: 96 m
Min elevation: 0 m
Total climbing: 211 m
Total descent: -212 m
Total time: 03:40:47
Download file: Skerries And Ardgillan compressed corrected.gpx

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