I love walking. Not only is walking good exercise, but it’s also the perfect time to let your thoughts drift. I’ve had my best ideas while walking! I’ve wandered many roads here in Donegal, and even though I enjoy these random adventures, I have a favourite route that I always take when I want to clear my mind.
Leaving our estate, I’m greeted by the neighbourhood kids. I allowed them to ‘wash’ my car once, and now I receive warm smiles every time I pass them. Waving goodbye to them, I follow the road with quick steps, passing a vacant lot with dumped furniture. I lift my eyes beyond the discarded coffee cups next to the road, choosing to rather focus on the beckoning hills.
Crossing the main road, I keep an eye out for the horses in a camp to my right. I pass several other walkers, exchanging a quick ‘Heya!’ or ‘Fine day!’. I keep going, not slacking my pace until the last estates are behind me. I take a right turn and brace myself for the brief uphill climb. Slightly winded, I make it to the top and take a deep breath. A valley, with fields dotted with sheep, lies to my right and on a clear day, like today, I can see Lough Swilly glittering between the distant mountains.
I walk on, the road now gently sloping downward. An excitable collie races up and down the fence. He knows me by now and I know what he wants me to do. I find his ball lying in the road and throw it back to him. It’s a terrible throw, but he runs after it with enthusiasm. I walk on. Between February and May, the Gorse bushes’ brilliant yellow flowers transform the landscape, signalling the coming summer months. Crows, robins, thrushes, blackbirds and tits dart between trees and shrubs, sounding their greetings and warning calls. I’ve even spotted falcons on a few lucky occasions.
I stop to catch my breath. The velvety green landscape stretches down to my right, and in the distance, Mt Muckish looms proudly. I always spend a few meditative moments here, taking in the scenery under the watchful eyes of curious sheep.
I continue on my route. Taking a left turn this time, I’m faced with another steep hill, but it’s well worth the effort. Tall hedges flank both sides of the road and in the springtime, daffodils add pops of colour before the lush green ferns take over during the summer months. Autumn brings an abundance of wild blackberries, treating walkers with a quick snack.
At the top of the hill, I go left again. This is the furthest point on my route, and I recall with a hint of irritation the time I went walking on a perfectly fine winter’s day, only to be caught in a burst of icy rain. Needless to say, the walk home felt bitterly long that day.
But I’m not on my way home yet. Taking a detour, I follow a winding road into a wooded area. Large pine trees sway in the wind, I can hear a stream babbling close by and birds chirp and sing. The mossy alcoves under the trees look inviting. Judging by the number of alcohol bottles, I’m guessing that the local youths make regular use of this space. I cross a small bridge over a stream that’s rapidly making its way down the mountain, and I wonder if it runs all the way down to the lough. Coming out of the woodland, I reach a crossroad and I take a few minutes to rest my legs. Far below, bathed in the haziness caused by chimney smoke, I can see St Eunan’s Cathedral in the centre of town. A woman, running with her dog, joins me and we enjoy the view together in silence.
From here, it’s downhill all the way home. The sun might be shining, but my fingers are numb with cold. I walk back past the sheep and the fields, past the collie and the horses, and too soon I find myself between the housing estates. Quick steps take me past the vacant lot, and with another ‘hello’ to the neighbourhood kids (I gently decline their offer to wash my car), I’m back home. My feet might be tired, my nose might be frozen, but I’m refreshed and content.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share this story with a friend who enjoys walking. I’ll be exploring some other places in the coming weeks. Enjoy the colours of Budapest in autumn, magical Prague at night and an accidental 18km hike in Cassis. To receive an email when a new story is posted, scroll down and click Follow Wild Library.
Wondering what to read next? Your fellow commuters have such interesting stories to tell, so put your smartphone away and listen. Or perhaps you’re interested to learn more about beautiful Donegal, or what it’s like to move abroad.