Monday, February 10, 2014

Hiking in Howth

Linguistic Concerns

I am endlessly fascinated with the variety of accents and dialects spoken by people in this great country.  We are constantly, and I do mean always hearing new and unique variations in sentence inflection, vowel sounds, and consonant phonemes.

Just to the North of Dublin city proper is the peninsula of Howth.  Howth rhymes with "Growth," but in some Irish accents with the hardened "th" consonant, would sound more like "Boat" with an "H."  Further, if the speaker is one who uses what I call the "extended ultimate T," it would sound not as "hoat," but "hoatss."  The letter "H" of course is pronounced "Haych" here, not "Aych" as Americans say.

Got all that?  Good.

Where Were We, Again?

Anyway, Howth Head is that bulbous landmass poking out Northeast of the city.  The whole peninsula is visible clearly from the coastline South of the city, and we had been longing to pay a visit to this almost-island and its famous hiking mountain.  Armed with our walking shoes on a nice day, we headed North for a good afternoon's walk.

Howth Head seen from sea level
From Sea Level
We kicked off the walk from the town and harbor of Howth (that will be another post) on the North side of the peninsula at sea level.  The first part of the hike takes the adventurous traveler through some very nice sea-view neighborhoods and steep streets.  From Howth, one of the more famous Irish Sea Islands can be seen just offshore.  Ireland's Eye houses an old Martello defense tower and the ruins of an eighth-century church.

Ireland's Eye Island seen from Howth
Ireland's Eye Island
Just like the rest of this country, Howth has a great deal of (what Americans like me would call) old stonework and building foundations.
"What's that over there?"
"Oh, that? That's just some 800 year old building ruin.  No big deal..."  
Most of North America hasn't been inhabited by stone and metal builders for nearly as long as the British Isles, so structures of that age are rare- and Americans tend to get disproportionately enthusiastic about these kinds of relics, even though they are on every street corner and in every farmer's pasture.

An old stone wall in Howth, Co. Dublin
Just Some Old Wall
As we climbed the trail, the views became more and more spectacular.  The village quickly vanishes around the corner and, looking down, one can really feel alone in the world.  The jagged rocks, crashing waves, and strong breeze really make one feel alive.

Craggy Cliffs in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Craggy Cliffs

Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Photo in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Photo
The trail is well marked, with loops of different lengths and varying difficulty levels working around and up the steep cliffs of Howth. Just as a caution, signs like this need no written text to send a clear message.

A warning sign in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Don't Do What This Dude is Doin'
The trail gets steeper and the climb gets a bit tougher, but the trail is well-built and well-maintained.  Steps are cut into the rock for a safe ascent on some of the steeper ground.

Climbing the Rocky Steps to the Top of Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Climbing the Rocky Steps to the Top
 At the top, the small mountain levels off to a lush green meadow.  We were out of the shade of the mountain and in bright-but-low winter sun.
Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Photo From the Top of Howth Head, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Obligatory Cory-Looking-At-The-Water Photo From the Top
 ..As if the signs earlier weren't clear enough without text, the signs at the very top of the mountain have added a more detailed image and text in English and Irish.  I would guess that if a climber didn't understand the textless sign on the way up, she wouldn't make it to the summit to see the sign clarified with words...

Another warning sign on Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
...Now They Tell Me!

Color-Coded Trails are Well-Marked in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Color-Coded Trails are Well-Marked
 At the bottom (Southern) end of the hiking trail at the top of Howth Head is the Bailey Lighthouse.  This landmark provides a nice turn-around point for the casual hikers on the shorter trails (that would be us...).  The lighthouse itself is inaccessible, but makes for a nice photo opportunity.

Walking towards the lighthouse from North to South is difficult in the winter.  Notice in the next photo the low Southern angle of the sun.  Keep in mind this photo was taken near midday.  The low angle of the sun casts a very long and very bright reflection off the sea right into the face and eyes of the Southbound hikers.  If hiking here in December or January, bring the sunglasses.

Bright Sun Reflection on the sea in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Bright Sun Reflection

Bailey Lighthouse in Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Bailey Lighthouse With Less Glare

Totally Unsolicited Travel Tips

  1. Take the DART train Northbound from Dublin city.  Buy a return ticket from a ticket machine at any DART station.  Take the train terminating at HOWTH (not MALAHIDE) and get off at the end of the line.  The DART is reasonably priced, runs often, and is easy to use.
  2. Bring the hiking shoes and budget at least an hour for a shorter route, much more if taking the longer or more strenuous walks.  Be mindful of the daylight hours in winter- it can get dark mighty quickly up here.  
  3. Hike safely- follow all of the common sense hiking rules, especially the classics like Don't leave the trail, stupid! and Leave no trace, pack our your trash, litterbug!  Insults added by me for emphasis.
  4. Plan some time to visit Howth village (see future posts) and the pier.  There are a number of shops, restaurants, and sights to see in Howth town.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment, we'd love to hear what you think! Comments are word verified to prevent SPAM.