Dun Laoghaire to Howth on St Patrick’s Day

By Eoin Meegan

Photos courtesy of Aware.

braved the elements on St Patrick’s Day to do the Aware annual Harbour to Harbour walk from Dun Laoghaire to Howth and as well as the challenge it was an occasion of great fun and social merriment. This year, despite the threat of the Beast from the East making an unwelcome return, the event was well turned out. 

This St Patrick’s day event, which is in its thirteenth year, attracts an average of 2,000 people. And despite severe weather warnings and the Rugby Six Nations final, numbers were only marginally down this year, so the organisers were very pleased with the final count.

The course is 26 kilometres or 16.2 miles long, so I suppose participants must be reasonably fit. But everyone does it at their own time and pace. It’s a social and fun occasion and no one is setting a time watch. Some brave souls even run it, while others like to cycle the scenic route. 

The walk took us through some of the most picturesque scenes of Dublin Harbour. From Dun Laoghaire through Blackrock, Booterstown, and down along Sandymount Strand. Keeping an eye on the high swell from the sea, one felt like Stephen Dedalus walking into eternity.

On we journeyed, through Sean Moore Park, past Clanna  Gael, just skirting Ringsend village before embracing the East Wall Road, and navigating the South Bank Road Roundabout. From there, it was a short walk to the East Link Bridge.

The adventure continued past the 3 Arena, up Alfie Byrne Road, and into Clontarf, where the bracing winds on this particular Patrick’s day evoked how Brian Boru might have felt going into battle.

From there it was a straight, if rather long, trek past the Wooden Bridge, the James Larkin Road, Sutton Road, and then Howth. Weary travellers were relieved to see the famed boating village come into view, and regaled by the street music and warm welcome we received from the residents.

Many chose to do it in the other direction, starting in Howth and finishing up in Dun Laoghaire.

Registration took place in both venues from about 9 am onwards, or you could register online. Refreshments were laid on at the Dublin Port Company Public Plaza, on the north side of the East Link Bridge. They call this the ‘Halfway Hooley’ aptly named as it certainly had a carnival atmosphere. Here walkers partook of tea, coffee, water, sandwiches and snacks, while taking time out to enjoy a well-earned break, share stories and offer encouragement, where needed.

Because of the bad weather forecast, and Met Eireann’s orange alert there were some jitters that the event might not happen this year. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and the predicted sleet showers (and even snow) held off until after dark.

Part of the walk around the bath houses at Blackrock was waterlogged and had to be closed off for public safety. Also, an area in Blackrock Park by the Martello tower was flooded. And when we got to Clontarf the waves were so high that they came over the wall, managing to soak a young couple in the process who thankfully laughed it off.

That aside, and the biting wind (which I felt particularly strongly on the stretch of road leading into Sutton) you could almost say, it was the perfect day for a brisk walk! Overall high spirits were the flavour of the day:

“I’ve been doing this for the past eight years,” Rose told me “and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Sometimes it rains, but I always say a little rain never killed anyone. It’s the taking part that counts.” Spoken with true Dublin spirit. Another man I spoke to, Kevin, who is 75 has been doing the walk every St Patrick’s day since it started. “Instead of sitting at home and watching the parade on television, I much prefer to get out and do the walk with friends. It’s most invigorating. And the best part is having a few pints of the black stuff when you get to Howth,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.

Aware work with people whose lives have been impacted by depression, bipolar disorder and mood-related conditions. They operate support groups in 35 locations nationwide, a wellness at work programme, and their popular life skills programme. The life skills is a six-week programme that aims to help anyone suffering with depression or just wanting motivation. They also have a support line which is open 365 days a year, and a 24-hour email support.

The Support Freeline is: 1800 80 48 48 or visit www.aware.ie

Photos courtesy of Aware.