An Scéal a Trí Sliabh

A Tale of Three Mountains

“Some paths are easier than others, but if you take the mountain path you get a better view.”

Filtiarn the Druid.

Sliabh a hAon

I recently took up the challenge for cycling 300km within the month of July for Vision Sports which is a division of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland. I completed it within 8 days and my final leg turned out to be a 102km loop from my house to Banteer, Mallow, and then back home to Cork City. I was told by a colleague at work that the trip to Banteer was a uphill gradient which is tough to cycle. He neglected to tell me one thing which I will come soon to.

Going uphill from Ballyshoneen to Banteer was very tiring and it was early in the morning with a soaking drizzle. You can imagine how sapping that is and it was also 15C which made it like a sauna inside my all-weather jacket (we are not used to this heat in Ireland). I was sorely tempted to turn around and give up a good few times, but then something happened. An adult fox and two cubs crossed the road just up in front of me. I forgot about everything and watched them zigzag around and finally disappear. I stopped for a breather and then looked to my left or rather down. I was looking down into a valley and realised that I was halfway up a mountain. I carried on more and I came across the Duhallow Trail which meant that on the other side was Knocknacoille and Johns Well where I normally conduct my decompressions. I could see the turnstile at the top which can be seen from the other side. This spurred me on and in no time I was freewheeling down towards Naad and onto Banteer. At this point I was midway on my journey and there was no way I was turning back. Was my experience on the mountain spiritual or psychological? That’s for you to decide for yourself but the end result was elation that carried me on to attaining my goal.

Sliabh a Dhó

I decided to make a pilgrimage to conduct a decompression as a means of gratitude and decided to make a day of it as it was the last few days of my holidays and take my little seoíge (síoge is the Irish word for faerie) along as she loves coming along on these trips. Instead of Knocknacoille, we travelled along the West Cork coast to the larger stone circle of Ardgroom. I hadn’t taken that road in over 10 years and had forgotten about what it was like (or how long it was). We took Healy’s Pass between Glengarrif and Ardgroom which is a series of hairpins up a narrow road along a mountain. The scenary was fantastic. Even the little one was jumping out of the car every so often just to look at the view. At the top, there is a monument depicting the Passion which is understandable for Christians to erect when you look at the surrounding beauty from atop. Once off Healy’s Pass, I took a little detour to a d-style stone circle that was signposted (Shronebirran). This took us along a narrow boreen nestled between the mountains. The stone circle is actually right next to a farmhouse where we were greeted by the owner who invited us to visit the ruins of a famine village that was 2km further down the road. I regretfully declined the offer for another time as time was getting on. Finally, we reached Ardgroom where I performed my deasghnáth buíochas and myself and my seoíge placed small offerings. Again, not only was the decompression a profound experience but the mountain journey.

Sliabh a Trí

At this stage time was getting on so I had to take the quicker route back to Cork City. Drove back to Kenmare and turned for Glengarrif/Bantry. The small one was getting tired as well to boot. Again we were going up the mountains and as we were going to Cath’s Pass we had to stop at Banane. There is a heritage park that has a large 14 stone circle, free standing series of menhirs as well as other monuments of interest. We got out at Radharc na Drugaí or Druids View. Again the views were spectacular and these were the valleys on the other side of the Paps of Anú. We carried on through the short mountain tunnel and back home. As I write this a few hours later, the seoíge is sleeping peacefully ( as would all kids after a 9 hour day of travelling and hiking through fields) and I have still this sense of elation and being awestruck with what I had experienced throughout the day.

When we journey on our individual paths to attain our goals in life, we do come across unexpected or forgotten mountains. We do get jaded with the effort put in and feel like quitting there and then. But we can stop and look back, see how far we have come. There are small but significant events that can occur to make us appreciate what we are doing or why we are doing it. It drives us forward. Enjoy the views. The crest is approaching.

Go raibh maith agat as do chuid ama a léamh.

Seán Ó Tuama.

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