In 2003 I walked across Ireland for charity
Walking 280 miles with a large backpack from Kirwan House Tourist Hostel in Wexford Town (southeast) to Bunbeg House in Co. Donegal (northwest)
As an asthmatic I decided to raise money for two asthma charities, one in the UK and one in Ireland.
I left Wexford on Friday 23rd May and arrived in Bunbeg Harbour Tues 24th June 2003. In all I walked 24 days over a 33 day period.
I wanted to choose a charity that is close to my heart, and as my lungs are quite close to my heart and I’m an asthmatic, this seemed the perfect cause. Besides, after walking 300 miles I figured I might well be in need of advances in asthma treatment. So I did some research and discovered the National Asthma Campaign in London, who fund much needed research for asthma treatment across the UK and Northern Ireland, and the Asthma Society of Ireland, whose aim it is to inform and advise all people with asthma in Ireland. It was my intention to divide the money raised between these two charities. If you would like to make a donation to either of these charities then you can do so here:
From Wexford town I walked the country roads over to New Ross and joined the Barrow River where I hiked the towpaths up into the midlands, followed the Royal Canal over to the Shannon and then hiked the waymarked trails and the country lanes through the northwest up to Bunbeg.
Miles per day: I averaged 10-15 miles per day and would walk for anywhere from 3-8 hours each day.
National Asthma Campaign - UK
The National Asthma Campaign is an independent UK charity dedicated to conquering asthma and improving the quality of life for asthmatics today and in the future. The team achieves this through a combination of research, education and support. They work in partnership with people with asthma and all who share their concerns.
Asthma Society of Ireland
Each year the Asthma Society of Ireland runs a number of high profile campaigns calling for change on issues that affect the lives of asthma patients. All campaigns have an impressive track record in attracting high value widespread media coverage across all media channels including newspapers, radio, television and social media.
Interview on Wexford's Southeast Radio
Here you can listen to an interview I did on Wexford’s Southeast Radio after the walk.
Why I did this?
Ever been misquoted?
Well, when I was on a publicity tour around Ireland to promote my new book Hot Footing Around the Emerald Isle I often wondered, as I sat relating details of my book to journalists, just how much of it they were taking in as they scribbled on a piece of paper whilst trying to listen to me at the same time. Most seemed to get it right, except one: The Irish Examiner.
During my original journey around Ireland it occurred to me that I had never really walked any significant distance with my backpack. Yet the backpack is specifically designed for this purpose. As I thought back over my years of backpacking I realised that this was true of most backpackers I had met. We take a bus or a train to our destination, then either a local bus or taxi to the hostel or hotel, if it is more than a few minutes walk. I remembered meeting an American in Mexico who walked everywhere, through the mountains, with his backpack. He made his living by rock carving, and his pack was full of stones. So I decided that if I was attain the status of Real Backpacker for a Day, I must walk from one town to another with the full weight of my backpack, and not take any form of transport.
This challenge was met on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, where I walked from Glengarriff to Adrigole, Hostel to Hostel. However, what should have been a relatively easy five hour hike along the Beara Way turned into an eleven hour nightmare after being misled by the Beara Way signposts.
I related this and another story to the journalist at the Examiner, who scribbled it down on a piece of paper. Naturally I was excited about making it into a national newspaper for the first time. However, when the piece came out I was shocked to discover what he had written. He believed that I had walked the entire two month journey around Ireland this way, from Cork to Donegal.
Obviously I was gutted about this. An email came in from a researcher at Ireland AM, wanting me to appear on the show to talk about the book. Naturally I had to explain the mix up, but that I was still willing to come on the show. She said that she would talk to the producers, but never got back to me.
After a while I began to see the funny side of it, and started thinking seriously about actually doing it for a follow up book; after all, I had succeeded, albeit somewhat painfully, in being a real backpacker for a day so why not try it for a whole journey. I had often wanted to do something like this for charity, as many of my friends had, but had never found the time because I am always travelling or writing. This could be a good way to combine the two.
As I have been living on and off for the past three years in Wexford, in a great hostel called Kirwan House, this seemed a logical place to start. During my first trip I had fallen in love with County Donegal and during my promotional tour had also spent much time there. I had met up with Andy again, the owner of a fantastic B&B in Bunbeg and also a famous character from my book and Tony Hawks’ book Round Ireland With a Fridge. My book had gone down a storm in Donegal, selling out the first weekend in the bookshop in Letterkenny. Thus I decided I would walk from Kirwan House to Bunbeg House