I chose Ireland for reasons that not many folks pay prime attention to. For example, I didn’t choose Maynooth University for the excellent tailored course that they offer, nor did I join in consideration of the booming Irish IT industry and in hopes of getting a job. I chose Ireland for its vast fields of green, the warm hospitality, the not so warm climate and their love of ale and beer that I’d heard oh-so much about. And I was not disappointed.
Backpacking and hiking
My course gives me the freedom to work at my own pace, and with it comes a lot of free time. Backpacking and hiking are something that I am passionate about, and I brought my tent and sleeping bag into the country with me, and at every chance I got, I’d venture out into the wilderness. I find an immense longing towards solitude and seclusion and I generally choose to hike alone and find places that are not evident on a map. However, I didn’t have to go very far from campus to find some truly wonderful trails.
The golf course in Maynooth is quite big with large open fields. But it is also intersected by the Rye river and has dense forest overgrowth along the perimeter. This blog entry will try to give you enough insight to help you find your way inside, be it for a leisure stroll or an evening run. You are bound to come across secluded forest trails, a potential picnic spot where you can feed some swans, and a nice little waterfall as well. The trails you encounter are basically loops which lead you back to a point where you started off, but they may be long, some as long as 10 kilometers. So be sure to be well hydrated before exploring.
Where does the trail start?
The main trail starts from the entrance to the park situated down the Main Street in Maynooth. There is one straight road along the length of the park with flocks of birds chirping around you, which leads to the entrance of the golf park. As you go through the park, you’ll reach a fork on the trail with a stone bridge, a cottage and a lake in your line of sight. As far as I’ve worked out, there are 3 trails that you can try out, and they split off from here. There maybe more, and you are encouraged to explore!
2 trails branch off to the rocky trail on the far right. This trail has a lot of loose gravel so watch your footing. Footwear with ankle protection is advised. Along the trail, scattered, are many prickly plants with yellow flowers called Gorse. They are a local Irish flowering plant with distinct vanilla and confectionery smell, and during it’s full bloom, an evocative experience.
On the right track (literally)
Stick to the trail, past the tarmac, and across the wooden fence and you’ll encounter a yellow trail marker. Good news! You’re on the right track. As you go further ahead, the trail gets thinner, and you lose the sense that you are in a golf course. Keep at it, and you find yourself in a forest. At the very start of it, you encounter another fork. The trail (1) to the left cuts across the Rye river and loops back to where the cottage was. This trail has some beautiful views and tall trees and grazes alongside the river. You encounter a waterfall as well mid-way through the rest of this trail. This is also my favourite, and I run this trail every so often.
But you may have noticed that the yellow trail marker points to the right of the fork.
Taking this path (2) leads you through deeper stretches of the forest and encircles you around the inner perimeter of the golf course.
Long grass and an inanimate landscape awaits you, as you loop back to a hidden exit at the start of the golf course.
The 3rd and final trail is different from the rest. While, there are no forests that you go through, it is interesting nonetheless. You gain a bit of altitude and you get to witness some great architecture and some great views overlooking the town of Maynooth and far beyond that. This trail (3) follows the red trail marker and leads you across the first stone bridge you encounter to your left, where the other two trails branched right.
Welcome to the Carton House
As you follow the trail, it takes you beside a grand old estate, known as Carton House. What was once the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kildare and Dukes of Leinster, is now a 4-star hotel for golfers and old timers. Still, you can always admire the architecture! As you progress further, you come across an ancient watch-tower of sorts with a beautiful vantage point.
You can take some time out and bask at vast panoramic scenery and try and spot Maynooth University’s South Campus clock tower, which will most likely be a smell spec of brown in the distance, and feel good about having come so far (not before you feel unsettled of having to walk back all the way!). The rest of the trail is uneventful and loops back to the cottage from where you would start off.
So there you have it. 3 refreshing trails mapped out.
Maynooth is a wonderfully quaint little place, with loads of gems. You just have to go out and find them. Until next time!