Pilgrimage to Kildare: Chapter II, Adventures need Adventure Shoes

May 20, 2022

 I took the ferry to Belfast and in a mixture of walking and getting the bus, I covered 120 miles in five days, reaching Kildare on the morning of day six. In my itinerary I carried a bivvy bag, light weight sleeping bag, change of clothes, flask and snacks. I didn’t think much about my shoes, because as far as I was concerned, I was just going on a long walk, not a challenging mountain trek: - so I literally just wandered off in my every day fashion boots. After all, in those times of old - no one splashed out on trek shoes; they didn’t even exist! Unfortunately however it didn’t take long for me to regret this oversight and just a few hours into day 1 painful blisters had developed.  I took a lunch break in Lisburn and hobbled off to a shoe shop to find a cheap pair of trainers. But these were just another pair of silly shoes, which I later found out had zero rain resilience. Oh the misery of wet shoes + blisters.

I had quite a nice walk that day, despite walking mostly alongside the very busy A1. Towards the end of the day someone stopped to give me a lift into Hillsborough, a town which I had spied on the map to camp out the night. This proved to be an excellent choice and I ended up hiding behind a bush in the grounds of a walled castle garden. After an uncomfortably cold night I made it my priority to buy a better sleeping bag the next day and by the mid-afternoon I arrived in the boarder town called Newry. It was pretty wet and miserable at this point so I headed to a Cathedral to warm up, have a sit down and pray to Mother Mary for protection. And it was here that I had my first sighting of St Brigid on the stain glass.

After pottering around some more, I went into the Cathedral shop and purchased a St Brigids prayer card and medal for my travels

Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into a greater wholeness in body, mind and spirit.

Wondering where to camp that night, in the late afternoon I hit the road again, armed with snack pots from M&S. My idea was to keep heading towards the boarder on foot, whilst keeping on the lookout for a nice bit of secluded green. As the evening wore on and the sun started to set, I still hadn’t found anywhere. I even knocked on a few doors of houses with gardens but no one had answered. I finally opted for a shabby sheep field where I kicked off my shoes and was halfway unpacked when I suddenly thought that this was not the right place. I packed up again despite the exhaustion and pain from angry blisters and continued on. I hadn’t got much further when I heard the voices of some ladies behind me. They belonged to two local women, Sandra and Anne, who where out on their nightly power walk. They asked about the camping gear that I was carrying, so I explained about the pilgrimage and if they knew of a good place to stop the night. They were half way to directing me to a nearby forest when Anne asked if I wanted a bed for the night! So off I went for a steaming bowl of porridge, to dry my shoes and spend the night in a warm fluffy bed.  Soon after I met Anne and Sandra the heavens opened in the most spectacular down pour. Had I stayed in that field all my belongings would have been drenched. Surely Mother Mary was with me.

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