I love Youghal, I love coffee and I love walking, in that order. Today let me tell you the tales, observations and experiences encountered on my recent undertaking of my favourite walking route in Youghal – while sipping my favourite tipple – coffee. This particular walking route is known locally as the “The Ring”.
My stroll started opposite the redbrick Our Lady of Lourdes Church, The Strand, Youghal – a majestic Church, built in 1939 and taking up a very commanding position in this area of town. Why start here I ask– why not I say – that’s the beauty of doing The Ring – you decide where to start and the finishing line is at exactly where your started – easy peasy! I set off to pound the pavements, armed with my large aromatic Costa coffee, purchased at nearby Spar.
At about 150 metres into my journey I take a right turn and now I am in an area known as McCurtainstown. McCurtainstown is most charming. It is almost surreal taking this roadway with a 3metre high wall to my left, separating me from the main road into Youghal Town. This place is quiet, it is peaceful and the hum of traffic is just that – a hum.
Nearing my final paces of McCurtainstown I sip my Costa – it’s a bit too hot yet. Standing and blowing a cooling breath on my coffee I find myself at the rear entrance to Clancys Restaurant & Bar. Clancys – once the legendary “Railwayman’s Bar” famed by singer Jimmy Crowley in the humorous ditty “Johnny Jump Up”, now a thriving hostelry cum eatery. I am on a walking exercise this afternoon, so a visit is not on the cards to-day – though I can vouch for and recommend their tip-top coffee. Onward and upwards, I cross the road and step onto the Promenade, look out to sea and close my eyes. Should you ever take this little dander, may I suggest you do the same. The gentle sea breeze here is all around me and the air hits my chest with gusto – something no other commodity on this earth can do.
The sea creates a majestic presence and allure – the unique fresh sea smell, the mild rumble of the waves and the sound are all so unique. I cannot think of any other place I wanted to be at that time.
I take a sip of my now cooler Costa, turn my back to the sea and take stock. On my left I see the site of the old train turntable, old station house and on my left I see some modern apartments, once the site of the much popular and acclaimed Showboat and Strand Palace ballrooms.
Now, I have had the privilege many times of chatting with local author/historian and raconteur, Michael Hackett, and he gives accounts of day-trippers visits to Youghal by train back in the 50s and 60s. The crowds, largely families from Cork City, alighted that train and dispersed like butterflies from a jam crock, ready to take to Youghal’s beach for a bit of sun, a swim and sandy sandwiches. Gazing at the former Ballrooms I can recall hearing tales, tall and otherwise, of the exceptional sprung floors in these establishments – majestic waltzes, dynamic foxtrots and fancy quicksteps performed by avid dancers from all over Munster. I realise now that I am standing in a place of immense social history. (Another sip of coffee and I venture on with hastened step and lighter heart.) I know – I’m on a walking venture, but I just had to stop, take stock, think and remember – no bad thing really!
Some few 100 yards on and with the sea murmuring to my left, I make my way onto Youghals Eco-boardwalk. The route consists of 395 metres of mobility-disabled access boardwalk, running from Youghal Front Strand to Claycastle. What a treat – from the moment my feet touched these boardwalk timbers, I felt pep in my step – images of Strand Palace and Showboat Ballrooms flashed before me. I had a quick peek over my shoulder- only a 1/2 dozen people about – so, a sip of coffee, and honest, I had to do a quick waltz on the boardwalk – just me and my cup of coffee – one two three, one two three, one two three. Well, its just taking to the boards really, isn’t it? I just had an idea, wouldn’t it be nice to see an array of couples, in ballroom costume, dance their way along Youghal Board Walk – just an idea, but it might take on- what do you think?! Walking by the sea gives one very happy thoughts. The Boardwalk is such a treasure – I‘ll take my brother here for an amble when he’s next in town – he’s just “got the hip done” and this flat surface will do him no end of good – Dr. Boardwalk!
Onwards and upwards – the boardwalk takes me to the car-park at Claycastle so now I make a right turn to continue my saunter. If you ever walk this route, at this point may I suggest you stop and listen – the bird song here, mixed with the repetitive swish swashing of the waves would put any orchestra to shame. Ballyvergan Marsh is on my left here and home to many rare species of wildlife – the Marsh Harrier is an annual visitor and Sedge Warblers from Africa have been known to visit. I’m not going to the Marsh-not to-day.
Aura Leisure Centre is on my right here, – no need to stop here to-day – Thursday morning is my Aqua Aerobics at Aura. On this leg of the journey there is a little incline, so I’m not travelling at the same lick as on the boardwalk – but I’m not in a rush, and a few sips of the Costa keeps me on track.
On reaching the main road, I know I am on the home straight. I don’t know why, but now I’ve unconsciously upped my pace, maybe I’m just energised by the sea air, maybe I am feeling the diuretic effects of coffee, whatever, may pace is dynamic I am enjoying myself.
I am at the great white wall of Youghal Dog Track before I know it. Oh, I do enjoy a night at the dogs!. I know very little about dog racing but a night at the track is a mighty evening’s entertainment. I love to watch the dogs on the pre-race parade. I particularly like the dogs that have that swagger of a teenager wearing her first pair of high heels – staccato steps but proud shoulders – I don’t know if they win any races, but I do admire their confidence!
A few more yards and I’ve completed full circle of my amble- I’ve walked “The Ring” and I’ve danced on Youghal Boardwalk. It’s been blissful afternoon filled with fresh air, light exercise, nostalgia & discovery. It took me approximately 90 minutes to complete – no medals for speed – but it wasn’t a competition and when all’s said and done, I was multi-tasking – walking, drinking coffee, thinking and remembering Will I do it again? – Yes, many time I hope. Will I make changes to procedure? Perhaps….I may not take my coffee on the route –maybe I will break the journey and perch myself at one of the outdoor tables at Clancys Bar or Farrell’s Summerfield Bar and drink my coffee there. It’s not really cheating – it’s my kind of walk! However, I will definitely take a friend – doing “The Ring” is just too good not to share.
Why not try it yourself – we might even meet up for coffee!