Take on Nature - Epic walk is a shore thing
RIVULETS run into rock pools, crevices fill and open expanses of sand are quickly inundated. Limp strands of seaweed rise from where they nestle to sway in the current and mussel-gatherers lift their bags and retreat to dry land.
On more exposed beaches the ebb and flow of the tide is barely tangible and only becomes apparent gradually. But the rate at which the sea flows back into Carlingford Lough after low tide is astounding – in the space of just minutes it seems to fill up again.
The lough was formed in the last ice age by a retreating glacier and lies between the Mourne Mountains in Co Down and the Cooley Mountains in Co Louth.
The 'ford' bit in its name is derived from the Norse word fjord and the Vikings settled here in the 9th century.
A 'Greenway' has recently been established along the Co Louth shoreline, starting in Omeath and running all the way to Carlingford town.
The tide is still out when I start walking from Omeath harbour as wagtails flit between the rocks, oystercatchers fish and cormorants stand along the waterline to dry their outstretched wings.
On the opposite shore cargo ships sail into Warrenpoint harbour and along the coast Kilbroney Forest ascends behind Rostrevor and up into the foothills of the Mournes.
Occasionally, the path I'm walking on rises from the shore and onto the footpath that runs alongside the main road, skirting private land and houses, before dipping back towards the lough.
Parts of the path are fenced in, but once it passes a popular shrine to St Jude and the small harbour at Greer's Quay it opens out again and for the most part runs along the shoreline and into Carlingford.
The Cooley Mountains that rise to the right may not be as extensive or as high as their counterparts on the Co Down side of the lough, but they win hands down in terms of epic tales.
They were the backdrop to the story cycle contained in the Táin Bó Cúailnge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley) and the sagas of Cúchulainn, the Red Branch warriors and their battle with Queen Mebh of Connaught.
A well signposted Táin Trail has also been developed, running from Omeath and into the Cooleys, but that will be for another day.
Just over an hour's walk (about seven kilometres) from Omeath brings you past an impressive marina and the even more impressive remains of Carlingford Castle. The castle dates from Norman times and was finished in 1261 and the town grew up around it.
At one time Carlingford had four gates and one of them still stands almost perfectly preserved at Thostle Street. Further up the town is the remains of a Dominican friary.
The town itself has established itself as an outdoor pursuits centre with a reputation for some excellent restaurants and after a sea-food themed lunch and – humming Dearg Doom by Horslips – the anthemic track from their concept album The Táin) – I start back to Omeath.