Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dublin Phoenix Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 14.2 km (8.8 miles), terrain: a few short hills, gain 90 meters

Dublin Running Routes:
Georgian Heritage  
River Liffey 

Phoenix Park
Dun Laoghaire coastal run 
City Centre loop   

Howth Cliff Walk trail
See the other running routes here!

Phoenix Park is one of those places that every city needs: a big, green oasis full of gardens, sporting facilities and endless trails that wind their way through hill and glen. With playgrounds, flower gardens, a zoo, a fort, a castle tower, palaces, sports fields, ponds and monuments, it provides endless highlights and lookouts and spots to have fun. This is the place where Dublin goes to relax and play in nice weather. 
Trail in Phoenix Park
NOTE: This run is a bit long, so if you want to reduce it to 10 kilometers, just take a bus or tram to Heuston Station, right near the park entrance and begin there. The bus lines 25, 37, 39 and 69 all head west along the south shore of the River Liffey, and then cross the river to get to the park. Or take the Red Line LUAS tram to Heuston.

Phoenix park is diagonally bisected by a road, Chesterfield Avenue. The smaller, northern half of the park is filled with a lot of big things that are in the way of a good, free run: the Dublin Zoo, the Irish President's mansion, the visitor centre and its parking lots, and the polo grounds.

So it's better to head to the southern part of the park, where you can choose from a wide variety of dirt- and grassy trails and paved walkways.
Ha'penny Bridge, looking towards the run
So, if you find yourself visiting memorable Dublin, get yourself to the pedestrian Ha'penny Bridge, which crosses the River Liffey right in the heart of town at Temple Bar.

We'll follow the south shore on the way out, and the north on the way back. So turn west and head out along Wellington Quay along the south shore of the river. To avoid most pedestrians, stay on the sidewalk directly next to the water.
Along the Liffey
This is a busy street, and a main bus route, so it won't exactly be quiet. After you pass Winetavern Street, you'll see the domed Four Courts courthouse across the river.

A few blocks further west, you'll pass the James Joyce House, at 15 Usher's Island. Ireland honors its writers and poets like few other lands.

And two blocks further, you'll see Croppies Acre park and the National Museum of Ireland behind it, across the river (we'll run there later). The huge Guiness brewery is just to your left side.

At the brewery, we're almost at Heuston Station, so keep to the right and cross the river at the bridge, at the 2 kilometer mark.
Park entrance
Now continue westwards along Parkgate Street, heading uphill right to the park entrance. After passing the round Criminal Courts of Justice building, you'll see the stone park  gates to the right, so head up through them into Phoenix Park along Chesterfield Avenue.

I said we'd stay along the south side of Chesterfield, but let's make a great exception right at the start: there is a little gate into the Peoples' Garden on the right side, let's head in there. It takes us away from the street and puts us right into one of the prettiest spots in the park.

Just run straight along the sidewalk into the garden, passing flower beds and fountains.
Peoples Garden
In half a kilometer, you run past a pond on your right side and then cross a little side-street. Continue straight into the next section, which has a little valley. Head up towards the left, to the café, actually the Tea Rooms.

After passing the tea rooms, at the 3-km mark, you'll come to the next cross-street, with the red ticket office for the Dublin Zoo on the far side.

The zoo will block our progress, so let's turn left and cross Chesterfield Avenue and continue southwest on the little street past the cricket fields. The street winds past a pond and then ends at an army sports club.
Where the sports fields begin: keep left and run towards the woods!
When the pavement ends, run straight out into the sports fields. Stay to the left edge of the hurling fields, avoiding trampling them. Head towards the woods on the left side, and you'll connect into a trail heading northwest. You'll probably begin to run past herds of grazing deer. They are all over this part of the park.

Stay on the trail, which is parallel to and above a bigger, paved bike/running trail in the little valley to the left.

Eventually, your trail will merge into the paved one, after you get views of the Irish President's mansion way off to the right, Áras an Uachtaráin.
The Papal Cross
You'll soon cross a car road, Acres Road, where you'll see a gigantic white cross towards the southwest. Follow the path towards the cross, at the 5-km mark. The Papal Cross was erected to commemorate a sermon on that spot held by Pope John Paul II.

We are now running through vast open fields called the "Fifteen Acres", with vistas in every direction. Off to the south you can see the faraway Wicklow Mountains.
The Fifteen Acres, with view of the mountains
Continue running westwards through the lawns. You'll pass the US Ambassador's mansion on the right side.

Follow the trails westwards and you'll come to a crossing of two small roads, Furze Road and Upper Glen Road. Cross the road on the left side and then head down into the valley to the left, along a dirt path.
Glen Pond
You'll come down to Glen Pond, and probably some fishermen, at the 7-km mark. The trail then curves to the left, heading uphill to the south, and connecting into Upper Glen Road.

Cross the road and continue southwards along the dirt trail that runs parallel with the street. Eventually, though, St. Mary's Hospital will block your way, at the 8-km mark, and you'll have to turn right to get back to Upper Glen Road again.

As the road heads downhill, take the first little road to the left, just below the hospital, and that connects into Military Road. This road has very little traffic, so follow it eastwards as it continues downhill, then winding around a few small valleys. We're running along the south edge of the big lawn where we were running westwards earlier.
The Magazine Fort
Eventually, the road will lead you to an old fort, at the 10-kilometer mark. The Magazine Fort was used to store gunpowder, and the older walls and towers were extended with 20th century additions.

Just past the fort, you must go down a steep hill, where you continue eastwards along Wellington Road, heading uphill again. When you reach the top of the hill you'll see a huge obelisk to the right. Cross the road and run past the monument, erected to memorialize the Duke of Wellington.
Wellington Monument
Run past the monument and then keep left and you'll return to Chesterfield Avenue again, across from the Peoples' Garden, where you then exit the park.

Head back towards Heuston Bridge, but instead of following the way we came before, keep to the left and follow Benburb Street to the left of the little triangular park, at the 12-km mark. Follow the tracks of the LUAS tram line, which runs here, parallel to the Liffey a block away on the right side.

A block later, you'll come to a bigger park, Croppies Acre, where Irish rebels ("croppies") from the 1798 Rebellion are buried. The park has been upgraded in the last years and you can now go into it and run parallel to the street.

The Irish National Museum is to the left, with art and design objects.
Along Benburb Street
Continue along Benburb all the way back into town. This northern part of Dublin has a gritty reputation, but there have been some recent upgrades to make life there more attractive. A couple of squares have been fitted out with playgrounds and places to sit.

At Smithfields, you'll see one of those squares, at the Jameson Whiskey distillery, at the 13-km mark.

Later, when you cross Jervis Street with Wolftone Square, you'll run past the new Jervis shopping mall. Right at the mall entrance, you'll see a little pedestrian street turning south to your right, Millennium Walkway.
Along the Liffey boardwalk and the Ha'penny Bridge
Run down the walkway, lined with little restaurants and cafés, until you reach the Liffey. Cross the riverside street, Ormond Quay, and turn left to follow the boardwalk over the river the one block back to Ha'penny Bridge.

Now that was one long and scenic run!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.2 km (4.4 miles), terrain: flat

Now, with the summer heat baking the Emirates, it might seem a bit crazy to even try a run, but for the winter half of the year, you can do some nice morning runs in the milder weather. And if you're in downtown Abu Dhabi, the best place to run is the waterfront promenade along Corniche Beach.
The promenade
The Corniche is the waterfront road along the north shore of town, and for its entire length, there is a nice pedestrian promenade, embedded in a narrow, park-like setting.
Flowering tree along the way
This route follows the nicest part of the promenade, along the two artificial beaches, where the curvy promenade winds through trees and shade canopies, a bit removed from the nearby traffic. The Corniche promenade continues to both the east and west of this route, but those sections lie directly next to the road, so they aren't as nice.

So, if you're ready to get up early and head out for a nice morning run, get yourself to Corniche Road, at 6th Street. The promenade here has a little bandstand in a semicircular lawn. Across the water, you can see the huge new Marina development.
View to the Marina
Now, the route is simple: just turn right and run northeastwards along the curvy promenade with the water to your left side, avoiding the sidewalk directly next to the road.

This is one of the town's favorite spots to hang out and enjoy cool mornings and evenings, so it can be a bit crowded in the evening or on winter afternoons, so the early morning is always best for running. The beach itself is full of spa buildings and shade-tents, so you don't really see much sand or water along this part.
More of the promenade: nice spot!
After a kilometer, you'll round another semicircle and then continue along the landscaped promenade.

To the left, you'll now see the brown sand dunes of Al Lulu Island across the water. And to the right side rise the modern skyscrapers of the ever-changing downtown.
Al Lulu sand dunes
At the 2-km-mark, the first beach ends, where Murbarak bin Mohammed Street merges into Corniche Road. Across the road is the Family Park, with all its playgrounds and water attractions.
In the Family Park
After a short ways, the shorter Abu Dhabi Beach begins. This beach is simpler: just sand and water.
Abu Dhabi Beach
Just keep running until this beach also ends, at about the spot where Sheik Rashid Bin Saeed Street enters the Corniche. This is the turn-around spot, at 3.5-kilometers.

NOTE: you could continue northeast for a long way, for another 3.5 km, if you want to add distance. If you do, you'll come to the dhow harbor, with dozens of the fascinating wooden Arab sailing ships tied to the quays.
The dhow harbor

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Dublin Howth Cliff Trail Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.6 km (4.7 miles), terrain: some rocks, rise 128 meters

Dublin Running Routes:
Georgian Heritage  
River Liffey

Phoenix Park 
Dun Laoghaire coastal run 
City Centre loop   

Howth Cliff Walk trail
See the other running routes here!

If you're in Dublin and you want to discover an authentic corner of wild Ireland, just hop on the DART train north to Howth and run/hike this amazing cliff trail.
The cliff trail with a bit of rainbow under that cloud
The trail winds along impressive, wind-swept cliff-faces full of nesting seabirds, with expansive views to islands and mountains off to the northern horizon. It's definitely a side of Dublin that you shouldn't miss.

To get there, just take the green DART line, the Dublin commuter train line, with stops in the town center like Pearce-, Tara-, and Connolly stations. Howth is at the northern terminus of the green line, on a round peninsula which is barely connected to the mainland.

So, if you are ready for one memorable trail run, take the DART to Howth Station, then get out and turn left to start the run at the big harbor right next door. There is a promenade in a strip of park along the harbor.
The fishing boats
First, comes a line of seafood restaurants, then the fishing harbor, with its scenic collection of boats bobbing at the quays. Off in the distance, to the north, you can see Ireland's Eye island, with huge, slender rocks balancing just off its shore.
Howth marina and lighthouse in the evening
Keep running eastwards along the quays, and you'll pass the yacht marina and the Howth Lighthouse. When you reach the eastern pier the land ends, so turn right to start heading up Balscadden Road, with the water to your left side.
Balscadden Bay, as seen from the road
You'll soon pass Martello Tower, an old British-built defensive fort on your right, at the 1-kilometer mark. Continue uphill as the road continues eastwards, above the cliff-faces along Balscadden Bay.
View north towards Ireland's Eye
This whole way is paved until you reach the Kilrock Car Park, where the real Cliff Walk trail begins. There are several variations of the Cliff Walk: they all begin here, at the 2-kilometer mark of our run, but they vary on how they get back to the train station. We are following a modified version of the green trail, marked by green arrows.
Gorse and rocks at the Nose of Heath
Now you'll now head uphill, needing to climb a few rocks. The hill is covered with heather and gorse, a thorny bush that has wonderful golden flowers in the springtime that smell like coconut-butter.

You can see your first cliffs below you, with sea-birds nesting in the niches. To the right is a small peak, Kilrock, with great views of the sunsets.
Hikers on Kilrock viewing the sunset
Sometimes seals are sighted down below the cliffs. This section of cliffs forms the Nose of Howth, and from here, the trail turns south.

After the rocky start, most of the trail is more runable: a narrow gravel path next to the cliffs. The path is not well-marked, but it doesn't matter: just stay along the water and you'll be fine.
Trail/stream leading through the gorse
A couple of times you'll pass through stone gates. If the weather is fairly normal, you'll probably be hit by a shower or two during the run. That can even turn the trail into a running stream! But you'll be rewarded by a rainbow or two, so no problem.

The white spots on the cliff are nesting seabirds
After about 3.5 kilometers, you'll see the Baily Lighthouse on a promontory far in the distance to the south. It marks the northern approach to Dublin Bay, and you can normally see a few ships and ferries gliding by.
Baily Lighthouse on the promontory
At 4 kilometers, you'll pass a yellow warning sign, then a post pointing uphill to the Summit. Follow the steep steps to the top, and you'll see a jeep track turning off to the right, Upper Cliff Road, just before the car park. This is our way back.
Steps to the Summit
This gravel road heads back north, going by a few scattered farms along the hilltop. Meadows and gorse scrubland curve downwards towards the cliffs below.
Upper Cliff Road
The road will curve towards the left. At a gravel crossroads, after about the 5-kilometer mark, keep going straight, following the green arrow. From now on, it's all downhill.

Upper Cliff Road leads you back into town by entering a neighborhood. It ends at Thormanby Road, the main road through town.
Along Thormanby Road
Turn right and head downhill along Thormanby Road. This isn't very busy, so it's not as bad as it sounds. You're right in the center of town when you get to the church and the few little shops and pubs.

Keep running downhill, passing the Abbey Tavern on the left, a comfortable old pub with great salmon chowder and good Irish beer.
In the Abbey Tavern: I heartily recommend it!
Right after the tavern, you'll pass the ruins of the 800-year-old St. Mary's abbey church. It was built by Sitric, the Viking King of Dublin.
The abbey ruins in twilight
Right after the abbey, you'll find yourself back at the harbor. Cross Harbour Road and turn left to return to the train station in just a few hundred meters.

And aren't you glad you discovered this amazing corner of Dublin!