Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dublin Dún Laoghaire Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length:  6.9 km (4.3 miles), terrain flat

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!

NOTE: I took these pictures on a cloudy evening, so try to imagine everything in more picturesque sunlight!

A lot of visitors to Dublin stay close to the town center, bouncing around between the Guinness brewery and Grafton Street, without even noticing that the city has a long, scenic seacoast. The shore is lined with coastal vistas, parks and harbors.
Dún Laoghaire coastline
One of the most interesting spots to visit is Dún Laoghaire (also known as Dunleary), the old Royal Navy port for Dublin. Built in the 1820s to replace the dangerous sail up the mouth of the Liffey, the town around the port was called Kingstown by the British. Built in the Georgian style of the time, with long rows of terrace cottages, the town feels like an Irish Greenwich.
Dún Laoghaire cottages
Today, it comes across like a quiet seaside resort. The old navy harbor is now used as Ireland's biggest marina, home to almost a dozen yacht clubs. And it's easy to reach from the Dublin town center: just jump on the DART train from any of the downtown stations, like Connolly, Tara or Pearse Street. It just costs a few euros, and in 20 or 30 minutes you'll be running along the waterside, smelling the Irish Sea salt-air and feeling as if you've landed in a completely different city.

I first experienced the train ride there when I had to get to Enniscorthy in the south. The train ride was absolutely beautiful, traveling directly along the Irish coast for a long time, before cutting up over the hills to Enniscorthy.

On my latest visit to Dublin last week, I decided to take a closer look, charting a running route through Dún Laoghaire to Bullock Harbour and back. This route is the result.

The Dún Laoghaire Route
It starts at the west end of town, at the Salthill & Monkstown DART station. The train ride there already provides you with great views of the coast.

When you get out of the train at Salthill, you have to go up a stairway to cross over the tracks and leave the station. But in the station parking lot, immediately go up the other stairs that cross back over the whole railway to land on the coastal path. The beach here is often used by windsurfers.

Turn to the right, with the water on your left side, and run parallel to the tracks, towards the harbor. The harbor begins in just a few hundred meters, when you pass the west pier. Just stay along the road going by the harbor, unless you'd like a little detour out to the end of either pier, with their 150-year-old lighthouses.
Dún Laoghaire marina
You'll pass some modern harbor buildings that say "Irish lights". No, they aren't lamp stores, they are the government agency for keeping up the country's lighthouses and buoys. You'll pass some of the yacht clubs in the old harbor buildings, as well as the ferry landing for the ferries to Anglesey in Wales.

From now on, just stay along the water. After the east pier, there are some salt-water baths out on the rocks, only usable at high tide. Then, along Windsor Terrace, the shore is lined by a little park, where you can run right at the water's edge. You can see the stone tower and fort at Sandycove straight ahead. We'll run right to that spot.

When you get to Sandycove, the land sticks out in a little peninsula to the left. Follow the little street to the left and you'll come to Forty Foot Bathing Place, where you can take a fun break and jump off the rocks into the water. The rock formations remind me of the coast in Sydney, Australia. In warm weather, this is the place to cool off from a hot run.
Swimmers having fun at Forty Foot
Now continue running eastwards, past the stone tower (now it's the James Joyce Museum). Running further along the shore for a few blocks, you are forced to take the street leading away from the water, on Sandycove Avenue E. Run till it ends in the main road, and turn left to run the 200 meters to the half-way point at Bullock Harbour.
Kayakers at Bullock Harbour
There is a little 700-year-old castle here (built by monks) and an equally little protected harbor full of fishermen's rowboats. This is the turn-around point. Now we'll run back down the main road into town again. You just stay on the road, going straight west. The street name changes about five times, but no bother. It begins with the name Breffni Road and ends as George Street, Dún Laoghaire's main shopping street.
Bullock Castle
When you get back into town, the road goes uphill a bit. You'll pass People's Park on the right side, at Park Street, with its blue iron fence. If it's open, it's worth a little loop through it. When I was there, it was closed for the evening, though.
People's Park
At the spot where George Street narrows to one lane, turn right and run the two blocks down Marine Road to end the run at the Dún Laoghaire DART Station, right in front of the ferry landing in the harbor.

Or you might want to do as I did, and stop in at the Ritz Café at the corner of George Street and Patrick Street and get a fish and chips dinner (I had the smoked cod) and run with it down Marine Road to the yacht harbor and watch the boats while you eat, before heading back into the city (hey, I'm a sailor, what do you expect?).

Now you've earned your pints of Guinness back in Temple Bar this evening!
Meanwhile, back in Temple Bar...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Tampa Downtown Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length:  8.3 km (5.2 miles), terrain flat

Pictures from Google Maps StreetView (Thanks!) 

Tampa Bay running routes:
St. Pete Bayside
Tampa Downtown
Pass-A-Grille Beach
For more running routes, see Route List.

Running in the downtown Tampa area is definitely getting better. The city's Tampa Riverwalk project, to create a waterfront promenade along the Hillsborough River and the harbor have already added great spots to run. But the project isn't complete, and there are still large gaps in the riverside walkway.

Luckily, there are a few other very scenic spots in the area, and we'll combine some of them in this run: the University of Tampa, the Hyde Park neighborhood, and the southern part of the new Riverwalk.

Riverwalk in downtown Tampa
But first, a few words about Tampa. Like most Florida cities, it's a vast stretch of suburbia surrounding a fairly unexciting downtown. And even though, built as it is on a peninsula in Tampa Bay, it has a long waterfront, there are only a couple of small sand beaches around. Most of the bay around here used to be swampy mangroves, not beachfront. You'll have to head west across one of the causeways to the Gulf of Mexico if you want real beach life.

The downtown has been searching for a new lease on life ever since the suburban malls killed off all the shopping in the 1960s. Nowadays the downtown is a quiet collection of banks and lawyers' offices, dotted with parking garages and empty lots, ripped to pieces by the bisecting freeways.

In the days when I lived across the bay in St. Pete, I only came to Tampa to see a Bucs- or Rowdys-game, watch an off-beat film at the beautiful old art-deco Tampa Theatre, or to eat out in the great Ybor City neighborhood (see the Destination Tips article!).

Slowly, though, new projects are turning the area into a tourist destination: the Aquarium, the convention center, the Forum (a sport- and concert-venue), a cruise-ship terminal, waterfront hotels and the Channelside collection of shops and nightlife have brought back life to the area. May this worthy effort be crowned by success!

This run will start right in the heart of downtown Tampa: at the art-deco-style City Hall building, at the corner of Franklin Street and East Kennedy Boulevard. This sleepy intersection was once the bustling heart of Tampa commerce, and Franklin Street was lined with the biggest stores.

Along Kennedy Boulevard
Face west on Kennedy (towards the river), and start running, with Lykes Park square on your right.

In 2 more blocks, you'll pass the cylinder-shaped Rivergate building, known locally as the "beer-can". You'll now run across the old draw bridge over the river. If you look to the right, you'll see the new Curtis Hixon Park, part of the Riverwalk.

Hillsborough River looking towards Univ. of Tampa
When you cross the bridge, take the first entrance to the right into the next park, Henry B. Plant Park. Plant was a railroad tycoon who built the railroad to Tampa, and the Tampa Bay Hotel resort straight ahead of you. If you run diagonally through the park, past the fountain. You'll run straight towards the strange silver towers of the moorish-style ex-hotel, now part of the University of Tampa.

Plant Hall at Tampa University
When you're done staring at this fascinating building, turn left and run south down Hyde Park Avenue. Hyde Park is one of the oldest and nicest Tampa neighborhoods, full of pleasant old homes, huge trees and jungle-like gardens. This is the place where Tampa's dentists, lawyers and brokers live (lucky people!).

But first, you have to run along this unscenic business street. Let's get into the neighborhood as soon as we can: When you get to Azeele Street, turn right and run 2 blocks, where you turn left on Magnolia Avenue, and then turn right after one block again at Horatio Street, running west.

Along Newport Avenue in Hyde Park
Now you're on a fairly residential street, and it will get nicer from here on. When you reach Newport Avenue, turn left (south) and just enjoy the scenery from now on. To see more of Hyde Park, turn right on Morrison Avenue to run a few blocks, until Oregon Avenue. Turn left here and run past the pleasant homes until it ends at the pink house at the bayside.

Oregon Avenue
This is the turnaround spot for the run. Cross Bayshore Boulevard and turn left, running north along the water, with the water on your right side. This long boulevard is lined with big villas overlooking Tampa Bay.

Across the water you can see the waterfront homes on Davis Island. If you're in the area for a few days, I'd also recommend a run through that beautiful island neighborhood as well.

Bayshore Boulevard
Personally, I think Bayshore is too loud, though. So if I were you, I'd turn back into the leafy Hyde Park paradise. After just 6 blocks, just before the shore curves leftwards, turn left up South Boulevard.

At Swann Avenue, turn right and head back to Bayshore again. At Bayshore, turn left to continue running northwards again. You'll see two bridges going across to Davis Island. (NOTE: Only the northernmost of the bridges has a sidewalk, in case you want to run over there sometime.)

Along the docks on Bayshore, with Gasparilla Mardi-Gras pirate boat
The water narrows at Tampa General Hospital, at the north point of Davis Island. You'll now run along a stretch of sportboat docks.

After the docks, you'll see the downtown skyscrapers looming ahead, and another drawbridge going across to the convention center. Cross the bridge (Platt Street), and turn right at the waterfront walkway on the other side. You will run with the water still on your right side, and the convention center on your left.

Platt Street bridge back to downtown Tampa
You're now running along Riverwalk. You'll run under the Harbour Island bridge, running past the Marriott Hotel. After the hotel, there's a park, Fort Brooke Park, location of the first US settlement in the area after the US bought Florida from Spain.

The Riverwalk ends at the end of the park, but there are some interesting sights ahead: the aquarium, Channelside, the cruise terminal, and a World War II liberty ship, the SS American Victory.

But because you have to run inland a couple of blocks to get there, we'll turn around at the east end of the park and run back to the Harbour Island bridge again. At the bridge turn right and run up Franklin Street the 6 blocks to the City Hall again. The last 2 blocks are a pedestrian way.
Last part of Harrison Street