Five years ago this hiker journeyed on foot across Ireland, starting in the center of Dublin on the Irish Sea and ending on the far edge of Valencia Island on the Atlantic Ocean 24 days later. The 400-mile trek was a pilgrimage of sorts, a chance to experience the country beauty of the Emerald Isle as well as celebrate a part of my heritage (I’m half Irish). It was also a great excuse to visit an Irish pub most every evening for a couple pints of Guinness – the real deal.
You’ll forgive me then if I get a little nostalgic for the green of Eire, especially now as we near St. Patrick’s Day, that great national holiday in Ireland and what might as well be one here in the U.S., when everyone is Irish in spirit if not by heritage. A fun time it is indeed to enjoy a glass of Guinness, Harp or Smithwick’s and a hearty helping of corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash or Irish stew before you belt out “Sweet Molly Malone.”
March 17th falls on a Monday, making it possible to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day for an extended weekend. Before the revelry, however, plan to get outside for a proper hike each day, ideally somewhere in the vicinity of an Irish pub. Then you can duck in later on for some well-earned refreshment after chasing leprechauns and unicorns along the wooded trails.
I rang up a few Irish pubs to ask about any happenings for “the wearing of the green.” There’s plenty going on, with live music, traditional Irish fare and drink specials on the 17th itself, never mind the weekend leading up to it.
Listed here are my recommendations for hikes and brews. If you don’t find your favorite Irish hangout or suitable trail in this mix, feel free to improvise. Wherever you hike and celebrate, may the luck o’ the Irish be with you in finding that pot of gold.
Take to the trails of Thorne Head Preserve at the north end of town where Whiskeag Creek joins the Kennebec River, or tackle the five-mile length of the Whiskeag Trail from Thorne Head south to the YMCA, a fine country-style walk (kennebecestuary.org). Byrne’s Irish Pub will open early each day to serve a full Irish breakfast and your favorite beverage (byrnesirishpub.com).
Meander up to seven miles through a variety of landscapes at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm, then check out the exhibits at its Maine Coast Ecology Center and Laudholm farmhouse (www.wellsreserve.org). Féile Restaurant and Pub will feature music by the Galley Rats plus prizes and giveaways all weekend (www.feilerestaurantandpub.com).
Wander the 2.5 miles of trails through the forests and wetlands of the Walden-Parke Preserve on the city’s northeast edge. For more hiking, the adjacent Bangor City Forest has many miles of footpaths (www.bangorlandtrust.org). Paddy Murphy’s will feature live music from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Monday and serve, among many delicious dishes, a creamy corned beef version of Cawl Stew (www.paddymurphyspub.com).
Explore the 4,500-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in nearby Orland and climb Oak and Flag hills, or trundle up Great Pond Mountain itself for dramatic cliff-top views (greatpondtrust.org). Finn’s Irish Pub will feature green beer and Irish trivia (www.facebook.com/FinnsIrishPub).
There’s no shortage of walking opportunities amid the 30-plus miles of the Portland Trails network (www.trails.org). Just about any route can lead to the Old Port and Brian Boru, Rí Rá or Bull Feeney’s (www.portlandmaine.com), where St. Paddy’s Day always takes on a life of its own.
Carey O’Kish of Bowdoin is an avid hiker and beer drinker. Follow Carey’s outdoor adventures in his Maineiac Outdoors blog at: