Please DO NOT attempt to gain access to Keadeen from the road by following my route. The owner, who is a very decent man, has good reasons for wanting to control access. There are numerous other unproblematic access points.
Years ago I would wait until conditions were right and leave planning my walk until “the night before”. This proved a little stressful, so at some point, I began to prepare many alternative routes, put them on special sheets, and was always ready for action. Except that the sheet I wanted would inevitably go missing when the time for action arrived. Finally, in what can only be described as a stroke of organisational genius, I placed all my precious plans in a single lever-arch folder, with routes suitable for every part of the country, so that if a day came free with a promise of rain at one end of the island, I would be ready to travel to the other end. It would be all there in the folder.
On March 18th the weather in Leinster was mild and a little drizzly, so I confirmed to boys Nos 1 and 3 that we would tackle a short route in Wicklow to enable me to cross Keadeen off my lists. Surprisingly, it’s an Arderin, Vandaleur-Lynam and one of the Highest Hundred. I detected a certain suspicious air of “Where exactly are we going , Dad?”. “Leave that to me” I smiled smugly, “Remember lads: this is what I do
My gear was all over the place so by the time I had assembled it, it was practically lunchtime, and we all knew that we would need to be home to see Ireland’s rugby players take the good out of England’s Six Nations’ Win, and pay them back for 800 years of disrespect etc. So I grabbed for my special folder only to discover it was gone. Disappeared. Dematerialised. One of the great advantages of marriage is that there is always someone to accuse in the event of lost property. To no avail. No admission of guilt. Not even a suggestion of the next step. I was merely stripped of the brownie point that was to have been awarded for briefly severing the umbilical cords of the two lads from their mobile phones. Suddenly, I was no longer the cool, calculating, leader of a small but highly motivated group: I was shell shocked and frantic.
We jumped in the ‘Ham and headed for Keadeen. Not the carefully prepared side of Keadeen in the missing plans. No. The other side, as suggested, randomly, by Google Maps on my mobile. I knew that Keadeen was hovering behind the fog, and that the open mountain was only a few fields away, across a narrow strip of farmland, bisected by a boreen. I thought of driving around the mountain. But I also thought of how Ireland had been treated since 1169 by the sasanach, and the urgency of completing our task so that we could get home. It was, as so many of my decisions are, a "no brainer". I parked the ‘Ham up the road and marched the crew to the gate. There was a big red and yellow sign that admittedly began with the words: “No unauthorised entry” but then laid down the conditions that would apply if one was indeed allowed to advance. Both sons (highly educated in a book-learning way) wondered if the sign might mean we should not enter the premises. I explained that the sign required us to make reasonable efforts to obtain the consent that would invariably be given. We hopped over the gate and up the laneway. No. 3 said: “We’re in luck” and pointed to a large flock of sheep on the mountain emerging from the fog in the care of a man and his dog. “Look lads we can’t send a flock of sheep scattering in all directions. Leave that man alone…We’ll contour round to the north and avoid upsetting him.” But as we attempted a flanking movement, the man, his dog and the sheep moved across the mountain to block our path. When the parties were less than 100 metres from one another I heard an unmerciful shout. Son No. 1 said: “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” (He has been with me the longest).
I told the lads to rest, and I walked forward to parlay, in the way generals talk to opposing generals to see if bloodshed can be avoided. In front of me was “the man” and his carefully drilled sheep. And there was me, in a redcoat, my flock hidden behind a rise. I began with a profuse apology. He cut me short with questions about my eyesight and literacy. He indicated that we should return from whence we came. I explained that I had attempted to circumnavigate him to avoid scattering the sheep, not to avoid detection. Had there been no sheep, I would have walked directly to him and asked him for permission to proceed. I said that I would lead my boys straight down the hill and drive them home to their mother if that was what he wanted but I implored his consent to proceed. Once I acknowledged that this man would have the final say, he relaxed and asked me where I was from. We introduced ourselves. He pointed out that he is demented with trespassers, that he is in his 80s (yes and up and down the mountain too, fair dues to him), that various walls have been damaged and so forth. But as so often happens when people meet face to face and show suitable respect, the landowner now changed his mind and told me to go on up. I thanked him profusely and promised to make his views known in our community. I also promised to come down further south rather than go near his place a second time. We parted on the best of terms. Meeting this kindly but hardy individual was the highpoint of the day. Well almost the highpoint…the rout of the sasanach at the ‘Viva was sublimely pleasurable.
[ Ireland beat England 13 to 9 at rugby that day, though England were the overall winners of the 6 Nations Cup. There probably are uncontentious routes up Keadeen from the SW but don't use this one. ]