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One Man and his Backpack

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To celebrate  the 10th anniversary of my charity walk across the Emerald Isle
Hot Footing around the Emerald Isle was originally published in 2001, and is a travelogue of my first backpacking journey around Ireland. In the years that followed I lived and travelled around Ireland promoting the book. In 2003, partly due to being misquoted by a newspaper, I had the idea to walk across the country. More info about that below.

I suddenly realised the other day that it has been a little of 10 years since I hauled on my heavy backpack and hiked 280 miles across Ireland for charity, to fulfil my ambition to be a real backpacker. In total I walked 280 miles and, despite being outshone by Ronan Keating (who was also doing a charity walk across Ireland, but didn't have a huge backpack to carry!) still managed to raise £1342, which was divided between the two charities:

National Asthma Campaign
- Make a donation or get involved

Asthma Society of Ireland
- Make a donation or get involved

To celebrate this, I have decided to make this special eBook version of Hot Footing around the Emerald Isle completely free of charge to download. This version includes many short articles and photos from my subsequent travels there, and an article about my hike.

Please download and share this book. And if you feel so inclined, you are welcome to make a donation to either charity above.

Enjoy, and your feedback is always welcome.

(Walking from Wexford to Bunbeg for charity)

From Kirwan House tourist hostel to Bunbeg House B&B

This walk was completed in 2003. It took 24 walking days over a 33 day period.

In total I walked 280 miles and raised £1342 which was divided between the two charities.

Click here to listen to an interview on South East Radio about the walk.

Click here to read newspaper articles from the walk

Walk Details

Event: Walking 280 miles with a large backpack from Kirwan House Tourist Hostel in Wexford Town to Bunbeg House in Co. Donegal in aid of asthma research.

When: I left Wexford on Friday 23rd May and arrived in Bunbeg Harbour Tues 24th June. In all I walked 24 days over a 33 day period, most rest days being taken in the first week. I could have stayed home, watched TV and just donated some money to charity, but I had wanted another adventure and had also wanted to experience Ireland at a slower pace than previously. So to this end I had donned my backpack and trotted off into parts unknown.

The Route: From Wexford town I walked the country roads over to New Ross and joined the Barrow River where I hiked the towpaths up into the midlands, followed the Royal Canal over to the Shannon and then hiked the waymarked trails and the country lanes through the northwest up to Bunbeg.

Miles per day: I averaged 10-15 miles per day and would walk for anywhere from 3-8 hours each day.

The charities: 

I wanted to choose a charity that is close to my heart, and as my lungs are quite close to my heart and I'm an asthmatic, this seemed the perfect cause. Besides, after walking 300 miles I might well be in need of advances in asthma treatment. So I did some research and discovered the National Asthma Campaign in London, who fund much needed research for asthma treatment across the UK and Northern Ireland, and the Asthma Society of Ireland, whose aim it is to inform and advise all people with asthma in Ireland. It was my intention to divide the money raised between these two charities. If you would like to make a donation to either of these charities then you can do so here:

Asthma Society of Ireland

National Asthma Campaign

If you prefer, you can also donate to the following asthma campaign which also has my full support, and who knows, one day I might trek across their country:



Chas E Smith camping and outdoor supplies


Click for larger Image

Integra Neurosciences kindly donated £500 to the walk

Reason for doing this

Ever been misquoted?

Well, when I was on a publicity tour around Ireland to promote my new book Hot Footing Around the Emerald Isle I often wondered, as I sat relating details of my book to journalists, just how much of it they were taking in as they scribbled on a piece of paper whilst trying to listen to me at the same time. Most seemed to get it right, except one: The Irish Examiner.

During my original journey around Ireland it occurred to me that I had never really walked any significant distance with my backpack. Yet the backpack is specifically designed for this purpose. As I thought back over my years of backpacking I realised that this was true of most backpackers I had met. We take a bus or a train to our destination, then either a local bus or taxi to the hostel or hotel, if it is more than a few minutes walk. I remembered meeting an American in Mexico who walked everywhere, through the mountains, with his backpack. He made his living by rock carving, and his pack was full of stones. So I decided that if I was attain the status of Real Backpacker for a Day, I must walk from one town to another with the full weight of my backpack, and not take any form of transport.

This challenge was met on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, where I walked from Glengarriff to Adrigole, Hostel to Hostel. However, what should have been a relatively easy five hour hike along the Beara Way turned into an eleven hour nightmare after being misled by the Beara Way signposts.

I related this and another story to the journalist at the Examiner, who scribbled it down on a piece of paper. Naturally I was excited about making it into a national newspaper for the first time. However, when the piece came out I was shocked to discover what he had written. He believed that I had walked the entire two month journey around Ireland this way, from Cork to Donegal.

Obviously I was gutted about this. An email came in from a researcher at Ireland AM, wanting me to appear on the show to talk about the book. Naturally I had to explain the mix up, but that I was still willing to come on the show. She said that she would talk to the producers, but never got back to me.

After a while I began to see the funny side of it, and started thinking seriously about actually doing it for a follow up book; after all, I had succeeded, albeit somewhat painfully, in being a real backpacker for a day so why not try it for a whole journey. I had often wanted to do something like this for charity, as many of my friends had, but had never found the time because I am always travelling or writing. This could be a good way to combine the two.

As I have been living on and off for the past three years in Wexford, in a great hostel called Kirwan House, this seemed a logical place to start. During my first trip I had fallen in love with County Donegal and during my promotional tour had also spent much time there. I had met up with Andy again, the owner of a fantastic B&B in Bunbeg and also a famous character from my book and Tony Hawks' book Round Ireland With a Fridge. My book had gone down a storm in Donegal, selling out the first weekend in the bookshop in Letterkenny. Thus I decided I would walk from Kirwan House to Bunbeg House