Dermot during his Camino de Santiago walk (2016)
Long distance walker and writer, Dermot Breen (aka ‘The Man with the Camino Tattoo’), is about to embark on his third 1,000 kilometre trek in memory of his late wife, Jacqui, and to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. This time he is tackling the rugged Ireland Way, which stretches from Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork to Ballycastle on the North Antrim coast, a journey that will take him five to six weeks to complete.
In 2015, Dermot walked the entire Ulster Way around Northern Ireland and in 2016 he walked the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. In 2017, he took a break from long distance walking to concentrate on writing and has since had two books published charting his physical and emotional journeys since he lost his beloved wife of 28 years to ovarian cancer in January 2015. He sets off on the Ireland Way on 20 June.
Of his latest venture, which will see him covering up to 20 miles per day, the Omagh charity walker said: “I thought that I had perhaps finished with my long distance walking, but when I learned that the Ireland Way finished in Ballycastle, I just felt compelled to get my walking boots on once again. Ballycastle is where Jacqui was brought up and her remains now rest in Ramoan Parish Church at the top of the town. Ballycastle is therefore a very special place for me and it will be highly fitting, and perhaps a little emotional, to end my latest walk there. The timing of my walk is also highly significant in that I aim to reach Ballycastle by 1 August, which is the date on which Jacqui and I were married 31 years ago. It might sound a little melodramatic, but it just seems to me that I was destined to do this walk.”
Pic: Jacqui and Dermot on the North Coast (2014)
He added, “The Ireland Way was only launched late last year and is the brainchild of Caroline Allen, who wished to recreate the essence of the Camino de Santiago in Spain a bit closer to home. It has essentially linked up a lot of existing walking routes throughout Ireland, North and South, to create a continuous path that stretches from the South-West of Ireland to the North-East. From Castletownbere, it winds its way up through the centre of Ireland, passing through places like Tipperary, Ballinasloe and Leitrim, before joining the Ulster Way at Belcoo in Co Fermanagh. From there it follows the Ulster Way trail through Belleek, Omagh, Dungiven and Caslerock and it then hugs the Causeway Coastal route all the way to Ballycastle.”
"I have been doing a little research on where the Ireland Way route passes through and I'm really looking forward to experiencing the wonderful landscapes on offer (weather permitting) as I walk over the Ballyhoura Mountains and Slievenamuck and through the Glen of Aherlow with views of the Galtee Mountains," he tells the Tipperary Star.
"A few specific places/ things I really want to see are the Ogham Stone near the Aherlow House Hotel, the ruin of Ballylanders Church and the Donohill Motte. Also intrigued by St James' Holy Well in Donohill as my last long distance walk in 2016 was the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain - Camino de Santiago simply means the Way of St James - so I will have to check this out further when I'm there to see if there might be a connection."
"And then of course there is Tipperary town itself which has an interesting history, particularly around the Irish War of Independence and the First World Way," he says, adding that he also recorded his own special version of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" while on his Camino journey in Spain.
Dermot’s latest book, ‘The Man with the Camino Tattoo’, covering his experiences during his Spanish Camino de Santiago venture, has just been published by the Belfast based publisher, Shanway Press. The title of the book comes from the fact that, while on his journey, Dermot met a French pilgrim called Nicolas who also happened to be a tattoo artist. After Nicolas heard Dermot’s story about why he was walking the Camino, he designed a unique tattoo in Jacqui’s honour and commemorating Dermot’s Ulster Way and Spanish pilgrimages. Dermot now proudly sports the tattoo on his right shoulder and jokes about how his meeting with Nicolas certainly left a ‘lasting impression’ on him and how he himself is now happy to be known as ‘The Man with the Camino Tattoo’.
Dermot hopes to raise £7,500 for Cancer Research UK through his latest walk, which will push his fundraising total since 2015 to £40,000. People can either support him by donating to his fundraising page at www.justgiving.com or by purchasing one of his books from Shanway Press at shanway.com or via Amazon, as he also donates all sales revenue to the charity.
Dermot will be setting off from Castletownbere on Wednesday 20 June and you will be able to follow his progress on Facebook at www.facebook.com