The Wicklow Way. (Irish: Slí Cualann)
Wicklow also known as the garden of Ireland is just 1 hrs drive from Dublin. The Dublin Wicklow mountains are renowned for their diversity and splendid scenery and are the perfect surroundings for wonderful walks.
The Dublin/Wicklow Mountains are saturated with a patch work of forests, glens, lakes and valleys and whether your doing a 1 day stroll or a more adventurous few days walk they provide the perfect settings. Wicklow has always been and still remains a place of great inspiration to poets and writers alike. It is also steeped in its history of Irish resurrection being so close to the capital and in the heart of the Glendalough Valley there is the remains of the 6th Century Monastery of St. Kevin. The Neolithic passage tombs monuments on Seefin and Seefingan (Suí Fingain) are also very impressive.
The Wicklow Way takes a North to South directions right through the whole County of Wicklow and manages to cover wonderful parts of the County that are made for walkers. The Trail does not cover very high ground and goes around rather than over most the mountains along it's path. The highest point on the Wicklow Way is White Hill which is just 635m. The length of The Wicklow Way is 128km and can be broken into many stages for the best enjoyment of it.
About The Wicklow Way Trail.
The Trail begins and finishes in the outskirts of south county Dublin in a public park in Rathfarnham called Marlay Park. It is a long distance self guided marked way that can be walked throughout County Wicklow and it continues onto Clonegal in Co Carlow, a distance of 128km.
The trail was planned by J.B. Malone in 1981 and was one of the 1st such trails to be organised in Ireland. A memorial to him is placed on the trail coming of White Hill and approaching Lough Tay.
The trail can be broken into parts and covered over many days or weekends. There are a lot of places providing accommodation along the way from youth Hostels, B+B, Guesthouses and for those of you who enjoy their comforts a number of Hotels as well, Including a Ritz Carlton near Enniskerry.
I guess the nicest thing about these long distance trails is that you can guide yourself along the way and take it all at your own pace.
Highlights along the way: The Wicklow Mountains National Park, excellent views over looking Dublin Bay, Prince William's seat, Lough Tay, Powerscourt Waterfall, Glendalough with it's 6th Century Monastic site, Glenmalure Valley, picturesque towns of Tinahely, Shillelagh and many more.
Stage 1: Marley Park - Glencree - Knockree
Distance: 21Km Ascent: 600m Time: 7hrs Map
(Start) : Marlay Park is situated on the South side of Dublin in Rathfarnham approx 4km from the city center. You can get to the park by Public transport on the 16 and 16A bus route from the city center. (This bus service actually travels as far as Dublin Airport)
From Marlay Park you will follow the trail through the park and out the back of the park, taking a right up to a round about and under the M50 Motorway. Things should start getting a little quiter here as you enter a much smaller road passing an old road side water pump heading towards Kilmashagogue Forest.
Once you enter the forest you follow the trail around to the left side and in a mainly southerly direction around the base of Kilmashogue and towards "Two Rock mountain" which is named after the Granite Tors that sit on top of it. Keep following the trail down the side of Tibradden and onto the road towards Glencullen. (From here you may continue onto Knockree by taking the right of the road you are on or if you wish to stop there is a fantastic pub called "Johnnie Foxes" just ahead which serves fine food a good pint with live irish music and dancing most nights. Accommodation is provided in the Glencree Visitor Center or the Brook Cottage B+B . Knockree is about another 8km or 5 miles. There is a wonderful newly furbished state of the art Hostel "Knockree Hostel" here which provides excellent cheap accommodation or the Coolakay Guest House. If you dedcided to continue onto Knockree then the next day you should continue onto Roundwood.
Distance: 18Km Ascent: 500m Time: 6.5hrs Map
From Knockree continue on the Wicklow way trail to Crone wood and follow the markings for the Wicklow way along a path through the forested area which will eventually bring you out along the edge of a cliff over looking the Powerscourt Waterfall which is part of the Dargle river. You will then cross through a deforrested area belonging to "Collte" , the Irish forestry Board. To your right you will see Djouce and to your left Maulin. Follow the track left down towards the Dargle river and cross over a bridge following the side of an old stone wall. When you cross the river you continue up and cross over the stone wall following the trail to the side of Djouce. The wicklow way takes the path around the side of Djouce (If you wish you can climb Djouce and come back off it and rejoin the Wicklow way towards White Hill). There is a board walk along this stretch over some very boggy and wet ground.
Continue following the board walk south and from here you should start to see Luggala and Lough Tay straight in front of you. This is a fantastic view on a clear day and a great place to stop for lunch and a hot drink. Coming down from White Hill along this trail there is a rock with a plaque dedicated to the founder of The Wicklow Way J.B. Malone continue on this trail out to the Road R759 over looking the Guinness's Estate and Lough Tay. You could organise a pickup from here to bring you to your accommodation for the evening. Take this road to the Left and continue on to a small crossroads with directions for Roundwood. Roundwood is the highest village in Ireland with a Campsite and providing plenty of accommodation for the evening.
Distance: 12Km Ascent: 350m Time: 4hrs Map
From Roundwood, rejoin the Wicklow Way back to the Pier gates using the road that brought you to Roundwood the previous day or just north of Oldbridge. Continue hiking on the public road crossing the Avonmore river at Oldbridge and keep on this road for a further 3km over Drumray, turning right onto a lane (keep a sharp eye out for this left turn of the road). This passes a farm house and leads to the north-eastern shoulder of Paddock Hill.
The walking route continues over the hill and then descends to cross the Glenmacnass road. Continuing to Glendalough remain on the route which immediately enters Brockagh Forest - with its all too obvious evidence of recent timber harvesting and replanting. There are some incredible views from here up along the Glndalough vally. Keep on this trail through the woods and eventually reaching the Glendalough Hotel for a well earnt pint and rest.
Distance: 14Km Ascent: 400m Time: 4.5hrs Map
Glendalough is one of the most visited parts of County Wicklow both for it’s scenery and it’s historical importance. Glendalough is an excellent example of a Glacial U-Shaped Valley with the monastic site of St Kevin situated at its floor bed. The monastic site complete with a wonderful Round tower 100ft high was founded by St Kevin in the 6th Century and well worth a visit while in the area. There are some great walks to enjoy while visiting this area and an extra day here would be well spent.
The Wicklow way in Glendalough starts at the Glendalough Hotel, you can pass through the monastic site and cross the Avonbeg River by a small bridge and follow the trail to the right up along the edge of the lower lake. The trail brings you up to the Upper lake where it then takes a left turn passing the Poolanass Waterfall and into a deciduous forested area along the side of Derrybawn. You then follow the trail along the side of Mulacore and Lugduff over into the Glenmalure valley. From here you begin you descent into the valley along the side of Mullacor. As you descend there are incredible views along the valley and the surrounding mountains including Lugnaquillia (Wicklow’s highest mountain) to the far south. The trail goes in a zig-zag direction through forested trails to the end of this stage at the Drumgoff cross roads.
The Glenmalure Lodge is an excellent place to have your evening meal and stay for the evening. The Lodge is very popular with walkers and other visitors to the area so pre booking is well advised.
N.B An alternative route can be taken along what is called the Spinc. This is a great walk up along a trail overlooking both lakes and throughout the whole valley. If you follow the blue trail in Glendalough through a forested walk it will lead you out onto the Cliff edge overlooking the upper lake. Keep following this trail up and towards the top of the valley and then take a left leaving the trail and rejoining the Wicklow way on the far side of Mullacore.
Distance: 21Km Ascent: 550m Time: 7hrs Map
From Glenmalure you take the old Military road south crossing the Avonbeg river. The remains of the drumgoff barracks are to your left which were built by the British in the early 1800s to try and curtail the activities of the rebels in this area and in particular Michael Dwyer (1772 - 1825) after the 1798 rising. Leaving the military road to your right you take a wonderful forested trail along the side of Slieve Maan (Middle mountain). Notice the Wicklow way sign to let you know that you are know at the half way point of the Wicklow way 63.5Km as you enter this forest. Keep a sharp eye to follow the trail through these woods as the wicklow way pointers may be hidden in places by overgrown trees or shrubs.
The trail runs almost parallel to the military road and rejoins it in before crossing the Aghavannagh river. Continue on the trail along side Carrickashane mountain towards Iron Bridge which crosses the river Ow. This brings you out to the Aughrim road, taking a left turn follow a minor road for about 500m passing Ballyteige Bridge then take a right turn leaving the road along side a small river. You can finish your days walking here and stay in the nearby town of Aughrim, which is just 6Km along this road, this would be a good location to organise a pickup from.
If you are going on then follow the track up hill through some woodland and along the shoulder of Sheilstown mountain. Take a left to descend to another minor road and take a left for about 2km to bring you into Moyne. Moyne is a great place to stop and take a well earned rest situated in deep south Wicklow with Lugnaquillia (Leinster's highest mountain)as a back drop. There are also two dolmens and a fairy ring close by.
Distance: 21Km Ascent: 550m Time: 7hrs Map
From here the Wicklow way is on a lot of roads and small boreens which can make for very pleasent walks along pathways full with wild flowers during the summer months. Although these roads may be quite, remember to keep right when walking, facing on coming traffic. Keeping in a southerly direction from Moyne take a small laneway to descend and cross the river at Sandyford Bridge. There is a holy well close by dedicated to St. Colmcille which is worth a quick visit. From here take a minor road which runs parallel to river next to it, this trail passes between Slieveroe and Ballycumber. The trail then turns about to the west under Ballycumber South towards Coolafunshogue woods and eventually crosses the river Derry and comes out to cross the road R747.
If you wish to stop in Tinahealy for the evening follow this road to your left for about 2.5Km and it will bring you straight into the town. Tinahely is a market town in the valley of the Derry River, the town was destroyed in the 1798 rebellion, but was later rebuilt in the early 1800's by the Earl Fitzwilliam. There are great places to eat including the Wild Honey restaurant and you can rest your head and legs just next door in Madelines B+B. A new walk has opened up here along the old railway line or you could visit the protected woodland of Tomnafinnoge Wood one of the largest Oak forests in the country.
If you wish to Continue on the Wicklow way then cross the road to take a sharp left along a boreen (small road) and follow this trail along a wonderful flat green pathway north of Muskeagh Hill for 2Km. Then taking a right and descend downhill to a minor road where you will turn left. Continue on this road to a T junction take the right turn crossing a small bridge keep following this road towards the Stranakelly Cross roads and the "Dying Cow" Pub. This is a great spot to stop along your way for a bite to eat or a refreshing pint with a wonderful beer garden to relax in. From the junction take road uphill to your right or your left if leaving the pub. The road follows up around the north side of Cronelea hill to a T junction, take your right passing a small school and a few houses crossing the R725. Cross this road at the staggered junction and continue uphill until you come to T junction with another minor road and turn left. Following this road you will come to a right turn for the Wicklow way which brings you towards Raheenakit woods don't take the right for the Wicklow way at these woods but continue straight towards the Ballard (Baile Ard) High town cross roads. At this cross roads take your left turn and follow this minor road for about 2Km into Shillelagh.
Shillelagh like Tinahely sits on the Derry river and is an estate village built by Earl Fitzwilliam with wonderful looking houses constructed using local granite. The famous Irish weapon that was made from blackthorn sticks, 'The Shillelagh' originates from this village. Read about The Fitzwilliam Estate and Ontario Canada.
You could stay at The Stoops Guest House Coolattin a beautiful B+B close to trail.
Distance: 21Km Ascent: 550m Time: 7hrs Map
Rejoin the Wicklow way by going out towards the Ballard Crossroads, take your right to Raheenakit and follow the trail left into the woods. The trail takes a few twist and turns as goes across Barnamuinga and Aghowie Upper. There are great views along this trail across countys Carlow and Wexford. Following this track be careful not to miss out for a stile down a grassy lane along your way as you are coming of Aghowie Upper. You will then come out onto a another path take your right and follow this as it joins a minor road. The Wickow way travels north up and around Moylisha and back in a southerly direction around Newry. Rejoining the road and crossing it towards Wicklow bridge, from which point you have entered County Carlow and from here take your left and follow for 3 Km to the Finish or start town of Clonegal. An information board and stone bench mark the terminus of the Wicklow Way. Well Done.
Now make your way to Osbourne's Pub with it's coffin lids counter and old style feel that makes for the perfect venue to enjoy a pint and wait for your pickup.
Beside the small and appealing village of Clonegal is the 17th century Clonegal Castle or Century Huntington Castle as it also known.. The granite castle was built in 1695 by Lord Esmonde. The castle has been involved in histoical events and legends.
It also said to have two ghosts dwelling in the house as well.
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