The J.B. Malone Memorial Walk took place last weekend. For those of you who don’t know who that is, J.B. Malone was a long distance walking officer who set up the route from Rathfarnham in Dublin to a little village in Clonegal, Co. Carlow which became known as the Wicklow Way. He became a life member of An Óige in recognition of the work he did to get young people into the outdoors.
The route was officially opened in 1980. It stretches over three counties (Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow) and reaches 127 kilometers. The secret to its success is the fact that it is one of the few hiking routes in the world that starts in a modern city and before you know it, you are in the wilds of the Garden of Ireland. It attracts over 24,000 visitors every year but you wouldn’t think it because you can walk for a whole day without meeting another soul. An Óige has long been associated with the Wicklow Way because our hostels have followed the route and acted as resting points for those who want to overnight in the valleys and mountains. The reason why our members are so keen on the Wicklow Way Memorial Walk is because many of them credit it with doing wonders for their health over the years.
The Wicklow Way can be done in stages, usually between 5-7 days, but the record is actually held by another Irishman, Eoin Keith, who ran it in 12 hours! For those who want to go further, it is also part of the European E8 walking trail which stretches from Istanbul in Turkey to Cork in Ireland. For our J.B. Malone Memorial Walk we opted for a more leisurely itinerary. It was still active enough with busloads of people coming out from the city carrying their rucksacks.
We had four different hikes organised along the Wicklow Way depending on our walkers’ fitness and interest levels. We organised bird-watching leads with us to point out the many birds that could be seen along the route. There were many highpoints to the day, from walking through Curtlestown Woods in the sunshine to stopping for lunch on a river bank overlooking Powerscourt Gardens Waterfall. That was pretty stunning! All the groups finished up at our Knockree Youth Hostel where there was tea and cakes laid on for everyone by our volunteers and of course, plenty of chats and laughter as we met up with new and old friends to commemorate this fantastic route.