The Wicklow Way through my eyes..


The Wicklow Way through my eyes..

.. the eyes of a girl who lives in a country as flat as a pancake! My name is Imke, and I will be travelling to the different hostels of an Óige as an intern. I will be telling you the story of how I walked part of The Wicklow Way and what it was like for me. From the moment I knew I was travelling to Ireland I knew I wanted to hike (part of) the famous Wicklow Way! All the stories I read online, all the pictures I saw on Google, it all looked like some sort of magical land. The grass so green, the hills steep and the trees waving in the wind.. I just had to go there!

I had just started my internship here at the head office in Dublin and a week later I was off on my first adventure. They gave me a camera, a GoPro and a list of things they would like me to do. Without too much thinking, I just put everything in my backpack and took off, not knowing what to expect..

Let’s get outside!

Andy, the hostel manager of Knockree and Glendalough Hostel brought me out into the Wicklow Mountains on a rainy Monday morning. We left Dublin before 7 am so we arrived pretty early in Knockree Hostel. He showed me my room, and because of the time of the year and the weather there were almost no guests except for the volunteers and some workmen. After I had unpacked my bag and got all my stuff to go outside and explore.. I looked outside and it was still raining really hard. I was kind of bumped. I was really looked forward to going out and hiking somewhere up over a hill to see over the Wicklow Mountains or maybe even the ocean! But in this weather, going outside was less exciting. Off course I went out anyway. Come on, I was in the mountains finally and a bit of rain wouldn’t stop me!

Wicklow Way snowflakes

Two days of hiking and exploring were laying ahead of me and I couldn’t wait to get out. I hiked up Prince William Seat (555m) but because of the snowstorm at the top I saw nothing further than 10 meters in front of me. Despite this little disappointment, it was an awesome experience to climb up there on my own and to feel like I was on top of the world! (Except for the part I had to take shelter behind some big rocks because the wind blew the snow like rocks in my face, but let’s just forget that!)

The weather got better!

On the third day my girlfriend came out to Knockree Hostel to walk part of The Wicklow Way with me and she took the sunshine with her. All day long there was a bright blue sky, and the sun was almost burned our cheeks! It was amazing; it was the perfect weather for such a hike. I was expecting to walk in a lot of layers all day because of the bad weather and cold but we walked in just our fleece jackets almost the entire day. I already knew the weather in Ireland is the same as, or maybe worse than in the Netherlands but not today! In the Netherlands it rains all the time as well, but it is so much better to be in Ireland with rain than at home. Here you’ll see beautiful things everywhere you look. I’ll take the rain for granted, if I can continue to see all the beauty Ireland has to offer!

Wicklow Way icy path

Start of the first adventure in Ireland!

The day started awesome: the cold wind blowing in our faces, hearing the snow crushing under our walking boots and feeling the cold on our noses. And then we began. The Wicklow Way surpassed every expectation I had! The views, the feeling it gave me to walk for hours without seeing a single human being (that’s very rare in the Netherlands with almost 17 million people in a land half the size of Ireland) and the quietness. I never heard such quietness.. no traffic, no people, no factories, nothing.. it was just quiet. We were just walking and walking for hours and hours through so many different landscapes it felt like we walked through more than 3 countries in one day.

Wicklow Way view over the valley

The first section led us through a forest, with grass as green as it is in the pictures in kids books. Little water streams ran everywhere out of the forest. Unfortunately there were “No camping” signs, otherwise I would definitely come back and pitch my tent here! Our climb up the first hill was rewarded with a view over Ireland’s largest waterfall: Powerscourt Waterfall. It is a stunning sight watching water endlessly falling down from a mountain.. Something I can just keep watching for hours and hours. But I knew there was more pretty stuff to see and be amazed by today so we continued on.

Mountains in sight!

Soon the first proper mountain was in our sight. The trails didn’t take us all the way to the top of the Djouce (pronounced jowsse) (775 meter) but instead led us around its peak. While we were walking up it we could already see the next peak in front of us and this time the Wicklow Way took us all the way over the White Hill. This name was very appropriate..

10The hills and the mountains were so impressive! I’m used to a really flat country, and in my travels I’ve seen a lot of mountains but the ones in Ireland are different. They are not high, but they don’t have to be high to be really pretty! The grass is so green. The tiny paths lead you to the top. The birds fly over your head and you can feel the fresh air you’re surging into your lungs. All those things made it very special to walk here for me.

Soon after we were descending from the top along a path of wooden beams laid in front of us. They created that raised walking path to protect the fragile landscape underneath it from further serious damage and erosion. I think it is a really good initiative, because now everybody can just follow the beams and the land will get the time to recover.

Magical forests and black lakes

The wooden beams lead us over the hill and into some more forest. It was like a picture out of a book: a path of wooden beams disappearing in a dark forest. Trees higher than you can look and the daylight seems almost out of your reach.

We continued through the forest and the wooden beams let you descend quite easy and fast. After we left the forest, The Wicklow Way gave us our first glimpse of the Guinness Lake. It is actually called Lough Tay, but because of its black colour and the white sand beach in the north it looks like a pint of Guinness, and that is how the lake got its nickname. It is one of the most photographed locations in the Wicklow Mountains. It is beautiful indeed, but I think it is such a big attraction mainly because there is a big parking lot and a well maintained way towards it. There are a lot of other magnificent views if you’re walking Wicklow Way, but this one is easy to reach for everyone.

Wicklow Way Guiness Lake

De laatste loodjes! (The last mile is the longest!)

After we had passed the lake the scenery was not so epic. It was still pretty but the best part was behind us. That was okay but that made the last 6 kilometers pretty tough. The last two kilometers to Roundwood were hard. Our feet were sore from the first 16 km and the hard road was killing us. We were so glad to see the Roundwood Inn and to know a cool beer was waiting for us. The beer would help kill the time before the bus to Glendalough would depart. The bus was more than 30 minutes late so we had a bit of stress. My thumb was already up in the air to catch a lift to Glendalough when the bus finally got in our sight. Because it is a bus service especially for the small and remote villages in the Wicklow Mountains, the cost is expensive. It cost us 4 euro each from Roundwood to Glendalough (20 minutes) and 13 euro from Glendalough back to Dublin.

We arrived in Glendalough in the dark and with the little things I saw I was trying to picture an image in my mind.What would it look like?

Do you want to know what it looks like, what it feels like to walk on a path with so much history and walk from the first fantasy world into the next? Try it yourself! You can book Knockree and Glendalough Hostel in advance, so you’re sure to have a nice comfy bed to get some rest and the end of a magical day.

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