Walking the Wicklow Way

One of our members got in touch with us last year because they wanted to write a piece for our blog about their latest adventure.We are always looking for hostellers to share their stories with us so we were delighted. Introducing Sheila Kilduff…

So finally after years of living on its doorstep I managed to complete the 127 km of the Wickow Way in 2015. I used a great little guide called “The Wicklow Way Map Guide”. It uses OS maps and has all the kilometres marked. I did the trip in two stages – 1 x 3 days and 1 x 2 days. The route doesn’t go through many villages and where you stay might not have access to supplies so you do have to think about what food / water you need to bring with you. It is brilliantly signposted and with the guidebook almost impossible to get lost, even for me! Having done numerous bits of the way on childhood Sunday afternoon rambles, it was really lovely to get the chance to do the whole thing. It cost about 270 euro (accommodation 135, food 80, buses / taxi 55). I suggest you book ahead re accommodation.

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Marlay Park to Knockree Youth Hostel (21 km – 600m ascent)

I took the No 16 bus to Rathfarnham and Marley Park. With my poles and rucksack I felt like quite the adventurer compared to everyone else on the bus. I had the same feeling walking through the park while everyone was just hanging out or going home for tea. I started about 2pm as the first day was relatively short. There is a bit of road walking including under the M50 with the roar of traffic above, but soon you are on track and into Kilmashogue mountain, close to Ticknock and Fairy Castle.

After 10km you skirt the edges of Glencullen. I resisted the temptation of Johnny Foxes pub and cracked onto Prince Williams Seat. I met a few random souls. One guy on a mountain bike with his dogs told me this is what he does every Friday afternoon to get set for the weekend! He told me the hostel wasn’t too far and sure enough you circle Knockree Hill and the Knockree Youth Hostel appears. It was full enough and a beautiful evening to sit outside. There are great facilities here but no food provided (other than a packed lunch).

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Knockree to Glendalough Youth Hostel (30k – 850m ascent)

I spent a wonderful emotional hour reading the tweets of the marriage referendum, including Colm Toibin’s reference to #hometovote being like some elfin army in Lord of the Rings suddenly appearing over the hills. I am sure some of the non-Irish tourists thought I was nuts. I left the hostel in the most perfect sunshine and wondered down green fields to bluebells and rivers. It was idyllic, dreamlike. Then onto Crone woods and excellent views of Powerscourt Waterfall.

It was a stunning day and I needed sunscreen crossing Djouce before getting into the stillness of Ballinastoe Woods. This was starting to feel like a very long day. It was incredibly hot and I was wearing big heavy hiking boots on mainly track and I had definitely been too slow at the start of the day. Whilst I could sense Roundwood with its hostelries a few km to my left, the way tracks on past the pier gates at Lough Tay, Lough Dan and onto Oldbridge.

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Lough Dan

Finally I recognised Paddock Hill and then the bright lights of Laragh and onwards to Glendalough. I fell into the Glendalough Hotel and ate as much as I could. Food really is fuel. Then I headed back to the Glendalough Hostel (actually getting lost embarrassingly!) for an amazing night of sleep. The next morning I was still congratulating myself on the previous hike when I met some Germans who proudly told me they had done 40km and arrived at 10.30pm in the dark!

Glendalough to Ironbridge (25k – 400m ascent)

 

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Up and out early, learning from previous day! I took it easy up the Poulanass waterfall in Glendalough. Again it felt great to be on a long distance walk in amongst the day-trippers. The track winds its way up through forest trails and skirts Mullacor. It is largely all forest track until Drumgoff, onto Slieve Maan and finally to Ironbridge where my lovely B&B owner found me and took me the 8km to Aughrim. Even better, the following day he took me to Arklow where I caught a bus back to Dublin. It was great sitting on the bus knowing I had walked all this way!

Clonegall to near Stranakelly (23k – 500m ascent)

Back on the trail… I got an early bus from Dublin to Bunclody and then a cab to the start of the trail in Clonegall. I really liked Clonegall and was sorry I wasn’t going to end the trip there. I feel like there is Guinness in Osbornes pub waiting for me. There is a lovely random old-fashioned shop there, which must have seen hundreds of hikers discover their need for an emergency Mars bar. The owner wished me well and off I went, the first 5k is mainly on the road and it was gently raining.

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The track then enters low-level forestry, all very pretty but much lower than the Wicklow part of the route. It rained and rained all day. There was mist and fog and then some more rain. It wasn’t cold. My gear held up and I was booked into a B&B on the route and really it was all good! The B&B emerged out of the mists and I was whisked into a roaring fire with clothes horse for all my wet gear. I was the only guest that night and we had a ‘family dinner’ in the kitchen.

Stranakelly to Ironbridge (28k – 440m ascent)

The last day and what a beautiful sunny day. My first stop was the Dying Cow pub (which is notorious as the pub that was raided for afterhours drinking and the landlady insisted that she was just providing refreshments to neighbours who had helped with a cow)  Again it feels like it needs a return visit. It has music lots of nights and the owners tell me many the Wicklow Way journey has been altered post a night there. I was too early but nicely they leave the toilets open for walkers!

The rest of the day was gorgeous, all boreens, around Tinahely and Moyne. As with any adventure as the end loomed it became very precious and I slowed wanting it to both end and not end. Just as my end spot came into view the heavens opened and it rained torrentially for ten minutes before the sun came out. I sat by Ironbridge, three months after I had been there, eating the remaining nuts and fruit, putting on flip flops and happy when my lift back to Dublin arrived over the hills!

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Sheila Kilduff, 2015

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