HIKING IN COUNTY WICKLOW
After yesterday’s history-filled outing we decided our brains were too full for any more of THAT today. Instead we chose to take ourselves down into the Wicklow Mountains to do some hiking and just enjoy the glorious weather Ireland turned on for us. We didn’t feel like tackling one big hike today, but instead chose a route that would allow us to visit 3 different parts of County Wicklow and do a short hike at each stop. We had a great day, enjoying the very best of Irish weather and scenery!
County Wicklow lies just south of Dublin city. Sometimes referred to as “The Garden of Ireland”, this lush region was home to wealthy English landed gentry in centuries gone past. Today the area is a mixture of picture-postcard perfect villages, beautiful mountain scenery, and impossibly green farmland.
The principal farming activity in Wicklow is sheep grazing, so as we left Dublin behind the roads and commercial buildings of the outer suburbs were replaced with narrow country lanes and green fields dotted with shorn sheep.
The Wicklow Mountains quickly asserted themselves in our fields of vision. This mountain range occupies the centre of County Wicklow and, although not very high*, makes for a great place to hiking. Especially as there’s a wide variety of terrains and trails to choose from, and a village pub is never too far away.
*The highest peak in the range, Mt Lugnaquilla (924m), is really more of a hill than a mountain.
Driving through the Wicklow Mountains the landscape revealed itself to be a mixture of heathers, moors, bogs, native deciduous woodland, reforested evergreen pine forests, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
Deep glacial valleys have been carved out through the Wicklow Mountains, and it was to one of these valleys that we headed first. Glencree Valley cuts across the mountains in an east-west direction and contains numerous hiking trails, including the one through Crone Woods that we followed.
The trail took us through woodlands and up a hill to a vantage point from where the whole valley was visible. We stopped at the view point for a while to enjoy the scenery.
Crone Woods is supposedly home to a variety of animals including deer, foxes, badgers and red squirrels. We were obviously a bit noisy today, though, as we didn’t get to see any of these furry critters on our walk. Still, it was lovely walking under the shade of the tress, enjoying the serenity.
Not far from Crone Woods is the small village of Enniskerry. We’d spotted the village from our vantage point at the top of the hill and decided this looked like a good place to go for a coffee and a snack.
Enniskerry was once home to the workers who served at, and maintained, Powerscourt Estate*. Today it’s far more gentrified, and seems to cater predominantly for the well-heeled crowd and Dublin weekend visitors. Not that we fit into either of those groups, but still, that didn’t stop us form enjoying a surprisingly good macchiato whilst people-watching along the main (i.e. only) street.
*A large estate owned by the Slazenger family (think tennis) that USED to be owned by the Norman La Poer family. The La Poer’s ruled the area from Powerscourt from the 13th century to the 20th century. Today the estate contains a 5 star hotel and a golf course; its formal gardens are also open to the public for visits. We had wilde rplaces in mind to visit and so by-passed Powerscourt, but by all accounts, the gardens are pretty cool.
From Enniskerry we headed up into the mountains to Lough Tay. Along the way we passed Powerscourt Waterfall, which at 121m is the highest waterfall in Ireland. There wasn’t much water there today though.
Lough Tay is small, but incredibly beautiful, glacial lake high in the Wicklow Mountains. Enclosed by mountains on every side, the lake forms part of an estate belonging to the Guinness family. We could see the Guinness family mansion below us, near the lakeshore, as we walked across the mountain ridge above Lough Tay. The views down into the valley from our vantage point were incredible – absolutely breathtaking!
Even the vegetation around us was fascinating – a whole mixture of hardy plants, growing low to the ground protected winds that howl through those mountain areas.
As we walked along the ridge, at one end of Lough Tay we could see a little cluster of huts. Zooming in with his camera lens, Shane could make out that they looked very much like “olde worlde” thatched huts. We really didn’t know what to make of them and only found out later that the huts were purpose-built for the TV show “Vikings”. Seems much of the show is filmed in Ireland – like so many other period/historical dramas!
When we’d finished our trek above Lough Tay we made our way to Wicklow County’s most visited village: Glendalough. This tiny hamlet sits deep in a glacier valley, between two lakes. It’s a very pretty spot, and the walk we did through the valley and around both lakes was lovely.
Most people don’t come to Glendalough to go walking however; they come to see the ruins of a monastic settlement founded there in the 6th century by St Kevin. We stopped by the ruins and looked through the graveyard and ruined church, but didn’t linger as we’d gotten our fill of ancient monasteries yesterday at Monasterboice.
Instead we grabbed a snack and made our way home, back to Dublin for our last night in Ireland. We’ve had an awesome time in the Emerald Isle and, even though we’ve only seen half the island, we’re ready to move on. We’ve managed to get some good tickets on the ferry from Dublin to Britain and so are heading back over there tomorrow. See you then blog fans!