Posts tagged with: 'Wicklow'

St Kevins Way in Wicklow

St Kevins Way in Wicklow was the target as I left Mayo in the dead of night recently. A supposed pilgrim’s path, St Kevins Way travels some 25 km from Hollywood in the east of the county, over the Wicklow Gap and down into Glendalough, the great monastic city of the Wicklow mountains.

While this walk travels mainly along small roads, laneways and forest tracks, with nice stretches alongside both the Kings and Glendasan Rivers, nevertheless it suffers from being too much on tarmac. Around 13 km, or over half of the total, is on tarmac. This is unfortunate, given that much of the land traversed would appear to belong to Coillte and some sections could quite easily (I imagine) be taken off-road. There is nothing pleasant at all in having to walk on the busy R756.


St Kevins Way - Kings RIver

Kings River on St Kevin’s Way, Wicklow

The highlights are undoubtedly the boulder-strewn mountain rivers along the banks of which some of the walk takes us. These are lovely, with their Bracken-covered banks and Oak trees. While we walk against the flow of Kings River, as it descends from the Wicklow Gap towards Poulaphuca Reservoir, we walk with that of Glendasan River, as it runs down into Glendalough from above.


St Kevins Way - Glendasan River

Glendasan River on St Kevins Way

The disused lead mines above Glendalough provide a glimpse of Ireland’s mini industrial past, but the unfortunate slag heaps remain a scar on the landscape to this day. The mines operated on and off from the early 19th Century until the 1950s. Learn more about Glendalough Mines.

St Kevins Way should, in my opinion, offer an alternative approach to Glendalough that would leave its current path after the mines and head over the eastern shoulder of Camaderry down to the Upper Lake. This would provide a much more spectacular and altogether more satisfying entrance into Glendalough than the existing tame route that doesn’t show off the beauty of the valley.

St Kevins Way in the Wicklow Mountains

Hollywood to Glendalough : 25 km; total ascent ca. 500 m; duration 7h30.

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Welcome to 2012

December saw me take on three good hikes in the off-season.

I had a specific reason for revisiting The Bangor Trail from the Bangor end on Dec 21st, the shortest day of the year. While on ‘The Walk of Hope’ with the fabulous people of Foxford Ramblers Walking Club the previous Saturday, two companions from Bangor had told me of works being carried out on the Trail that they weren’t at all happy with. I just had to investigate, fearful of another example of environmental vandalism by public bodies.

Hillwalking in the west of Ireland

The Walk of Hope, with Foxford Ramblers Walking Club

But first, back to Foxford. Jim Murray and his colleagues had organised a charity walk for Sat, Dec 17th, in aid of Hope House in Foxford. It was an excellent 16 km walk over the lowish Mayo foothills of the Ox Mountains, from Bonniconlon back to Foxford. Towards the end of the walk was a superb wetlands area, with rushes, streams and three small lakes I need to re-investigate some time this year.

The walk was led by Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and we had lovely weather, save for one rough enough hailstone storm. A good 80 walkers took part and it was most enjoyable. Find out about Hope House here and Foxford Ramblers Walking Club here. A great day !


Walking holidays in Ireland

The Bangor Trail

The following Wednesday, I hiked from Bangor to the Tarsaghaunmore River on The Bangor Trail and back (8 km one-way). On the day that was in it, I knew I wouldn’t get any further by dusk and didn’t really fancy hiking after dark. All was going swimmingly until near the bridge, where I discovered the work to which the Bangor people had referred.

A bit of history : a number of interested parties, including NPWS and the local Leader company, had attended a meeting in late 2010 to discuss what should be done about the waterlogged nature of much of The Trail. I was decidedly on the “leave it alone” side of the discussions. My understanding of the outcome of this meeting was that only streams crossing the Trail would be boardwalked and / or drained and the remainder left as is. Instead, what I saw in December was both boardwalking and drainage work where there is no need whatsoever for either. Or to put it another way, if they deem work necessary on that section, then they’ll deem it necessary almost anywhere. The fear now is that this type of work will be carried out way in excess of what is required, threatening to ruin the uniqueness of this place.

Walking guide in Ireland

Lugnaquilla, Co. Wicklow

Between Christmas and New Year, I joined my brother-in-law for a hike up Wicklow’s Lugnaquilla, Ireland’s highest mountain outside Kerry. We came from the Glen of Imaal side, heading up by Dwyer’s statue. The walk (6.5 km one-way) was really easy, taking just under 2 hours to the 925 m high summit. It snowed on us for part of the hike and we unfortunately had no view when we reached the top.

It’s a hike I must try to do again this summer, but from the more difficult eastern side, because the Glen of Imaal approach is just a walk up a not-very-demanding slope. Indeed, many Mayo or Connemara mountains, of only 500 m height demand much more physical effort than this did.

She took and kissed the first flower once

and sweetly said to me :

‘This flower comes from the Wicklow hills,

dew wet and pure’, said she,

‘It’s name is Michael Dwyer,

the strongest flower of all.

But I’ll keep it fresh beside my breast,

though all the world should fall.’

[Na Trí Bláthanna / The Three Flowers (trad.)]

All said, an excellent December to finish off 2011. Now for 2012. Get in touch if you’d like to join one of my guided hillwalking weekends in Mayo.

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Wicklow – The Garden of Ireland

Wicklow – On Monday of this week, I was lucky enough to find myself in the Garden of Ireland, making a rare trip across the country to the county of mountains and forests.


U-nail studded railway sleeper boardwalk at The Wicklow Gap

Over the Wicklow Gap I went, down through Laragh, with its wonderful broadleaf and well-spaced conifer forests and on towards Glenealy, to the beautiful and serene organic farm at Carraig Dúlra.

On their plot up on the hill, with impressive Red Kites soaring overhead, Mike and Suzie Cahn deliver organic farming training, specialising in how to grow fruit and vegetables. Indeed, my friend Tina Pommer, from Leitrim, will be giving a talk and walk on mushrooms over there sometime this coming autumn. The trip offered me my first views of the newly reintroduced birds of prey, with three of them happily circling above our little group.

Wicklow - Laragh

Coniferous forest with good ground vegetation at Laragh

I was there to deliver an awareness course in Leave No Trace. I had a lovely day, passing most of it outdoors in the nearby wood. Even our ‘indoor’ section of the session could hardly accurately be described as such – it was spent in a wonderful large and airy tent! I would really recommend getting up to Carraig Dúlra, taking a practical, educational and, above all, interesting course in the outdoors, of whichever type you prefer yourself. Mike and Suzie are excellent hosts, so you’ll have a great day.

Wicklow is a funny old county, divided as it is between east and west by the mountain range. There’s a world of diiference between Bray, Greystones and Wicklow towns, all by the sea on the one hand, and Blessington, Baltinglass and Hollywood, on the other. Go hike around Glendalough, Laragh and up Lugnaquilla, Leinster’s highest mountain and the highest anywhere outside Kerry.

Wicklow - Carraig Dúlra, Glenealy

Suzie talks about vegetable growing, Carraig Dúlra, Glenealy

Visit Carraig Dúlra’s website here.

Visit Leave No Trace Ireland here.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker

Increasing reports of the wonderful Great Spotted Woodpecker’s return to Ireland are a delight to all nature lovers. In the last week alone, there have been sightings in Counties Wicklow (8), Dublin (2) and Down (1). Even last summer, there was a reported sighting as far west as Mayo, from a respected local birdwatcher.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker (copyright RSPB, UK)

I have been lucky enough to see this fabulous bird over the last number of years in far Eastern Poland, on the walking and nature watching trips I lead over there from Ireland. I’ve also heard them many times in France, tapping away to their heart’s content. I’d love to get to see one over here.

We were all brought up watching Woody Woodpecker, but to see and hear the little guy actually doing his drumming ‘live’ is just brilliant. Drumming is the loud, rapid-fire tapping created by the bird beating its bill off a dead branch. The sound carries some distance and it is the woodpecker’s way of claiming territory and is one of the best ways to locate them in a wood. Although I’ve been lucky enough to see these birds oversees, it can be difficult when trees are in full leaf.

See photos from this week from Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, copyright Dick Coombes, here.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is about 22 cm long, with a wingspan of ca. 36 cm – essentially the same size as a Blackbird.

Learn about Great Spotted Woodpecker

Birdwatch Ireland has a page on this fabulous bird.

Update 2014 : It is now the end of June 2014 and a quick look at Irish Birding reveals that 24 Woodpeckers have been reported as seen since the start of May. While some of these may well be of the same bird, nevertheless distribution now includes counties Monaghan, Cavan, Kilkenny, Longford and Armagh. It’s all good!

Further Update 2018 : In late autumn of 2018, a bird was photographed on coastal County Sligo. During 2017, I myself had a Woodpecker tapping on a tree near Mohill, Co. Leitrim. They’re coming west, boys and girls!

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