Nine-hour hike across six beautiful mountains in Co Wicklow

Walk for the Weekend: ‘Six Mountains’ linear walk of 23km and 1,800m of climbing

 

“Let’s savour this and enjoy” one of our eight starters said before the walk. The forecast was good: it would be exceptionally sunny and mild, dry and nearly calm.

Still, our annual post-winter incentive to get seriously back into shape was never supposed to be “enjoyed”; on the contrary, it was intended to be long and arduous, challenging, painful and miserable. And in the past, it had more than delivered on this promise of dire desperation – swollen river crossings, rain, snow and sleet, gales, mist, clinging black mud, and dark finishes.

That said, this linear walk takes in six of the most beautifully situated hills in Wicklow (Scarr, Kanturk Mountain, Knocknacloghoge, Luggala, Djouce and Maulin) and four of the county’s loveliest valleys. It’s about 23km in length and 1,800m of climbing, and takes about nine hours. The wind direction usually demands we do it south to north, as we did on this lovely spring day.

The pull up Scarr from the start at Oldbridge is an easy hour’s hike. Its summit view, over virtually all of the Wicklow Mountains, worked its magic on us, gently easing us from trepidation to enjoyment – a kind of “don’t worry, I’ll be kind to you today!”

Dramatic boulders

The second mountain is Kanturk, or Brown Mountain. Situated in confusing, glacially overrun topography of low heathery outcrops and dramatically perched boulders, it overlooks the textbook meanders of the Inchavore river and the white sandy beach where it enters the lake. Trusting to boots and gaiters, a fast fording of the shallow shingled river delivered us to a sunny lunch stop on the northern riverbank, sheltered behind a huge tumbled granite boulder. With the sun on our backs, we worked our way up through the dry crackling bracken and heather of our next mountain.

We didn’t pause on Knocknacloghoge, going on to easily ford the wild Cloghoge Brook at its base. From shapely Luggala, we took in beautiful Lough Tay and our next objective, Djouce, with the deep Cloghoge Valley in between.

The group adjusted to individual pacing on the private track up to the Pier Gates, gathering for a final food stop at Ballinastoe CP. Then came the Djouce access boardwalk, and the memorial to JB Malone, the doyen of Wicklow hill-walking. This great piece of mountain infrastructure allowed for a quickening of pace and delivered us in Indian file to the top, in good order and form.

Sixth mountain

Usually the view of distant and darkening Maulin – our sixth mountain – dismays and dampens moods. But weather and beauty and good progress so far worked to take us there via the Dargle footbridge fairly painlessly. Headtorches were only needed in the woods near the finish at Crone CP, where a friend mused on a great day, but added darkly: “No doubt next year will see business as usual resuming!”

The ‘Six Mountains’ Walk, Co Wicklow

Map: Discovery Series No 56

Start: Oldbridge, about 5km from Roundwood

Finish: Crone CP, about 7km from Enniskerry

Effort: 23km and 1800m of climbing

Suitability: high level of fitness and endurance, navigation skills essential; area of Luggala Mountain is private but access via the Estate’s work tracks to Pier Gates is permitted.

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