The Devil's way

 

A walk through the Devil's Glen offers a waterfall, trees and, unusually, sculpture from artists from around the world, writes Francis Bradley

IT WAS WITH dire weather warnings that we headed out on our first visit to the Devil's Glen woods, near Ashford in Co Wicklow. The walks here are listed as moderate on the Coillte Outdoors website, and they were exactly what was required given the day in question.

The Devil's Glen is about four kilometres west of Ashford, on the R763. There is parking for about three or four cars just off the road.

It is worth stopping here for a few minutes to take in the amphitheatre of trees, with springy, needle-covered ground, behind the car park. If you look towards the top you will see something unusual among the trees - but more about that later. Farther into the wood is parking for at least 20 cars. This was our starting point.

Initially, we followed the red-marked trail - the Waterfall Walk - out of the right-hand side of the car park. This brought us downhill in an easterly direction towards Glanmore Castle (see sheet 56 of Ordnance Survey Ireland's Discovery Series of maps).

The castle and surrounds, including Devil's Glen wood, used to belong to the Synge family - of John Millington Synge fame, although he never lived there. The wood is now the property of Coillte and the castle and its surrounds are in private hands.

The track switches back on itself and follows the Vartry River upstream. You don't have to be wide awake to spot some unusual pieces of sculpture dotted along your route. These are part of a "sculpture in woodland" exhibit of 20 pieces by artists from around the world.

Continuing along the river makes for pleasant if, in some places, mucky walking. After about two kilometres you meet another broad track coming in from the left. Pass this and proceed along the river to reach a viewing point for the Devil's Glen waterfall. Be careful here, as the rocks and stone steps can be wet and slippy. Apparently, before the construction of the Vartry Reservoir, in the 1860s, the roar from the waterfall sounded as a "Satanic power announcing some great doom", giving the glen its popular name.

Retracing our steps, we take the track that now comes in from the right and follow it for 200m before taking another right turn on to a smaller track. Staying on this path, we skirt behind the former Tiglin Adventure Centre and An Óige hostel, now the National Adventure Centre.

Continuing for nearly another kilometre, we reach a T-junction and turn right, following the track south as far as the R763. Turn left here and follow another track through the trees; after a short distance it will lead you to an elevated position above the aforementioned amphitheatre and forest entrance.

At this point you cannot help but notice the striking sculpture by Jaehyo Lee.

Following this track brings us onto the yellow-marked trail - the Seamus Heaney Walk - where wooden benches are carved with extracts of Heaney's poems. Following this trail will lead you back to the car park.

Devil's Glen, Co Wicklow

Start and finish

Devil's Glen Wood car park, Co Wicklow.

How to get there

Coming from Dublin on the N11, take the Ashford exit. Arriving in the village, turn right on to the R763, signposted for Roundwood. At the first and second forks go left. Cross a narrow stone bridge. At the next fork go right. Four kilometres from Ashford take a sharp right-hand turn into the wood.

Distance

Six or seven kilometres.

Time

Up to two and a half hours.

Map

Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series sheet 56.

Suitability

For all ages. Dress appropriately, bring drinks and snacks - and don't litter.

Information

For the Devil's Glen, www.coillteoutdoors.ie. For the sculptures, www.coillte.ie

Refreshments

Ashford and Roundwood.