Walk for the weekend: over Dublin’s highest mountain

Up above a narrow neck of the glen, largely untrodden and unknown to few except sheep farmers, there is a real wonderland of wide open, airy and untouched mountain bogland

 

On a summer Sunday I unexpectedly found myself with time for a hike. However, I wasn’t keen to drive too far as rain was already threatening from the south. Kippure seemed to be my best bet for staying dry – and only 20 minutes or so from my home in Rathfarnham.

My favourite approach to Kippure, and my choice that day, is from the floor of Glenasmole near Castlekelly Bridge on the Dodder. I parked at Finn McCool’s Stone at the most southerly accessible point in the glen, giving me an easy 200m climb on the bog access track into the heathery fastness under Kippure mountain.

To most visitors, Glenasmole is the area around its reservoir. There the Glen narrows dramatically, squeezing out the Dodder on its way into the leafy suburbs of south Dublin. But, up above that narrow neck of the glen, largely untrodden and unknown to few except sheep farmers, there is a real wonderland of wide open, airy and untouched mountain bogland, probably about 15sq km of it. About and around it are ranged the anciently-eroded smooth silhouettes of Glendoo Mountain to the East, Kippure, Seefingan and Corrig to the south and west, its open outlet allowing views on some days as far as the Mournes to the north.

The Dodder tributary streams of this vast catchment have cut deep ravines into the rich blanket bog, exposing the thin glacial till and even the granite bedrock of the mountain itself, and eventually coalescing into the bounded and tamed suburban Dodder. However, up here they are free and wild, forming cascading wilderness gardens of granite boulders, ferns and broken ash and birch, bent- over and hiding from winter storms within the protective cut-away walls of the ravines. Their waters are winey peaty brown, turning silver mica in the streambed granite boulders and sands to an eye-catching smoky gold.

For me the day was dull and the cloudbase low. High up near the summit, I could see that autumn was even now tingeing the grasses with yellow and the fraughan leaves a tawny brown. The wild rowan trees of the ravines were richly red-berried, and the ubiquitous heathers were losing their deep summer purple bloom. The often shoulder-high ferns were fraying at their extremities, their summer green so far only lightly tinged with dried-out brown – still a very tedious experience for the unwary hiker (me that day) who might stray into them!

Underfoot, after leaving the track, the upper glen is easy going. Some recent heather burning has helped, and further on deeply eroded grassy- floored “alleyways” through the peat make for a comfortable and sheltered access to the summit. The intrusive presence of the summit mast is always a shock, its ugly enclosing fence and scattered debris making one forget that, before 1960, Kippure was once as wild and atmospheric as Seefingan, Seefin and Corrig, with its very own enigmatic stone-age burial mound.

My route down was a mindful meander alongside Cot Brook, climbing away from it to avoid the swampy ground and furze and ferns on its east bank to regain the bog track about 0.5km short of the roadhead at Glenasmole Lodge (and Finn McCool’s Stone) – just as the rain arrived.

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