Walk for the Weekend: Devil’s Glen, Co Wicklow
Enchanting forest trails provide solace for the soul
Devil’s Glen, Co Wicklow
For thousands of years we shared our island, physically and spiritually, with the trees and plants and animals that, like us, had found refuge here after the Ice Age.
Tiny little bands of us hunted and fished and gathered and sat around campfires in deep forest clearings and on pristine shores. We witnessed and respected the same cycles of life in all living things around us, and took nothing without thanks.
Then we broke with our erstwhile fellow spirits of nature; we killed and cut down the wild forests, tamed the wild spirits of animals, gathered ourselves within sedentary communities and conjured up an almost divine right to exploit all other living things. We became farmers, land users rather than sharers.
But the “memory” of the forest lingers on deep down in our DNA. And though smothered in these hurried times of deadlines, schedules and smartphones, we can find it again if we go halfway to meet it – and to do that, we must go deep into a forest!
Our little band came to the Devil’s Glen one day in early May when the leaden skies of winter parted, and pent-up, impatient nature exploded into life. The high sun cast sharp and soft shadows onto warm Autumn-littered pine forest floors, and the beech flaunted its brief, but beautiful, spring green.
Ferns uncurled and birds sang from within and across and atop the woods, lending a sunny, melodic stereophony to our woodland experience. But this was to be no “ordinary” wood or forest. Here poets, writers and sculptors have celebrated, with their words and works, the wonders of wood and woodland and wild places. And in this place they would share all this with us.
We were in the hands of Donal Magner, forester, author and forestry editor of the Irish Farmers Journal. Donal has written extensively and beautifully on the geology, natural and social history of the glen, and of its artistic enrichment as a visitor experience.
He introduced us first of all to “Sculpture-in-Woodland” near the entrance off the R763, and told us of the stories and artistic approaches of the 17 sculptors from around the world who have graced the forest with their works of wood.
He spoke of the love Seamus Heaney had for this place of “strange loneliness” and of his gift to us of evocative poetry all along the marked and colour coded walks within the Glen. We walked on these trails right out to the Dargle River waterfall, stopping to picnic on a sunny river-side boulder and admire the views of the sea and Wicklow Head, and to muse on the meaning of the seat-back poetry, eg Heaney’s use of the word “woodtone”!
The visitor to the Devil’s Glen is well catered for with information panels, good parking and two well-marked trails. And nearby Ashford has a plethora of great little spots for a pre or post-hike coffee and/or lunch, and review of the day!
Map: maps available on CP panels
Start/Finish: at main CP1 within the forest or at CP2 on the R763, about 4kms west of Ashford
Effort: about 10kms, a slow 3hrs including picnic, some uphill on the Seamus Heaney Walk, good runners.