Wicklow Way walk for all seasons

A pleasant and relaxing five-hour hike without any terrain challenges

Even if storms and rain turn the terrain into wind-raked, super-soaked morasses, one can still have a really enjoyable hike in the Dublin and Wicklow hills. Low-level sheltered trails for every taste and ability are there to be wandered, all well signposted, mostly dry underfoot and easily accessible from the city.

And so I kick-started a recent Monday with a coffee in the Marlay Craft Courtyard and, Storm Dennis's last gasp notwithstanding, contemplated my map of the Wicklow Way, the long-distance trail running from Marlay Park in Dublin down through the Wicklow Mountains to Clonegall on the Wicklow/Wexford border. My plan was a relaxed walk of about 16km of this trail down to Knockree in the lovely Valley of Glencree, and maybe another kick-start of a staged journey eventually all the way to Clonegall.

Marlay Park deserves an article in its own right, and I strongly recommend a reading of the panels on the place of Marlay House in the political, financial and business world of 18th- and 19th-century Dublin. It is a beautifully laid-out park, full that day of high-up bird chatter and wind song in its leafless winter trees, and multicoloured runners and joggers and dog walkers on its wide open paths and sheltered waterside woodland trails.

After a rather tedious pull-up past some of Dublin’s lovely well-to-do hideaways on Kilmashogue Lane, I entered the welcome forest cover that would take the fury and rage out of Dennis. Up near the high col between Kilmashogue and Two Rock Mountains, I took a wind-assisted detour of about 300 metres to the vantage point of Fairy Castle, and its unique views of the capital, Howth and Dublin Bay.

Sheltered descent

And then, after my only battle with Dennis back in the high windy moorlands of Two Rock and Tibradden mountains, I was treated to a pleasant, relaxed and sheltered descent through the woods to the R116, all the time enjoying the vista down Glencullen Valley in welcome and warming mid-February sunshine.

Again the 2.5km on the R116 and Boranaraltry Lane were a little tedious but a small price to pay for the treats before and after. The pull over the shoulder of Glencullen Mountain, past Prince William’s Seat, was initially nicely sheltered and full of high-up wind song, if a little forest-induced claustrophobic.

All that changed as the woods thinned and lovely vistas opened up, giving me perhaps the best treat of the whole day: first the views from Killiney to the Sugarloaf and then the flagged descent towards Knockree – with Maulin, Djouce and, my destination, the beautiful Glencree Valley, laid out in strengthening afternoon sunshine.

The Wicklow Way would perhaps not be the first choice of my tribe of trekkers and “hardy-boy” hikers. But on that day the shelter and absence of navigation or terrain challenges made for a pleasant and relaxing five-hour hike.

THE WICKLOW WAY

Map Sheet 56
Start Main entrance Marlay Park on the R113, Dublin
Finish Knockree Youth Hostel, about 5km from Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Effort/Suitability About 700mts of ascent; about 16km and 5hrs; easy underfoot

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