Glendasan River, Wicklow Mountains

Hiking in the Wicklow Mountains

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The Wicklow Mountains may not be the tallest or most dramatic peaks – their highest peak, Lugnaquillia, is just 924m – but these mountains close to Dublin offer some delightful views and excellent hikes on their glaciated granite uplands. In spite of its proximity to the capital, this wild and sparsely populated region is pleasingly uncrowded. Its valleys, corries and lakes are a natural playground with a range of well-signed and publicised hiking trails.

Lugnaquillia

Photo Courtesy: http://mountainviews.ie/summit/13/_serverdata/pix/picmtn_ct-00013-37.jpg

One major long distance route in Ireland traverses these hills: the Wicklow Way bisects them from north to south. This is the Republic of Ireland’s oldest designated long-distance walk. It was opened in 1982. While some stretches of it are rather dull, taking in long swathes of conifer plantation, other stretches are sublimely beautiful, sporting verdant valleys and wild, heather-strewn uplands. The trail passes from Marlay Park in Dublin’s southern suburbs to Clonegall on the Wexford-Carlow border.  It traverses the Glencree valley, goes past Lough Tay and then goes on on to Glendaough. The route then enters Glenmalure and it circles round the highest Wicklow peak of Lugnaquillia before completing its journey through the Wicklow range. The whole walk is 130km long, so if you find yourself short on time (or energy) then you could simply undertake a section of it. Perhaps the most scenic section is the 29km stretch between Knocktree and Glendalough which passes the Powerscourt waterfall whch plunges dramatically into the fantastically named River Dargle. It can be completed in one day, though will be easier over two, with a detour to spend the night at Roundwood.

 

Lugnaquilla

Photo Courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Lugnaquilla_from_Glenmalure.jpg

While in the area of Powerscourt be sure to check out the house and particularly the grand, terraced Italian Gardens which grace the slopes behind it. Glendalough is home to some of the most important and best-preserved monastic sites in Ireland. Coach parties do descend, but the valley is still tranquil enough to understand why the monks based themselves here in the first place. At the south-east of the Wicklow Mountains is Avondale House, the birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell, the ‘uncrowned King of Ireland’. There are several estate trails which go through the forested parkland of the estate, past many rare tree species and with beautiful views of the Avonmore River.

Tourist information offices will give you a wealth of information on the Wicklow Way and other walks in the Wicklow Mountains, along with maps and other advice, so be sure to call in at one before you head out and start hiking. They will also give you advice on places to stay in the area as you complete the walk. Accommodation is unlikely to be difficult to find. Many places will even ferry your bags to your next stop if you ask them to ahead of time.

The Wicklow Mountains are a wonderful hiking destination, all the better for their ease of access and proximity to the lively Irish capital and could be the perfect introduction to Ireland for those who have never explored the country before.

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