Whilst in Dublin recently to celebrate St Patrick’s day we wanted to get out of the city and see some of the famous Irish countryside. We had visited Dublin last year and pretty much done everything there was to do in this beautiful city and so took the opportunity of our second visit to spread our wings a little and take in the breath taking mountains lying only a short trip from the city centre…. Here’s our exploration of the amazing Wicklow Mountains.
Now here’s the confession, we ended up on a tour! This is something we usually hate to do and pretty much avoid like the plague, but due to our tight travel schedule and the fact that we didn’t have enough money to hire a car (which is pretty much required) so this was a way that we could experience this great scenery at least. We would love to come back with more time and funds and do more hiking and climbing in Ireland.
We ended up going with the gray line Wicklow Mountains Tour (www.wicklowmountainstour.ie) which to be fair gave us a little more freedom than we had expected from a tour. The driver was also the guide and initially we found him a little irritating if we are honest and occasionally patronising (this is one reason we hate tours). It cost us 21 Euros and was a full day trip.
But as the tour went on and we had time to speak to him personally about our climbing and other mountaineering adventures we realised he was just over enthusiastic! In the end we had a barrage of history and information whilst transiting from one area to the other and did learn a lot!
The first stop off was Powerscourt estate which was great but after a quick bite to eat we decided to skip paying the entrance fee to the gardens which looked a little tame and instead take a walk down one of the tracks.
We also found some chains to do a bit of impromptu slacklining, much to the confusion of the other visitors!
We had been left to our own devices here and whilst most people were filling themselves with Jam and cream filled scones we headed out to explore the estate. The day was still early and the foggy dew over the mountains still hung low in the valley which created a beautifully atmospheric view over where we would be exploring further.
Next up we trundled up the weaving dry-stone walled tracks through the sheep filled fields, upwards towards some of the most beautiful and legendary areas of the Wicklow Mountains.
The rolling countryside opened up and the famous bridge from the film “P.S I love you” came into view including a quite wonderful little waterfall flowing through the ancient crags and fault lines of Enniskerry and the picturesque Glencree Valley.
We made our way through the glens and valleys of the National Park thought the famous Sally Gap and the wonderful heather fields towards one of the highlights of the whole region, the Guinness Lake or Lough Tay. The breathtaking lake was the filming location for such movies as “Excalibur” and “Brave Heart” and you can see why they chose this place as it’s epic and dramatic nature seems almost unreal.
Looking across the lake and towards the summit of the Mount Luggala (Irish: Log an Lágh, meaning “hollow of the hill”) the scene was a particularly beautiful one which made us realise just why we had taken this trip and brought us face to face with the wild and wonderful Irish countryside we had been searching for. We could have stayed at this spot all day, the weather was glorious and the sun sparkled off the lake below. This is Ireland and it’s most magical.
After finally getting back onto the bus after being pried away from the speculator scenery we boarded to bus to head off to Glendalough. After the wonders of the Lough Tay I thought the day had peaked and was overwhelmed by what we had seen. Little did we know the further wonders that would meet us the next time we would step off the bus.
When we arrived at Glendalough we were given the option to do a shorter or longer walk as well as explore the other features of the area. One of the reasons I chose this tour was because if it’s mention of the freedom we would be given to take a hike if we wished. So, OK, it wasn’t climbing a mountain but it did give us the chance to take off on our own and do some exploring of this gorgeous area.
First up we passed through the 10th Century monastic round tower settlement and graveyard and it really did feel that we had stepped back in time to the Celtic origins of this historic country. Surrounded by a thickly forested valley the tower is considered one of the finest in the country.
We then headed off to explore the lakes of Glendalough and to the real jewel in the crown of the Wicklow Mountains. We took the longer route which allowed us to take in both the lower and higher lakes as well as the Poulanass waterfall.
The lower lake came up quite fast and it was so still that the pure blue sky and fluffy clouds above reflected perfectly in it’s waters. We stopped for a little while to take it all and catch our breath before pushing on to climb the steep incline to the fast flowing waterfall. We actually ended up taking a wrong turn here and going slightly off track but it’s all part of the adventure!
On to the higher lake and as the trees parted way and the full vista came in to view we were really taken aback by the sheer beauty of the scene that lay before us. We expected to see some wonderful landscapes on this trip but this blew us away.
The lake sat in a wooded valley of sloping mountains and sheer granite cliffs all, again, reflected with perfection in the clear waters below. We sat here for a while and almost ended up missing the bus as we never wanted to leave!
The last stop was the Avoca Village where we had an amazing meal (our veggie option was delicious) and we all enjoyed a shot of Irish whiskey together to cheer the unforgettable day we had experienced…. then of course we fell asleep on the way back to the city!