Our unusually warm and clear weather is continuing. We , along with another couple, piled into a car to be driven to Roundwood . This was an unexpected change in our plans that we had learned about the night before when we arrived at the Riverside B&B. By shuttling to Roundwood we would skip about 4km of roadwalk on admittedly small tarmac roads but roads all the same. Purists will no doubt decry our skipping this bit but we aren’t purists and we aren’t even doing a through-hike (sorry thru-hike). Driving the narrow twisty roads is an experience in its own right so we just got something a bit different to enjoy. At 09:40 we hoisted our packs onto our backs and set off on the Wicklow Way bound for Coolakay House about 19km away (16.5km on the Wicklow way).
Easy walking along a lane and then through fields with many bales of hay. Gradually ascending as we went. It was enjoyable going. The 3km of forestry roadwalk with views looking down on the reservoirs near Roundwood that help supply water to the southern areas of Dublin was also nice enough. Maybe a bit bland but nice enough. We started encountering people out for day hikes as we headed onward. This is clearly a popular area though I suspect being a Saturday and a lovely morning doesn’t hurt. When we reached a busy paved road , R759, we found quite a few people and parked cars in various little lots strung along the route. Dad probably left his knife there after using it to cut some moleskin for a hot spot on his baby toe. (We just discovered this loss when looking to cut our baguettes for today’s sandwiches.)
Maybe everyone was heading to the same places we were but we saw paths leading off in other directions too so we just don’t know. Our route took us into deep dark, seemed to be a common theme, forest. The trail follows an old sunken lane gradually ascending through the trees. The trail uses boardwalk in this section. The boardwalk is, once again, studded with innumerable studs in a mesh. I suppose the combination of aging boardwalk and mesh gives it the rubbery feel because the studs are akin to giant metal staples. I still don’t like this type of anti-slip set up. However, walking through the dark forest was quite nice.
We popped out in a denuded area that while void of trees was full of fields of heather on either side. The gravel path was easy to follow and it gently dropped us down for a time. Big views of open countryside as the morning wore on and the wind seemed to increase in intensity.
Soon we were at the next stretch of boardwalk. This section, easily 2km in length, would take us up and up and up. We would pass by the J.B. Malone Memorial Monument where we took a break. We would gaze out towards Lake Tay. Look out on lands that I think were once home to some of the Guinness family (maybe still are). Listen to the dozens of people chatting who were also walking the endless boardwalk. A great midday under clear blue skies with moderate temperatures in the mid-70s and a breeze brisk enough to actually make you feel cool. If the weather turns foul up here around White Hill it would be bad indeed.
The boardwalk continues up and over for quite a lengthy stretch. But in time does come to an abrupt end. At this point we began descending into the teeth of the breeze. Working our way down Djouce mountainside. The path at this point gets quite narrow, perhaps 12 inches wide, and is certainly the most “trail-like” we have seen so far. It is also quite busy with people going in both directions.
Another stop to eat a bit more lousy lunch food (a definite weakness these past few days) before continuing our descent on the trail to a forestry road that would drop us steadily, ruts and all, down towards the Dargle River. That road would end with us joining a path strewn with rocks that dropped more steeply to the Dargle River itself. Not particularly pleasant walking but at least the scenery was good. In fact, this day has had the greatest variety of scenery and hiking conditions so far and that helps make it a very good day indeed.
It took between 7 and 8 minutes for Dad and me to climb the couple hundreds meters of trail to the top where Mom was waiting for us. She got a head start on the downhill. From there we would have one final long descent along path and forestry road that would lead in and out of lovely forests affording us occasional views of Powerscourt Waterfall. This was something more heard than seen. The water rumbled on down and we heard scores of voices in the distance. People playing at the bottom of the waterfall. Too bad our hike didn’t take us in that direction because I bet it was nice down there. Instead we pushed on along the road through a recently burned, just a couple days ago, section of woods. We had seen forest fire earlier in the day burning way in the distance too. Down we went. The temperature rising and the wind quieted. We felt our energy levels ebbing as we approached the carpark, Cronewoods car park, that marked the end of the Wicklow Way part of the hike. It was probably about 16:10 and plenty of cars and people were about. In fact we lucked out big time here.
We still had 2.5 to 3km to hike along narrow tarmac roads to reach Coolakay House. A taxi pulled into the lot and let some walkers out. Dad went over to see if the driver would take us to Coolakay House. He was willing and we got in. What a stroke of luck because I suspect walking those last couple kilometers would have been a real drag. But it did throw off the GPS track I was recording so my stats aren’t quite ideal (minor gripe indeed). This was a lovely day to be out and I can see why this portion of the Wicklow Way would be popular among people out for a day.
Stats: 16.5km hiked with about 450m ascent and 550m descent. With the exception of the steep bit out of the Dargle River valley everything is pretty gradual. Th descent down to the Dargle is rocky and a bit steeper but not really bad. Weather: clear blue skies all day long. On the tops with the wind blowing around 15MPH you could feel a bit cool as temperature were in the mid-70s. I wonder if that touch of coolness in the wind was from the Irish sea that we could spot way off, perhaps 10-12km, in the distance.
- Overview map. Roundwood to the Crone Carpark. Generally heading south to north.
- Mom and Dad in the hay bale strewn field.
- A view from the J. B. Malone monument. Lake Tay below.
- The boardwalk that seemed to go forever.
- Lunch spot on Djouce Mountain slope.
- Ken. Nearing the Dargle River. Photo by Mom.
- Mom in the same place. Photo by Dad.
- Dad at that place. Photo by Mom.
- The thin line is a portion of the Wicklow Way we just descended to the Dargle River. The climb out is about 300 vertical feet over at most a quarter mile distance but lijely less. Photo by Mom.