Today is our final day on the Wicklow Way and we have been told that it is supposed to be a pretty section of the Way. We took a taxi to just beyond the parking lot, to avoid the 2.5 km walk on a narrow paved road, and hoisted our packs at 09:10 under once again clear blue sky.
We quickly joined a path that would run alongside of a river for a time before curling around fields of bracken for a kilometer or so. Pretty walking and apparently popular too. Too bad it would not last. Soon we found ourselves making a short modestly steep ascent up to a forest road which we would follow along with our attendant hoard of sometimes-biting but alway annoying flies. The most interesting thing about this stretch of trail were the three horse riders we passed heading in the other direction.
We passed by, or near at least, a hostel that is definitely used by walkers. We had met a couple heading in the other direction already and soon would catch up with a troop of English scouts who had stayed there the night before and were also heading in our direction. We had been walking either forestry roads or minor paved roads now for upwards of 5km.
We entered, I believe, Charlestown woods and began a steady gradual ascent along more forestry road. This forest has been denuded to a degree so isn’t that pretty. You get a view now and then looking back to the Wicklow Mountains and ahead towards Dublin but it’s not great. Worse today because it was hazy. The forestry road would take us to a stretch of rocky (big boulder steps)trail that slowed me down a lot. It didn’t bother the trail runners who zoomed on by heading down. It isn’t precisely hard just slow going as you step from large rock to large rock over a stretch of a few hundred meters. Views would appear now and then but I am sure we were expecting better as we approached the top.
As the rocks came to an end they were replaced by gravel path with big gaps seemingly every 20 meters. Most people will just step over them with a smile. I had my usual pause, plant pole, step over, and keep going style of travel. Along this stretch of a kilometer or two we saw many people out for a day walk. It is easy walking but not really all that eye catching.
Off the top and on to another forestry road and down we went. The sky had actually clouded up a bit and a tiny nip was in the air. Not enough to really be a bother but a change in the weather we had been seeing. We continued on down, decending gradually, and leapfrogging with the scouts and a French lady we had stayed with at Coolakay House. Down and down.
The Way would eventually pass over a stream, we had been wondering when, and we would start moving through farmlands and more prosperous seeming places for a time. That forestry road would end and we would begin a long slog along first a quiet and then, for much longer, busy paved road. The directions let us down here. Perhaps we just read them badly but we walked along that nasty road for something like 1.8km. This is an awful bit of WIcklow Way and I hope they come up with a way to get it off the road.
The climb away from the road towards Fairycastle is nice enough as it follows a gravel-based path that has some rocks scattered about for good measure. You get some vistas though they don’t really count as eye candy. It starts with a steady modestly steep climb but soon levels out as it crosses the tops. Breezy and cooler up there as well as popular. I enjoyed the level bits and ascent but the gradual descent had just enough chasm-sized gaps to slow me down and be annoying. As we neared the end of this bit, somewhere around kilometer 16 of the day, we had been hearing the roar of the M50 for a while. That is sad.
It’s a shame you have to pound down the forestry road from the end of this path for a good 1.5km to reach a carpark where I am sure many who do the hike as a day trip park. It is enough of a descent that you notice it and would really feel it on the ascent up.
The Wicklow Way continues past the carpark soon joining a minor paved road and then bigger paved roads. The M50 roars in the dsitance and we push on and on along the paved roads. 3.5km and more along the roads to Marlay Park where the directions are less than ideal for helping get you through the park. To be brutally honest if I were doing this again I would try to get a taxi at the carpark and call it a day and end of hike there. Those last 3.5km or so sucked. Why Sherpa/Footfalls has us end at Eden House is a bit of a mystery. I suppose it is because it is a pub and taxis can find it easily.
This last day was nothing special. I am glad it wasn’t our first day. The slog on the paved roads and then steady climb up the forestry road to the path that then leads to the Fairycastle tops would have been a real drag. That portion, to be fair, is quite pretty and it is open and covered in heather. While not in bloom the heather gives the space a soft look.
Marlay Park is a nice park and clearly a place where many things from families having fun to major concert events take place. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t first had to plod under and past the M50 for so seemingly long a time. The group of food trucks though with one selling , a bit overpriced, ice cream though was a welcome surprise which we took advantage of.
Stats: 22.4km. 600m ascent; 650m descent. The climbs come in two big hills first to the Charlestown woods tops and Faircastle tops. Descents are off those tops with the biggest being after Faircastle. A couple of short modestly steep and rocky bits but generally easy going. The 1.8km paved (and busy) road walk just before you ascend on path to Fairycastle is no fun at all. Weather: Mostly sunny with a bit of overcast now and then. Highs on the tops were in the mid-70s and warmer down below.
- Overview map. Cronewoods to eden House Pub.
- Climbing up to the tops of Charlestown Forest (I think) with a last view of the WIcklow Mountains fading into that smoky haze.
- The tops of Fairycastle are covered with fields of heather. The trail is hardpacked dirt with rocks now and then and gaps, probably for water and erosion control, sprinkled in along the way. Pretty in its way but if the weather turned foul you would want to hustle off this open country as quickly as you could. The people in the background are some of the young folks out on a scouts trip.
- Mom and Dad gazing at our first really good view of the Dublin Mountain and outskirts of Dublin. Too bad we could hear the roar of the M50 while we look out towards the city and Irish Sea.