During one of our regular hikes in California, we realize that several of us will be in Europe this summer. One of the hikes that we had on our list, was the Wicklow Way in Ireland. Spontaneously, we decide to try to do it while we are all in Europe and we started coordinating schedules. Soon our next hiking trip is in the books: hiking the Wicklow Way.
Phoenix Park Dublin
As a result, I find myself at Dublin Airport on July 21 at 10 in the morning. Jo, one of Eilish’ sisters has kindly offered to pick up me up. At 11, I am sitting in her kitchen with a nice cup of Lyon’s tea. Eilish, Maureen and Liane started the first leg of the hike from Marley Park to Enniskerry already earlier this morning. Jo and I go for a walk in Phoenix Park before meeting up with them. It is a great way to get over jetlag: walking in fresh air and it is a nice warm-up for the next 3 days. The weather is beautiful and we walk for almost 2 hours. Phoenix park is the largest city park in Europe and it houses the American Embassy, the President House, known as Aras an Uachtarain, the Pope’s cross and Farmleigh House.
After our walk, Jo drives us to Enniskerry to meet up with the others. We meet at Powerscourt, one of the grandest houses and hotels in Ireland. We take a walk through the stunning gardens, supposedly the #3 most beautiful gardens in the world (although we wonder who makes that determination), and agree they are beautiful. At the end of the afternoon we check into our first B&B, Ferndale House.
Irish food and drink
We have a quick shower before heading across the road to the Enniskerry Inn for prinks (pre-dinner drinks) and dinner. The menu has a wide variety of Irish and other dishes. We start with baked brie and garlic shrimp. Our mains are all different, from fish & chips, to teriyaki salmon to vegetable soup and chicken curry with chips for me. It is all delicious. The others decide to end the night with a shot of Baileys over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, I pass and know it is time for me to get a good night sleep. I want to be fresh for our hike tomorrow.
Logistics are key
After a good night sleep, we go for breakfast at Poppies across the street from our B&B (our B&B actually being a B&B minus the second B). Over breakfast we discuss the details for today and I realize the logistics are complicated. We have chartered a service for our luggage, so we leave our bags at the B&B, to be picked up by Wicklow Way Baggage and dropped at our next B&B. But shuttling people and cars is more complex. Liane is going back to Dublin to catch her flight to the USA and we need a ride to the trail head at Crone, 15 minutes from town. We also need a car at the end point. Clodagh picks up Liane from Enniskerry to bring her to the airport. Jo meets Celine at Roundwood, leaving her car there before picking us up in Enniskerry.
Enniskerry to Roundwood
With all this sorted, the five of us start our hike. It is a beautiful day. There is a lot of uphill in the beginning, but great views over Dublin and surrounding towns. Celine has told us to look for the signs with the buachaill buí, Irish for little yellow man. He shows the trail directions. From now on, every time we see one, I have to practice saying buachaill buí. It takes me three days to sort of master it.
We pass waterfalls and lots of sheep. After a couple of hours, we reach Djouce, which is the highest point. It’s a side trail and a steep bonus climb. I am a little light headed (lack of sleep and jetlag), so initially I consider to let the others go and take a break. However, the top is too tempting, so I hike on. I am glad I did as the views are worth the effort.
Djouce to Roundwood
We continue on a small trail, following our little yellow man, when shortly after we meet Jenny and Adrian coming towards us on the trail. It would have been such a funny coincidence to just meet on the trail, hadn’t we arranged it with Jenny last night when she joined us in the pub. They join us for the rest of the hike.
The trail turns into a long, narrow wooden walkway. Next we reach Guinness Lake, a lake that looks like a pint of Guinness, with its black water and tan beach. It is part of the Guinness family estate, where in the past they supposedly had wild parties with famous people like the Beatles. There is a lot of activity around the lake and Adrian tells us it is because they are filming some episodes of The Viking. Next we reach a nice viewpoint overlooking a wood of Christmas trees and 2 lakes. It is a good place for a snack. After the break, the trail brings us through dark and eerie Crone woods. Barely any light comes in and it feels a bit spooky. Later we learn this is because it burned the week before during the heatwave. Through hayfields we finally reach the gravel road that leads us to Roundwood. After 24k and just over 6 hours, we reach The Coach House, our B&B.
After hike delights
We sit down outside drinking a well-deserved beer and snacking on chips and meatballs. We say goodbye to Celine, Jenny and Adrian and check into our rooms. After a 6 hour hike, there is nothing better than a long hot shower.
Dinner tonight is at Byrne & Woods (it sure must be family, Maureen?). I am hungry. Since breakfast, I have only had a bar, a couple of fries and half a meatball. We order a bottle of rose, while waiting for Jo, who is picking up the car where we left it this morning. I could eat everything on the menu but eventually settle on the seafood risotto. I do not regret it, it is delicious. We decide we deserve dessert after our long hike and order the “Eton mess” with 4 spoons and to keep with tradition, the vanilla ice-cream with baileys shots again. Back at the Coach House, we decide it is Friday night and early enough to have a night cap. It is not even 10, but the barman is about to lock up. He probably wants to go and have a pint himself. I use all my charm to convince him to sell us another bottle of Rose and stay open for another half hour. I even offer to close up for him, but he is not amused, probably worried of four women cleaning out his bar.
Roundwood to Gendalough
The next morning we have 2 other Lancaster sisters, Clodagh and Mary, joining us for the day. There is rain in the forecast, but today is a shorter distance so we hope to keep it dry. The first part we walk on the road. We later realize that the guide in the Enniskerry Inn had told us an alternative way to avoid it, but we totally forgot. Finally we see the buachaill buí that points us onto the trail. Good little yellow man. It has started to drizzle, but it is not cold and the trail is mostly covered. The scenery today is completely different, nevertheless nice. There are less open hills, but more narrow trails through the woods with little streams and waterfalls. After three hours, we reach The Gendalough Hotel. By now the rain is heavier and we are glad we can warm up inside with hot coffees, soup and warm apple pie.
After lunch we decide to walk to the Glendalough Tower, built almost 1,000 years ago. From there, we walk to lower lake first and the bottom of upper lake. We debate walking to the miners village at the other end of upper lake, but it is raining harder by now, so we decide we want to go to our B&B. We are staying in the Trooperstown Wood Lodge tonight, just outside Laragh. The house manager gives us a warm welcome and we admire the gorgeous antique furniture inside. I am glad getting out of my wet clothes and into a hot shower.
Saturday night fun
Dinner is at Wicklow Heather Restaurant, owned by the same owner as our B&B. A nice service, is that they have a driver pick us up at the hotel and drive us over. All 5 Lancaster sisters join us tonight as well as Ciara, a friend who used to live in California. We have an awesome night, with great food, great wine, great stories and great laughter. We end the night with doing baby Guinness shots, a first for me, for those not driving!
Glendalough to Glenmalure
After breakfast the next morning back at the Wicklow Heather Restaurant, we take off from the Glendalough hotel again. This time we are joined by Jo and her 3 sons Daniel, Mark and Luke, and Mary and her son Ben as well as Eilish’s friend Ciara. We hike along the lower lake to the first waterfall. From there it is a steep trail up the mountain with stunning views of the 2 lakes below. The weather is nice and sunny while we make our way up. When we reach the top and hike along the mountain ridge, the wind is picking up and it is getting colder. We make our way down the mountain, just in time before the rain starts. Hiking towards us, is Aevanne with kids and friends. Time for a final group photo. By the time we reach Glenmalure Lodge, the rain has stopped and the sun is out. After we pick up the cars from the starting point, we enjoy a final lovely lunch, before saying goodbye for now.
This is how we do it….
I think this must be one of my favorite ways of traveling and one of the best ways to explore a country or area. Hiking all day through beautiful nature, talking to friends, traveling from B&B to B&B. Then after a day of walking, enjoying a nice shower, great food and a pint of Guinness, a glass of wine (or both). A big thank you to Eilish, who arranged the trip, from booking the Inns, restaurants, arranging people, bag pick-up and drop-up off. A special thank you to the Lancaster sisters as well, for taking care of the complex logistics of cars at the beginning and end of the trail each day and being great company and providing lots of stories. I feel like I am part of the family.
Goodbye Wicklow, Goodbye Yellow Man
Slán a fhágáil ag ár bhfear buachaill buí, go dtí an chéad uair eile. Or: good bye to our little yellow man, until next time. I am sure we will be hiking the Wicklow Way again!
Map of the route here
All photo credits Eilish Lancaster, Liane Aihara, Jo Hughes, Maureen Byrne, Mariel van Tatenhove