Let me start this post by saying I am not a hiker! Neither am I a trail runner but I wanted to share this post with you, to show you that there is plenty of fun to be had in the mountains for a total beginner, like me. I wanted to make the most of having the glorious Dublin/ Wicklow Mountains in my back garden. If I can do it then so can you! I have no aspirations to become a hardcore hiker (believe me!)but the Irish countryside is so beautiful that it merits at least a Sunday stroll. Obviously followed by a hearty lunch, or at the very least an enormous scone!
If you are visiting Ireland and basing yourself in the Dublin area, why not consider a morning’s walk up Djouce in the Wicklow Mountains followed by some well-deserved lunch in Avoca in Kilmacanoge or the Firehouse bakery in Delgany village afterward.
I was convinced to take a 6km round trip hike up Djouce, a 725m elevation, in the north east of the Wicklow mountains and my first hiking foray was a fun one, I’ll admit! This walk is about 2.5 hrs and a moderate difficulty rating on hikeable.ie . We did faff around at the lake before setting off so I am sure the walk takes a little less than I have written. Allow for photograph taking time too!
I’m certainly not a fashion blogger either but I am glad I took advice on what to wear on my hike up Djouce.
- Get yourself a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. I have seen some very reasonably priced ones on Sportsdirect.com and since I am not planning on becoming a seasoned mountain climber, these prices suited just fine. As long as you have decent, waterproof, sturdy footwear that’s half the battle as the ground up there is uneven and can be slippery.
- Layer up! I hate being cold so I’d rather ’be looking at it(extra sweater) than looking for it’. Meaning you can always take a layer off if you are feeling too warm as you climb, rather than wishing you had brought more layers and spend your time shivering and miserable as you walk. I wore a long sleeve cold gear Under Armour base layer, a long sleeve lined zip up running top, brush lining running leggings, a waterproof wind breaker jacket, hat, neck warmer, gloves, ear muffs, and knee high woollen socks.
- Pop some snacks, water, a small first aid kit – just in case, and tissues into a light weight backpack and you are set! (From the way the wind whipped around up there you needed to blow your nose a few times on that walk, just saying!)
We left from near Marlay Park on Dublin’s south side and headed down the M50 towards Kilmacanogue, taking the Roundwood/ Glendalough/ Avoca Handweavers exit. I think you can also go over the Sally Gap from Rockbrook and onward via Glencree towards Lough Tay. The journey takes about 40-50 minutes by car.
We stopped at the car-park overlooking Lough Tay/ Guinness Lake, so called because when looking down the water looks almost black and the little beach at the lake’s edge resembles the head on a pint of Guinness! Turning right to the barrier at the beginning of the path into the woods gets you started on your Wicklow Way hike. There may be local names for this wood or carpark, but not being a local I can’t tell you them!
With your back to Lough Tay turn left and walk down the road a few hundred meters until you see the entrance road to the woods. Follow this trail up the hill. It is marked and we took a left up to another viewing spot with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Lough Tay. The path continues up and turns into sleeper tracks. I was told that these miles and miles of studded sleeper tracks were laid by hand to help walkers navigate the Wicklow Way walks. Thanks a mill to whoever did that!.
They were a much more pleasant alternative to walkng through gorse or bog water on either side of the track. The path gets to a turn stile and the trees thin out as you continue up the first part of the peak.
At this point we had reached the fog/ clouds and the temperature had dropped, noticeably. It can be windy so take care walking on the wooden beams as you may slip or get blown off on a particularly blowy day. The boggy looking water on either side didn’t look like somewhere I wanted to splash around it, thanks! On a clear day, I imagine the walk up is pretty spectacular as you rise up above the woodland and patchwork fields on hillsides below but we saw just about 20-30 feet in front of us and kept our eyes on the path.
The wind had really picked up by the time we got to the top and we were the only crazies up there! I will say that when I saw the state of my eye make-up by the end of the hike, I am glad there was no one else up there to witness the wind and cold smearing mascara rivulets around my eyes. Pandas had nothing on me! Since I was blissfully unaware of this and my hiking partner neglected to tell me I’d say I garnered a few curious looks as I cheerfully greeted the other hikers on our way down. They must have wondered why I looked like I had two smudged, black eyes after a morning’s walk!
At the very top, I will suggest you watch your footing. There is a lot of shale and uneven ground and this can be slippy underfoot. We battled very strong winds at the top so our decent was a cautious one as we tried to avoid being carried away like balloons!
Luckily for us the clouds did lift as we carefully started our decent and we were rewarded with clear blue skies and an absolutely stunning view of the surrounding mountains to the south and north and the sea to the east. Hurray. Now, to just get back down. It was about noon by the time we were heading back down and the crowds had certainly picked up as there were plenty of traffic jams, mountain style, on the sleeper tracks on the way down. To avoid the crowds I do suggest you get started early in the day. Walker etiquette applies and those on the beams before you stay on and you take a step to the side (watching out for squelching mud, pools of water and prickly gorse, obviously!)
I certainly learned on my hike that warm clothing is a must, and I may invest in Under Armor underwear as my butt was frozen! And that a walk I had previously assumed required a pair of hiker’s walking sticks and a compass was not the case and a very enjoyable, healthy way to spend a Saturday morning.
I felt no guilt in eating a scone the size of my face in Avoca handweavers store in Kilmacanoge afterwards. Avoca is a favorite of mine as they serve delicious soups and salads. They also have a variety of hot plates and will surely have something on their menu to cater for all tastes. Another great spot is the Firehouse Bakery in nearby Delgany village whose selection of baked treats and tasty breads and sandwiches will help you to balance out that exercise!
While many will not see this as an achievement, I was proud of myself for having made it up and down the mountain, without falling into a pond or bush and for getting up early on a Saturday morning to make the most of the day and countryside! Saturdays can be lazy days for brunches and catch-ups and while I am a huge fan of that too, it was good to shake things up! We can take our own backyard for granted but look how easy that was and such fun! I would highly recommend a day out in the Wicklow Mountains if you have the time on your trip or feel like getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning. But not too early!