Walking from Dublin to Glendalough

Diego Bertolo looking over the valley
Diego probably thinking something on the lines of “what have I done…”

Last weekend my friend Diego and I decided to walk from Dublin to Glendalough. We’ve done some hikes together before, such as climbing Morro Ferrabraz back in Brasil, hiking to the top of Carrauntoohil in Kerry, and a bunch of other short hikes. This was the first long one.

The hike is about 50km long, starting from Marlay Park in South Dublin and going through the hills in the Wicklow Mountains range. Most advice online says it should be done in 3 days, but I had done it previously in 2 days and thought we would be fine. I was wrong.

Gear

The last time I did this hike I was carrying 15kg worth of gear. This time around I decided to go light, so I only carry the absolute essentials:

The backpack weighted around 8kg including food and water. For dinner I only took a pack of dried pasta bolognese, and for snacks I had some spicy jerky, salted nuts, and nutella cookies. I also brought some porridge mix which I planned to have for breakfast the next day but ended up just having tea instead.

Day 1: Ticknock to Roundwood

The hike started around 8am on a Saturday, and we couldn’t have picked a better weekend — the weather was cool, there was a light breeze whispering… it really was just right for a long hike.

In the past I had a lot of issues with my left knee giving up on me on long walks, so instead of using my regular hiking boots I decided to go on my barefoot shoes. It helped a bit… but at the end of the day my knee was still a bit sore. Nothing compared to my feet, which on the other hand, were in absolute shambles. I should have had gone on some short walks the week before to prepare, but oh well.

As you walk through the mountains, you keep getting glimpses of the Sugarloaf mountain. It’s such a beautiful little mountain, the peak keeps peeking at you the whole way.

☛ Did you know that there are at least 60 mountains called Sugarloaf around the world?

We made good time on the first day, and after only 3 hours we were already half way to the camp site. As we were snacking on the way, we decided to skip lunch altogether and have only dinner at night.

Around 5:30 pm we arrived on the camp site at Glensoulan Valley. I camped there a couple times before, but always found it too noisy to sleep as it is a popular spot. This time around we went for a space not too close to the trail, hidden behind some trees.

Two tents on a hilly and grassy terrain
Our camp site

The camp site was on a bit of a slope and we kept slipping from the sleeping pads, but it was quieter than staying right next to the trail. In the future, I’ll definitely spend some extra time looking for level ground. Also, I’ll take a pillow with me. I tried to use my backpack for a pillow but couldn’t sleep well and woke up with a stiff neck. No és bueno.

Day 2: Roundwood to Glendalough

Red sunrise at 6am

We woke up around 6am to a gorgeous sunrise. The morning was fresh, we made some tea with water from the river (rich in iron by the taste of it), and Diego gave me some pain killers to help with my knee. Off we went.

On the way up we found a water spring coming off the rock, and it was probably the best water I ever had in the wild, so clean!

Sheep staring at the camera
The countryside is sprinkled with sheep

It was much slower going now that we were tired. The trail at the start goes up on to White Hill, with a raised board walk that goes forever and is always blasting with wind. Wearing shorts, I was freezing after 5 minutes. Despite that, the views make it all worth. You get to see Lough Tay, Luggala valley (also known as Kattegat for fans of Vikings), and the scenically glacial valleys all around.

Mountains view on a overcast day

After hiking through Ballinastoe Woods — plus other “woods” I don’t remember the name of — we came across a coffee van located in the car park just outside it. What a treat! I had some hot chocolate to warm up, two bags of Tayto for the salt, and a croissant for the huh huh huh.

There’s a long stretch of walking on the road at this point, but we were not too displeased as our joints and feet were in pretty bad shape. Going up the trails doesn’t feel too bad, but doing down puts way too much stress on the body, specially on the joints.

Because we were knackered and running a bit late, we decided to skip the last two trails and just walk on the road instead. I think we saved about 30 minutes by doing that, which we needed in order to catch the return bus to Dublin.

The end

We arrived in the small village of Laragh around 4pm and were greeted by the smell of burgers and sausages cooking on coals. By then, I could barely walk properly, my feet was cramping up and there was not much I could do to fix it. Diego was in a similar situation. We stopped and had some burgers and beers before making the final stretch to Glendalough.

At almost 70.000 steps later, we arrived in Glendalough. There’s something about walking that much that your feet is just screaming “would you fuck off”. It just feels like everything is right.

As we just made in time for the bus back, Diego couldn’t the lakes, so we just walked around the monastic village for a bit. The plan now is to return in two weeks time with the girls, camp around Glendalough, and explore the valley with more time and less pain.

I pass out on the bus back home.