Me walking the Wicklow Way from the village of Clonegal to Shillelagh.
Walking Distance: 25.7 km + 2km extra from getting lost (~6:30 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: The route starts from the small village of Clonegal which is known as the Switzerland of Ireland since it’s so scenic. 65% of the way today is on the road, but with the sheep baa-ing, as you pass by, it’s not as mundane as it sounds.
Much of the route is through scenic countryside, with a few jaunts up forest covered hills. Be careful on Urelands Hill – I got lost and had to backtrack. Note: Once you’re at the top of the ridge, take the first right downhill – don’t carry on the road as I did.
A local informed me that it loops right back around to Clonegal – where I had started! The only part of the walk I didn’t enjoy was the part where they were logging.
Highlights: I finished at the historic farmhouse Dying Cow Pub, originally called Tallon’s – which is what the sign still says. The pub is 300 years old!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when I arrived (3:30 on a Wednesday). I couldn’t find any opening hours on site or online, so ask a local to make sure you don’t miss this famous pub! The dog was amiable though, and I hung out with him until my B&B came to pick me up.
Wildlife Sightings: Lots of birds, and several rabbits
Weather: Mainly sunny/cloudy until around 1:30, then scattered showers, and some hail for about 10 minutes.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Only 1 and she was going in the opposite direction.
Where to Stay: I stayed directly in the village of Shillelagh (I called my B&B from the Dying Cow Pub, and they came and picked me up – was arranged in advance)
Where to Eat: There’s one restaurant in Shillelagh, but it was closed for renovations when I visited (April 2016). The only other options were: 1) taking a taxi to Tinahely, a market town where there are more restaurants/pubs, or 2) picking up something from the mini-mart in Shillelagh. I did the latter, but the grab and go section was rather limited, so I don’t recommend this option.
Additional Info: Ensure you have enough food to tide you over while walking the next day, as you won’t pass any place to buy any. I picked up some at the mini-mart in Shillelagh. Note: Tinahely is ~2 km from the Wicklow Way at one point, so you could always detour here if needed. I was too lazy to walk the additional 4 km but would have loved to have seen the town.
Day 2: Walking from Shillelah to Moyne
Walking Distance: 18.4 km + 900m to B&B (4:45 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: My B&B dropped me off at the Dying Cow Pub where they had picked me up yesterday. 45% of the route is on a small country road and passes through scenic countryside, rolling hills, valleys, and forest. Quite a bit of the walk was on paths through farmer’s fields, which if it’s wet, can get quite so mucky. Be sure to close any gates that you pass through. It was very picturesque.
Highlights: Seeing two herds of deer on Muskeagh Hill and the valleys – just gorgeous.
Wildlife Sightings: Lots of birds, several rabbits, and two herds of deer on Muskeagh Hill
Weather: I woke up to the sound of pitter patter on the skylight of my B&B. Fortunately, it stopped before I headed up. For the most part, it was cloudy with bits of sun until 12:30. Then there was heavy rain for ~30 minutes, followed by scattered showers.
# of Other Hikers Seen: 0 while hiking, but had a lovely dinner with two other hikers from Denmark at my B&B.
Where to Stay: I stayed at a B&B just 900m from the Wicklow Way and walked there.
Where to Eat: My B&B had the option of having supper there for an additional cost (€12 for a main course, €5 each for soup and dessert). The closest village that has restaurants is Tinahely, ~10km away. If you’re just craving a pint, the closest option is the pub in Knockananna (which doesn’t serve food), ~ 3km away.
Additional Info: At least at the B&B that I stayed at, located in the countryside, there was no grocery store/mini-mart. The nearest village is Tinahely. Ensure that you have brought enough to eat from the previous day. Alternatively ask your B&B nicely if they’ll pack you a lunch for an extra fee.
Day 3: Walking from Moyne to Glenmalure
Walking Distance: 21 km + 900m to get from B&B back on the Wicklow Way (5:30 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: Much of the route today was walking along forestry roads. Farmland quickly turned into forests, and the hills became more numerous and larger.
The route also takes you through quite a bit of wood harvesting. Part of my route around and in Drumgoff Forest Recreation Area was re-routed. Fortunately, signs marked the alternate route.
Highlights: Seeing deer on three separate occasions, seeing snow on a couple of hilltops (didn’t expect that in Ireland at the end of April!) and entering the valley of Drumgoff – gorgeous!
Wildlife Sightings: Birds and deer – no rabbits today!
Weather: I woke up to snow which melted by the time I finished breakfast. There was a tiny bit of rain and hail, and although it remained cloudy, it was the driest day I had. It did start to pour at around 2:30 – right after I had arrived at my B&B for the night – whew!
# of Other Hikers Seen: 4 in one group near the end of my walk in Drumgoff Forest Recreation Area.
Where to Stay: I stayed at a B&B in Drumgoff.
Where to Eat: I ate at the pub/restaurant attached to the B&B in Drumgoff.
Additional Info: As far as I can tell, there’s nowhere else nearby to grab something to eat, so ensure you have enough with you or eat at the pub/restaurant in Drumgoff.
Day 4: Walking from Glenmalure to Glendalough
Walking Distance: 14km to Glenmalure + 4km to get to Laragh (4:15 of walking time + stop at the Monastic City
Walking Route Description: This has been my favourite day of walking so far! You’re no longer looking at the Wicklow Mountains from a distance; you’re hiking in them! It’s also where things start to get busier, notably around the Valley of the Two Lakes in Glendalough Valley in Wicklow Mountains National Park.
You also pass by one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. It developed into a Monastic City and dates back to the 6th century! While it was strange being around so many people again, I can see why the Glendalough Valley is so popular. It’s a beautiful, and historic area!
Highlights: I loved the hiking trails in the Wicklow Mountains, the views of the Valley of the Two Lakes and walking through the Monastic City.
Wildlife Sightings: Just birds today, but it was raining.
Weather: I was excited to wake up to the bluest skies I’ve had on the entire trip so far. Unfortunately, they didn’t last, and it sprinkled most of the morning – not hard enough for me to put my rain pants on though. It cleared up around noon.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Only 1 for the first part, then too many to count in the Valley of the Two Lakes. Note: Tour buses make a stop here. ,
Where to Stay: The Glendalough Hotel or in one of the many B&Bs in the nearby village of Laragh, which is what I did.
Where to Eat: I stopped for lunch at Casey’s in the Glendalough Hotel. It was busy and filled with tourists, but the food was good. I also stopped for a cappuccino and a gluten-free cake at the Glendalough Fayre, which also has a shop. I LOVED this place, a tasty gluten-free cake is hard to find anywhere, and the piece I had was especially good. There are a couple of restaurants in the village of Laragh, along with a convenience store that sells grocery items.