Day 3 of the Wicklow Way goes from Roundwood to Glendalough and it is the easiest day of the hike in terms of difficulty. There are only about 13 km to be walked, mostly on country roads and a minor 300 m ascend. Unfortunately, it is also the least exciting in terms of landscape, although that is not to say it is not a beautiful walk – it is just hard to compete with what day 1 and day 2 of the hike have to offer.
DAY 3: Roundwood to Glendalough (13 km)
The first couple of kilometres were rather boring and yet relaxing. We started walking from the centre of Roundwood towards the mountains along country roads. These country roads don’t really have that much space to the sides, which leaves you no other option but to walk on the actual road which is never ideal. However, there didn’t seem to be any traffic whatsoever, which allowed us to walk at a relaxed pace taking in the country side surroundings which we had all to ourselves.
One thing I found particularly fascinating was the size of the shamrocks – they were huge! Shamrocks are generally found literally anywhere there is green in Ireland, but I had never seen shamrocks as big as the ones we saw along the Wicklow Way.
After about an hour walking we sat on a wall on the side of the road to have our lunch. It was a much quicker break than expected; we were across a field full of cows and one of them started mooing as soon as we sat down. She continued mooing and eventually broke into a run towards the fence. I took this as a we-are-not-welcome sign so we left immediately. Really don’t understand what the Wicklow cows have against me…
We continued on, and as we started getting a bit bored of walking on the road, we started hearing water flowing, even though there was no river in sight. We saw a gap on the wall and went for it. Best decision of the day – we found a wooden path running parallel to the road across a forest and over a beautiful small river. We spent some time exploring this secluded hidden spot, which had been the highlight of our day so far.
Finally, having walked 6 km on roads, the Wicklow Way turned into a mountain path, to begin the ascend towards Paddock Hill. And you will never guess what was blocking our way…
A freaking cow! It couldn’t have been a sheep, it had to be a bloody cow… I know they are supposed to be completely harmless, but they are big animals, and we were alone in the middle of nowhere. So excuse me if I don’t feel all too confident around them, particularly after one of them kicked us out of our wonderful lunch spot earlier.
Eventually Airam managed to drag me around. The cow didn’t even look at us, and once we had passed her, my irrational fear evaporated. I may even have thought she looked cute.
After a brief ascend, we continued walking along a forest that led us to the open green terrain on the top of Paddock Hill. The views across the Wicklow Mountains and even the Irish coast are supposed to be spectacular from here, but we didn’t get the opportunity to witness them. It was extremely foggy that day, which meant we couldn’t really see anything. It was also strangely warm, to the point that I had to take my jacket off and ended up wearing a tank top in the mountains in Ireland in the middle of October, which is unthinkable.
We were disappointed. One of my favorite things about hiking, apart from being able to disconnect from the world, is the build up when you are about to reach the top of a mountain, the excitement of not knowing what’s ahead and knowing you are about to find out. And in Ireland, you are guaranteed that the views are always going to be stunning. Since it was late afternoon we knew the fog was there to stay, and the chances of stunning views completely gone. We didn’t have a choice but to continue hiking though.
We descended from Paddock Hill until we reached Glenmacnass River. Beautiful rivers hidden in forests are my second favorite thing about hiking in Ireland. And luckily for me, turns out Wicklow has its fair share of them.
There was just another forest standing between us and the valley of Glendalough, where we would be spending the night. We were feeling a bit disappointed with our third day on the Wicklow Way, however we were both still feeling satisfied and relaxed. And suddenly, it was as if Wicklow knew what we were thinking and was like ‘hey, don’t give up on me just yet!’. We found ourselves overlooking the valley while the sun was trying to break through the clouds and the fog. It was a spectacular and magical sight. We had been to Glendalough a couple of times before but we had never seen it from this perspective.
Shortly afterwards we came out of the forest and found ourselves standing behind the Glendalough Hotel. We would be spending the night at Riversdale House B&B, located in the valley itself. Although this time not by choice – as much as we love staying in B&B in Ireland, we wanted to try the hostel but it was booked out for weeks. The B&B is 2 km past the Glendalough Hotel, and thankfully this time our feet weren’t hurting.
We thought we had left the most interesting part of the hike behind, and were surprised to find just how pretty the walk to the B&B was. Most of the way is along a small river, with a dense forest to one side, and the Wicklow mountains to the other. We were taken aback once we actually reached the B&B – it was this cute house tucked away on the mountain, across a river without any other means of crossing but a couple of big stones.
Although day 3 definitely can’t compete with the first two days of the Wicklow Way, being able to wake up in the beautiful valley of Glendalough surely made up for it…
You can find day 1 of this hike here: Discovering Wicklow on foot: The Wicklow Way Day 1
You can find day 2 of this hike here: Making peace with the rain: Wicklow Way Day 2