The fourth day walking the Wicklow Way would be our last one. Although technically the Wicklow Way continues a further two days until Clonegal, in county Carlow, we decided to make this our last day for two reasons:
1- We were splitting the hike in two-days segments, meaning that the next two-day segment would start in Glenmalure and end in Clonegal. We found it a logistical nightmare trying to come and go from Dublin through public transport. In fact, it became so difficult that even though Day 4 officially ends in Glenmalure, we decided to do a circular route and end the day back in Glendalough, as this would make it a lot easier to return to Dublin.
2- Helen’s book on Dublin and Wicklow walks, which had been our most reliable source of information when it came to planning this hike, suggested that the only days worth doing were the first four. She had proven to be right on everything so far, so we didn’t feel guilty skipping the last two days.
Day 4 is a 14 km hike that takes you from the beautiful valley of Glendalough to the valley of Glenmalure, located close to the southern border of county Wicklow. However, as I just said, getting back to Dublin from Glenmalure proved to be a logistical nightmare, so instead we skipped the last 5 kilometres that descend from Mullacor down to Glenmalure and continued on a loop that ended right where we started.
Day 4: Glendalough to
Glenmalure Glendalough (14 km)
Let me start by saying what an immense privilege it felt like to wake up in Glendalough. My previous experiences spending the night far from civilisation all involved camping by the sea. This was my first experience spending a night among mountains (even if it wasn’t camping but at a B&B), but it definitely won’t be my last. Also, I had been to Glendalough a couple of times before on day trips and always found it to be a fascinating and beautiful place. However, being able to enjoy it in the early hours of the morning brings it to a whole new level of awesome.
We left Riversdale B&B early in the morning and made our way back to the entrance. Our first stop was the monastic city, founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. Here you can find a cemetery full of the characteristic celtic crosses, as well as St Kevin’s church and the round tower. Even though we had visited it a couple of times, we were always surrounded by loads of tourists. This time there was nobody but us, which made it so much more enjoyable!
We had our first wow moment of the day when we reached the first lake, located only a few minutes past the monastic city. The first lake, which is known as the lower one, is usually ignored and stands in the shadow of the generally much more impressive upper lake. But not that day – the lake was lying there completely still and undisturbed, like a huge mirror reflecting the surrounding forest and mountains. I had never seen it looking so beautiful – it was a breathtaking sight.
The upper lake was not any less impressive and it never fails to blow me away. As with the monastic city, this is a very popular spot and it is rarely ever not busy. However, there we were, with the whole lake all to ourselves. We spent some time simply enjoying this precious moment. We were joined by a couple of ducks, one of whom took a liking for Airam and kept following him around quaking. It was rather entertaining! I think they are used to people giving them food (please DON’T be one of those people…) and therefore are not scared to come really close.
We could have easily just stayed there all day, but eventually we started walking again, before the swarm of people arriving to spend their Saturday at Glendalough would catch up with us. We started walking up a series of steps close to the upper lake, and were startled to suddenly find ourselves looking at Pollanass waterfall. The amount of times I had been to Glendalough before, and had no idea there was a beautiful hidden waterfall within one-minute walk of the upper lake… It’s always great to discover new things in places you think you know well, isn’t it?
After leaving the waterfall behind, we continued ascending until we reached a junction. Technically, the Wicklow Way continues towards the left, however following Helen Fairbairn’s advice we decided to follow one of Glendalough’s marked walking trails instead – the red route. After walking up more than two hundred steps (fun times…) through a dried dark forest, we came out at the top of a cliff overlooking the valley. The views of the two lakes as we continued walking along the cliff were amazing. I know I’ve said this before, but I was completely taken aback by the fact that even though I had been to Glendalough plenty of times before, this felt like I was visiting this beautiful valley for the first time. I guess that’s why I love Wicklow – it’s full of surprises!
Once we reached the end of the wooden planks that had been clearly marking the trail, we turned left and headed for the next set of mountains: Lugduff and Mullacor. We were promised amazing views across the Wicklow countryside once we’d reach the point at which the two mountains meet. However, the fog from the previous day remained, which meant we didn’t have much to see, other than our usual hiking companions – a bunch of sheep that were happy to ignore us.
At this point, had we decided to continue on with the Wicklow Way, all we would have left to do would have been to descend for another 5 – 7 km to arrive at Glenmalure. As this didn’t sound interesting enough to be worth the extra difficulties of getting back to Dublin, we decided to follow the Wicklow Way back to Glendalough. After a couple of hours walking through easy-to-follow lanes across forests, we found ourselves back at the junction beside Pollanass waterfall. We went to visit the lakes one more time before bidding farewell to Glendalough for the foreseeable future.
I started hiking through a county I didn’t feel was particularly special and left the same county feeling like I would forever leave a piece of my heart there. Mission accomplished!
Did you enjoy reading about Glendalough? You might also enjoy reading about the first three days of this hike:
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