Exploring the Wicklow Way

12 Oct

south wicklow hills

by Rhea H. Boyden

A couple weeks ago I was invited down to Aughrim, County Wicklow for the weekend by some old friends of my parents. Our plan was to go for a Saturday afternoon hike along a small section of the Wicklow Way in South Wicklow where the rolling hills meet the fertile lands of County Wexford. When I finished work on Friday afternoon I walked steadily, hopping over puddles, in the pouring rain to Tara Street Station in Dublin. My umbrella was destroyed by the time I made it to the station. I boarded the train to Greystones, which is a charming town about 27 kilometres south of Dublin on the coast. On a clear day you can enjoy beautiful views of the Irish Sea. The view I saw from the train was this:

Rain from train.

My host met my train and we drove to his beautiful home where his wife greeted us at the door. They had prepared a delicious meal of Wicklow lamb stewed with peas and carrots served with colcannon which is a traditonal Irish dish of potatoes mashed with either scallions, cabbage and other herbs. They had mashed it with fresh kale from the tunnel in their garden which not only housed kale but an impressive grapevine. We munched on their delicious home grown grapes before dinner.

After dinner we sat in their lovely dining room listening to the pouring rain on the skylights. ‘We may just go for a short walk tomorow if the rain continues like this.’ my host said. I just smiled. I know what the weather is like in Ireland. You don’t let it upset you or ruin your plans. I slept deeply in the lovely guest room listening to the sound of the pouring rain. 

Wicklow way

The next morning when we awoke there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I joyfully jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen where my hosts were making coffee. We were all in great moods to see how the weather had suddenly decided to cooperate. ‘We better get going soon.’ they said. ‘This fine weather may only last a few hours.’ After breakfast we took a short walk around the fishing lake of Aughrim village and then we and their dog got into the car and drove to the foot of Ballycumber hill.

fishing lake

The hike was about 5 miles round trip and it was a stunning stretch of green road between Iron Bridge and Tinahealy, Wicklow. After helping the dog over a stile we soon approached an ancient Hawthorne tree which was in the middle of an ancient ringfort. Here we broke for a drink of water from our flask as a few clouds gathered, rendering the surrounding landscape splendidly dappled in sun and shadow. My host reminded me that the Irish word ‘Rath’ means ringfort and there are many towns in Ireland beginning with this prefix: Rathdrum, Rathmore, Rathmines, etc. Ringforts are circular fortified settlements, most of which were built during the early Middle Ages. The one we found ourselves standing in had very likely been a farm enclosure built by the well to do of early medieval Ireland. In Ireland over 40,000 sites have been identified as ringforts.

Green wayHawthorn

After quenching our thirst we continued to the top of Ballycumber hill. At the summit there was a cairn (a pile of rocks) which my host told me was the burial site of the ashes of the elders of the tribe. This made me smile. I didn’t ask which tribe, but I let my imagination run wild. These hills are magical and remind me of fairy tales and my host and guide reminded me of Gandalf in his hiking hat. We didn’t stay long at the summit as the chilly wind prevented it, but we retraced our steps back down the mountain and then drove back to their lovely house to enjoy another exquisite home cooked meal of chili con carne. After a hot bath I fell into another deep sleep in the guest room. 

 Summit CairnGandalf

On Sunday morning my hosts made potato cakes from the leftover colcannon served with fresh eggs from the local farm before driving me back into Dublin. I found it hard to leave the beautiful Wicklow countryside which is quite different from West Cork where I grew up. I am delighted that they have invited me to return again soon to go for another hike. And while I may have my moments of doubt when lying alone in my bed in Dublin, listening to the rain and wondering how my career will run and if I will be successful in this city and sometimes missing my lovely flat in Berlin, it is the wonderful excursions to see old family friends in the countryside that lift my spirits and renew my faith in the fact that I have made the right decision giving everything up in Berlin and moving back to Ireland.

3 Responses to “Exploring the Wicklow Way”

  1. Hamilton October 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    This is the one of the parts of Ireland that I wanted to see during my return trip, and probably won’t make it to. So I will live vicariously through this post. Thanks for sharing! Happy travels!

    • rheahboyden October 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  2. tonymulqueen October 14, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    Lovely piece Rhea. Hope to see you again soon.

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