Don Baldwin takes us on an enjoyable trek along the Wicklow Mountains
Just south of Dublin city, the soft rolling outline of the Wicklow Mountains begin their steady advance to the south west, marching inexorably through the counties of Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow and Wexford; forming the largest continuous upland area on the island of Ireland.
Beneath the mountains’ soft exterior of deep blanket bog, stretches the greatest expanse of granite rock to be found anywhere in Ireland or Britain.
Today, the Wicklow Mountains owe much of their present topography to the dramatic effects of the last ice age, which gouged out steep-sided valleys and glacial corries, resulting in a rich collection of attractive lakes and striking waterfalls.
The dominant habitat of these undulating hills is upland bog; heath and grassland, while a mixture of deciduous woodland and coniferous forest pepper the lower valleys. This is prime peregrine falcon country.
While the angular outline and copper-tinge of the reintroduced red kite, also adds a welcome dash of vibrancy to this brooding landscape.
Overall, the Wicklow Mountains can roughly be divided into four separate groupings.
At the southern end of the range stands solitary Crogan Kinsella, while Keadeen Mountain and Church Mountain protect the west.
To the east, beyond the Vartry Plateau, Great Sugar Loaf, Little Sugar Loaf and Bray Head keep watch. Commanding the centre is the monarch Lugnaquillia (Leinster’s highest peak at 925 meters); flanked by her royal entourage of Camaderry, Tonelagee and Djouce.
As king, Kippure, at a stately 757 metres steadfastly guards the north; claiming the title of County Dublin’s highest mountain.
This wild mountain fastness was the ancient Gaelic territory of the O’Byrne Clan, who controlled the range to the south, allied to the O’Toole tribe, who dominated the mountains towards the north.
Straddling the border of County Dublin and County Wicklow, Kippure (Ciop mhor, ‘big place of the mountain grass’), is a short twenty kilometre drive south from Dublin city centre on the busy M11. Exit the M11 and take the R117 for Enniskerry.
This two-kilometre stretch winds its way through a darkened tree-lined road until it finally enters the sleepy hamlet of Enniskerry. Here, quickly veer right at the monument and climb steadily towards Glencree.
This ten kilometre stretch is a picturesque route, but don’t get too caught up in the scenery as this narrow road is a busy artery.