Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

July 18, 2009

Ireland Part 1 – The Wicklow Mountains

by backpackingbongos

Escaping from the ferry terminal in Dublin was much quicker and easier than anticipated and I even managed not to get lost whilst heading for the N11 out of the city!  It took a while to get my head around converting the speed limits from kph into mph as my van only shows the latter.  Traffic lights also took a little getting used to as there is not an amber phase when they turn from red to green.  Usually meant sitting there like a lemon after the lights had turned green!

On researching the trip campsites appeared to be a bit thin on the ground throughout Ireland, so we found and booked one before we left.  It was in the village of Rathdrum on the outskirts of the national park.  I have to admit that my heart sunk when we arrived early evening on the Saturday as it was absolutely packed to the rafters.  We were shown to a small space squeezed between massive caravans where I sat down for a quiet sulk.  I have to admit that I am not a big fan of organised campsites, much preferring to head for the hills and wild camping.  However this was a holiday with my partner who is not a massive fan of camping full stop, so a compromise had to be made.  Whilst I graded it poorly she gave it top marks for the facilities.  Anyway what did I expect arriving at a site an hour outside a capital city, next to a national park on a hot sunny Saturday!  Anyway for me it was with relief that we headed to the hills for a walk the next day.

Tonelagee (Toin le Gaoith) 817 metres

It was a stunning drive up the Glenmacnass valley where we parked above the waterfall.  This was obviously a popular local beauty spot with lots of people milling about taking photos of the falls.  We joined them for a while.


I wanted to ease my partner into climbing Irish mountains gently, this hill looked like it should fit the bill with a high level start and not too steep slopes.  Almost immediately from the car park the route was pathless and there was an unbridged river crossing, luckily the water levels were very low.  A steep high bank lay in the way of the the main mountain ridge which was pretty tough going with waist high vegetation hiding slimy bogs.  This soon eased and a faint path was found that slowly but easily took us onto the minor summit of the north east ridge, giving the first view of the main summit.


From the col the onward route looked impossibly steep and was littered with huge boulders.  However a good path wound its way through the rocks and soon brought us to the edge of the plateau.


A few peat hags had to be crossed before walking across marshy ground to get the the summit trig point.  On a clearer day I would imagine that the views from here would be extensive.  However it was a hot humid summers day and much of the surrounding scenery was lost in the murk.


We watched a red deer eyeing us nervously from a distance before making the descent towards Stoney top.  A feint path then led us above the rim of the steep corrie containing Lough Ouler before its steep descent.  As the summit had been too windy for lunch we made a beeline for some rocks next to the loch.  We were soon struggling though some deep tough vegetation hiding ankle breaking boulders, I suddenly became less than popular.


Luckily after lunch we managed to pick up a rough path circling the loch before it descended alongside Lough Brook giving us an easy descent towards the Glenmacnass river.  It then suddenly vanished into a mass of tussocks, why paths disappear just when you really need them?  The mile or so back to the car park seemed endless as we tried to find a dry easy line down the valley, its amazing just how much difficult vegetation can slow you down



We arrived back at the busy car park tired and rather wet from the knees down!

Glendalough – The Spinc – Mullacor 657 metres – Derrybawn Mountain 474 metres

When we returned to the campsite it had quietened down considerably so we decided to stay a couple of more nights so we could visit Glendalough.  I usually avoid tourist hot spots but seeing that we were tourists we thought that we should go and check it out.  A massive patrolled car park surrounded by burger vans and a large volume of people did not really fit in with the beautiful surroundings.  This was however soon left behind as we took a trail across pastures heading for the Pollanass waterfall.  An old stone cross led the eye towards the upper lake and the mountains.


Pleasant easy walking took us past the waterfalls and along forestry tracks to the start of the trail leading to the top of the Spinc.  The trail throughout its length is made up of a wooden boardwalk to protect the fragile bogland from the large amount of foot traffic this popular walk gets.  Hundreds of steps lead up endlessly through dark conifers, with no view it is a case of head down and get the climbing out of the way.  Suddenly the trail emerges from the forest to a platform giving views down the valley to the lower lake.


The view up the valley leads the eye into the Wicklow mountains.


We were among a steady procession of people as we walked the length of the Spinc gradually gaining height and getting better views of the cliffs that fall directly into the upper lake.  In fact we got a bit carried away and walked straight past the path we had planned to take, climbing the highest part of this trail and beginning to descend before I looked at the map and realised the mistake.  With gritted teeth we turned around and walked against the tide of people.


Once off of the main trail we were suddenly in a world of solitude as we followed an empty path that contoured above a forest filled valley.  The plan had been to climb to the summit of Mullacor but as we reached its peat hagged col the cloud that had been plaguing us all day descended and covered the summit.  With a fine drizzle falling we could not face a boggy climb with no views so we found a forestry track that contoured around the hill without losing height.  It was one of those really warm humid summer days so we decided to get wet from the rain rather than bake and get soaked inside our waterproofs.  Even out of the hill fog all views had disappeared into a thick grey haze, a bit of a disappointment.

The forestry track brought us to a col beneath Cullentragh mountain and we took a well defined path along a narrow (well for Wicklow) ridge towards Derrybawn mountain.  A superb airy walk where I imagine the views would be stunning in clear weather.


A very steep path through deep heather brought us eventually back to the valley bottom where we walked to the beach at the head of the upper lake.  We could see why so many tourists are drawn here, not many capital cities can claim scenery like this almost on their doorstep!


July 16, 2009

No ‘Right to roam’ in Ireland

by backpackingbongos

One of the things that surprised me when I was researching going to Ireland was the lack of a rights of way network, or an automatic right to access many of the hills and mountains.  There are places where you can walk pretty much unrestricted such as in National parks (less than 1% of land), govt owned forestry and the few long distance trails.  Basically on all other land including mountain and moorland access is at the discretion of the landowner no matter how remote it is.  This obviously came as something of a shock coming from a country that has a massive public footpath network and the right to roam over most uncultivated countryside.

Access to the hills was very good in the Wicklow mountains and as far as I was aware you had a right to walk the hills.  I was on the other hand a bit daunted about the access situation in Connemara which has been reported recently as getting more and more restrictive.  There is a national park there but I must really put the emphasis on the word ‘park’ it is tiny and really only covers one valley and its surrounding hills.  My first point of call when arriving was the national park centre to ask about access to the mountains outside the park.  I was basically told that you do not have any rights to climb the hills and you should seek permission from the land owner before doing so.  Are you really meant to go knocking on doors to ask to go into the hills?  This gave me a dilemma, I could go and ask and risk being told no.  What would I do then?  What if after walking several miles down a private track you are told to ‘bugger off’?  I really did not want confrontation when I my holiday!

This made planning great walks difficult as I usually like a good long walk through an isolated glen before taking to the hills. In Ireland these nearly always seemed to lead to a house.  I therefore did a mammoth walk in the national park across miles and miles of bogs to get to a stunning horseshoe on the Twelve Pins.  A great day but would have been even better if there was a right to access the hills from the many other valleys into the mountains.  On my other walks into the mountains I ended up parking in a really remote spot out of the reach of dwellings.  I felt like I may have been doing something wrong as I snuck up into the hills!  Usually I would have to climb over barbed wire or deer fences, with no paths leading across farmland into the hills.

The thing is as a visitor to the area I did not know what I could and could not do.  I may well have been overreacting and farmers and landowners may have welcomed me with opened arms and a cup of tea if I had knocked on their doors and just asked!  Ireland on the whole is a pretty friendly place.

We then went to Achill island in County Mayo to see its stunning scenery and with the knowledge that access is good there due to a large proportion being common land.

Anyway the point I would like to make is if Ireland put in some sort of legislation similar to the UK with regards to access rights it could be one of the best walking destinations in the world.  The scenery easily matches that of Scotland and the mountains are as rugged as you could wish for.  You can also walk all day without seeing a single person (one of the plus points maybe due to a lack of access?) Match that with really friendly people, loads of great pubs and music and you have a winning destination.

Loads of stuff on Keep Ireland open

I will soon get around to writting up some trip reports and posting some photos.

July 12, 2009

Back from Ireland……………………

by backpackingbongos

I am feeling just a little bit tired after driving back from the west coast of Ireland yesterday, it was a bit much to do all in one day!

Ireland was stunning with the scenery on the west coast easily equaling that of the west coast of Scotland.  Pure white beaches and really wild and rugged mountains with not a person in sight.  Managed to get some superb mountain days in, some of the hardest roughest walking I have ever done, solitude and stunning scenery does not come cheap!  I even managed to persuade my non hill walking partner up a few of the easier hills, luckily she was also happy to be left on a beach whilst I disappeared for the odd day with some distant peak in sight.

You cannot escape the fact that Ireland is wet, actually it is very wet! (Connemara gets over 250 days of rain a year).  On our first week apparently there was a heatwave in the UK, this did not reach us and we had many cool days of mist and drizzle.  However the weather is always changing  and although it rained most days there would be the odd hour or two when the skies clear and the rocks sparkle in the sunshine.  It does make it the greenest place I have ever visited, the density of the plant growth looks almost tropical in places.  This in turn provided some of the toughest boggy grassland imaginable!

The weakness of the pound against the Euro at the moment does make it a really expensive place to visit, £2 for a loaf of bread and £4 a pint means that spending money does not go too far.  Plus try and find a campsite for less than £18 a night…………………

Some posts and photos to follow in the next couple of weeks, in the meantime one of me enjoying the view on top of Diamond hill in Connemara.


June 25, 2009

Hiking in Ireland

by backpackingbongos

On Saturday we set off in the campervan for a two week trip to Ireland.  Completely new territory for me to explore with some fantastic looking mountains to get my boots muddy on.  A few days in the Wicklow mountains, where if the weather is good I plan to climb the munro Lugnaquilla as well as visit the tourist spot of Glendalough with its stunning scenery.  We will then head west to Connemara where there is an endless supply of really rough and wild mountains including the Twelve Pins.  Finally we will head through County Mayo to Achill Island which looks to be the highlight of the trip with loads of sandy beaches and Irelands highest sea cliffs at over 2000ft.

I may even indulge in a pint or two of Guiness and we will be going to see Lisa Hannigan in Galway city, she has got the voice and face of an angel!

The Twelve Pins


Croaghaun Mountain at 668m with its cliffs falling directly into the sea


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