A Week in Wicklow Part 4: Signs, Shoes, Saints, Spink!

It’s a Sign!!

First a note on Irish signs. These aren’t lacking, but they are, we find, generally pretty rubbish. They are badly placed, usually too small, occasionally not actually related to the place/junction at which they’re located, and completely sporadic and unpredictable. One minute a main road is signed, the next, you’re at a junction with no idea which way to turn. This is not confined to the countryside: on our trip to Dublin last year we couldn’t find any signs for the main M1 motorway north to Belfast and spent 40 minutes driving through the suburbs.

Someone should really have a word.

Boots or Shoes?

Anyway, we were feeling good today. The forecast was for patchy rain and our target was Glendalough – “The valley of two lakes” – for some walking and Geocaching. Morning discussion was of what sort of shoes to wear and what to take. I suggested that we pack for a proper hike and see what happens. Lovely wife seemed a bit more sceptical about my potential-hiking ambitions.

We started with a quick trip to pick some information up from Wicklow’s information office and then headed straight from there to the mostly well-signposted Glendalough.

Glendalough and St Kevin

There was a bit of rain to start with but it soon cleared and we had a beautiful day of walking ahead. Lovely wife wasn’t so keen to start with, but I encouraged her to take walking boots and a full rucksack. I think she appreciated this in the end.

Glendalough has a visitor centre, which is OK, but the interpretive bit wasn’t open and there wasn’t much in terms of information there, so we grabbed a walking routes map and a leaflet about the historic relics. Total cost, 1 Euro!

We took a quick trip round the ruins – these were impressive and old and mostly relating to St Kevin the information leaflet was, true to its name, informative, telling us some of the history and legends surrounding the site and St Kevin himself. The gravestones were also fascinating, a huge variety of styles from across the years. The location, in the heart of the glen, was very atmospheric, but the place was bustling with tourists.

Walking Glendalough

After a short time we set of on one of the walking routes. These all seemed to be mostly well-paved and well sign-posted. Previously in Ireland this has bothered me, but here it seemed fitting. There’s a long board walk (a walk along raised wooden boards), which exists to protect the land from erosion…excellent stuff! Walking on the marshland would not have been nice. Sign posts and interpretative boards are there, but not over-done, making it feel slightly more wild. The altitude and remoteness that you achieve also means that you feel like you’re doing some proper outdoorsy stuff.

Rather than pick a single main route we made up our own route out of bits of the others – mostly in order to take in as much scenery and geocaching as possible.

Once we’d left the busy shorter routes a lot of the people melted away and we were left pretty much to ourselves. We climbed up a waterfall, walked through a forest, and up and over a hill onto the boardwalk. This took us along a cliff edge with views that made the climb well worthwhile.

Spink and Kevin’s Dental Work

The first geocache, “Spink”, was a short walk uphill from the boardwalk. It felt wrong walking over the peat and marshland when a clear trail had been provided to protect the land, but that’s what we did. Our geocaching disappointment continued as this cache, which had been listed as “needing maintenance”, was not in its place at all. Our lunch had been carried up in a biscuit tin and this was now empty, so we left that in the cache’s place, with a short note scribbled on a bit of paper. At least there’s something there now!

Back down to the boardwalk and along to the western extent of the path. The second cache was here: a big army tin full of stuff, hiding…we won’t say where. Finally…success! We logged our visit and took a “travel bug” that was in there too, before trying to hide the cache again without other people in this busy spot seeing what we were doing. We continued back down the path to the walk’s end and treated ourselves to an ice-cream.

Laragh and Home

Glendalough is sublime, by far the most expansive glen we’ve visited. The terrain is varied, but never too challenging, and the occasional relic of times gone by gives you something to learn about too.

We headed home via St Kevin’s Church, Laragh where another successful (and neatly-hidden) geocache – Kevin and the Blackbird – awaited us. When it works it’s exciting and good fun!

Back home for dinner, games, and relaxing. A splendid day! Very green, very beautiful, better than Northern Ireland, but still not as rugged and charming as the west.