A Week in Wicklow – Part 8: A First and Final Climb

I am…yes, really, I am getting there.

Friday – our last day. We’d previously planned a hike up to over 800m up the mountain known as Tonelagee. Having abandoned this on Thursday we were up early with the aim of doing it on Friday.

So, we packed our rucksacks and jumped in the car, back towards Glendalough heading back to towards Sally Gap and parking at Glenmacnass Car Park.

One last sporadic sign

The map showed a path just a short distance from the car park, over a small river. However, when we arrived, there was a sign explaining that “Member of the public should not cross the river as it is very dangerous”, or words to that effect.

But…there’s a path up there, no bridge, and it doesn’t look very dangerous. And what sort of dangerous? Minefield dangerous? Being-chased-by-a-raging-bull dangerous? Or just standard hill walking dangerous?

It was pretty windy again and we ummed and aaahed, walked up the river a bit to see what we could see…I even hopped across the stones to the other side to see what was hidden in the trees! But ultimately we couldn’t see very much, and “dangerous” was looking like all we were going to get.

So we decided to head down Glendalough and the National Park information centre. Perhaps they have walking books for sale, or guides to the hills? There were also other walking options should be run out of time and need them (we had a restaurant booked for 7pm which meant heading home at about 5pm).

The information centre was a bit useless, being mostly a exhibition of taxidermy. OK, that’s a bit harsh, there was lots of good information about the wildlife, but it was mostly wildlife that you’ll never see because you’re not allowed to walk anywhere! Nothing about walking the hills though.


Time was ticking on and we had no more information about Tonelagee, so we decided to head up a lesser peak – Camaderry. Path even clearer on the map, route up the sheltered and sunny side of the mountain and starting just outside the Glendalough car park.

We quickly found the path, and the immediate problem of it being about a 1 in 3 climb for most of the first kilometre. It was up up and more up, through the trees, without a warm up for the legs, and we rose from 150m to 450m in no time.

The path continued across a plateau and then up a short almost-scramble to Camaderry’s south-east top at 677m.

The shape of the mountain meant that you didn’t get such a great view down to Glendalough as you might have expected, but it was exhilarating being up so high. Most of the mountains in Wicklow are hidden away behind smaller hills and false summits, but from up top, you could see just how mountainous it really is and you could easily pick out the three biggest peaks of Lugnaquillia, Mullaghcleevaun and the abandoned Tonelagee.

The lack of other walkers meant that were had the summit cairn completely to ourselves, and we didn’t see another soul on the way up or down.

The walk was great too, short, but with varied terrain: forest and firs; expanses of peat bog strewn with foxglove and ferns; and rocky paths.

Yes, when you can find a safe way up, the hill walking in Wicklow turns out to be pretty good!

Were were a bit concerned about the peat erosion. Peat is a big carbon sink, and is easily eroded, damaging the natural environment and releasing the carbon, but we figured that following the path that was already very eroded can’t have been doing too much damage. We can only guess that the erosion issue is one of the things that prevents hill walking being promoted more strongly here.

A Meal Out

We headed back down, which took no time, and scrubbed up back in the cottage ready for a meal out. We’d been self-catering all week because food was very expensive, but we’d both had birthdays recently which were not really properly celebrated, and we’d promised ourselves a night out.

Restaurants were even more expensive, but we bit the bullet and had booked into “The Wicklow Heather” in Laragh – back over towards Glendalough.

We were not disappointed and had an excellent meal in a charmingly decorated setting.

One thing that particularly amused me was that some tables, including ours, had a little rack of old, educational books, including once called “The Psychology of Eating” by Lewis R Wolberg, which, though written in the Thirties, said things like “This is not another fad diet book”, and could have been written yesterday. I hadn’t realised that fad diets had been around so long.

Finishing off

After the meal it was hometime, packing, and cleaning the cottage before departure. The trip home was uneventful. It was a windy day so we bought seasickness tablets, but these ended up being unnecessary as we had a pleasant crossing back.

It had been a great week of rest, walking, Geocaching, and exploring Co. Wicklow, and another fantastic week in Ireland – a country that I’m sure we’ll visit again and again.

Highly recommended – but if you plan hiking, get as much information beforehand as you can, including good maps. We’d recommend staying closer to Laragh than Wicklow Town, and with the exchange rate as it is, would recommend self catering, if you can find an appropriately sized cottage.

For now, it’s back to the grindstone and the busyness of normal life.

When’s the next holiday?