Ireland day 0242. Saturday 28 May 2022- Kevin

Ireland day 0242. Saturday 28 May 2022- Kevin
Today’s summary Got a lift with a walking club friend down to Glendalough to join a one-way walk on the eastern part of St Kevin’s Way from the Kings River back to Glendalough (car shuffle).   Collected Val from airport in evening
Today’s weather Dry, bright and sunny again, clear blue skies and little cloud.   Light north westerly wind.   About 15C
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
St Kevins Way to Glendalough DWC

I know that many readers will have been worrying about the bridge repair works scheduled to happen at Malahide railway station last night (Friday-Saturday) and tonight (Saturday-Sunday).   Well last night it actually wasn’t too bad,   I bunged a couple of solid wax earplugs in and actually managed to sleep quite well despite the hammer drill and angle grinder being deployed right outside the bedroom window.   Anyway by the time I got up at about 6am, the engineers seemed to have finished the first stage in their engineerings and all was quiet.

But during the day, things seem to have stepped up a gear.   So as I write this on Saturday evening, the orange viz-vested workers on the line seem to have redoubled their activities and are in the process of actually, it seems, removing the whole footbridge and replacing it with a new one.   I’m not sure if it is noise, exhaustion or lack of sleep that is causing me to hallucinate, but I would swear I saw a digger flying over the station as I was out on my way to SuperValu a couple of minutes ago to buy some milk.   I think I will be OK for now but if I report seeing flying pigs, call the doctor.

Anyway, turning from the ridiculous to the sublime, and to the real point of today’s blog, we have to go back to Glendalough.   Unbelievably it’s only last Monday that we were most recently there, but today the Dublin Walking Club had organised an “A to B” walk along St Kevin’s Way, which started at a point about 16km west of Glendalough, midway between Hollywood (no film stars sadly) and the Wicklow Gap.   So after a swift drive down the M50 to the rendezvous spot in the visitor centre car park, cars were swapped and passengers doubled up, and we headed off from Glendalough to the start point, leaving a couple of cars behind in the car park for the return journey at the end.

I’m sure everyone will recall that St Kevin was the founder of the monastery in Glendalough, where he lived the life of a hermit until he died in the year 618AD at the ripe old but rather unlikely age of 120.   He arrived at Glendalough after a journey from the west, near the present day town of Hollywood.   The route he followed is now a pilgrim trail, and has been designated as St Kevin’s Way.

Today we didn’t do the whole thing.  The first half, from Hollywood, has a lot of road walking.   The scenery on that stretch is good, but it’s hard on the feet so we elected to cut it out and start midway, with 16km / 10 miles left, on the minor road below the slopes of Camenabologue.  From there on, back over the Wicklow Gap to Glendalough, it’s actually a delightful off-road walk on a well made up path, which is board-walked over the boggy bits.   We saw very few people at all despite it being a warm sunny weekend, and as the weather was perfect today, the scenery was looking its very best.   The first part of the walk follows the King’s River upstream to the Wicklow Gap.   Along the way, we passed banks of bluebells – the finest displays I’ve seen in Ireland, actually – and enticing rock pools, which looked good enough to swim in if it wasn’t for the temperature.

After a couple of hours walking, we reached the summit of St Kevin’s Way at the Wicklow Gap.   The main R756 road also passes through the Gap and in fact at 475m / 1558ft  it’s one of the highest roads in Ireland – although nearby Sally Gap, at 523m / 1716ft is actually the highest.   From the top you get outstanding views west into County Kildare (not Wexford – thanks again Tom), east into Wicklow (and it’s said you can even see the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales on a clear day), north to Tonelagee, third highest summit in Wicklow, and south to the pumped storage reservoirs and in-mountain hydroelectric power station of Turlough Hill.   We paused briefly for refreshments then headed down into Glendasan past the old mine workings.

You could think of the old lead mines as either a horrendous blot on the landscape, or a fascinating reminder of Ireland’s industrial past (and lack of planning regulations – like most places round the world at the time the mines were established in the early 1800s).   In reality, they are a bit of both.   Interesting to look around, and rusting mechanical relics still in evidence, dating back to 1957 when the mines finally closed.   But what is more certain is that the spoil heaps are likely to remain as highly visible reminders of this mining heritage for many years to come, because they are bright ochre in colour and so toxic that no plant life will recolonise them.

From the mines, we were quickly down on the banks of the Glendasan river, which eventually joins the Avoca and flows into the sea at Arklow.   Like the King’s River, which flows in the other direction, it’s peaty brown coloured and impressive as it crashes over boulders and oozes through limpid pools.   It must look spectacular when it’s in spate.

Once back down in Glendalough, we did a reverse car shuffle and drove back to the start to pick up the remaining  cars.   At that point, we said our farewells and drove back to Dublin – or rather I didn’t drive as I had a lift from a friend who lives in Portmarnock.   I have to say I was very grateful for the lift, as I was feeling quite tired after two early starts and a reasonably strenuous hike yesterday, too.

Any way, I must stop now and search out my earplugs for tonight.   And in a few moments, Val arrives back at Dublin airport and I must be on time to meet her.   I’m really looking forward to having some company in the flat – she’s only been away for 3 nights, but it already feels like there’s loads of catching up to be done.

See you tomorrow – with an update on the engineering works and no doubt much more besides!


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Magnificent bank of bluebells on the banks of the King’s river, on the West side of the Wicklow Gap.   Definitely the best display I’ve seen in Ireland and  actually quite late in the season.   I’m pleased to report they were “local” bluebells, rather than the Spanish invaders Close to St Kevin’s pool.   It’s an absolutely lovely spot and it would have been a good place to spend the whole of the rest of the day.   But we had a walk to complete so couldn’t linger.   I expect St Kevin used to spend much longer hanging around here.   After all he had 120 years to fill
The route is reasonably well waymarked, including with wooden signs like this one, close to the summit of the Wicklow Gap Descending east from the Gap, past the lead mines in upper Glendasan.   Even though the mines were abandoned in 1957, the spoil heaps are still pristine scars on the landscape.   Nothing will grow on them as the waste is so toxic.   Very much like the ones on the West Highland Way near Tyndrum, in Scotland.
At the end of the walk, you come into the back of the Monastery.   It was absolutely heaving with tourists on this sunny Saturday afternoon so we beat a hasty retreat. Kevin was a very versatile chap, evidently.
One of the many saintly waymarkers along the route, all cast in highly ethical recycled plastic
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 16529 m
Max elevation: 477 m
Min elevation: 130 m
Total climbing: 485 m
Total descent: -587 m
Total time: 04:51:39
Download file: St Kevin’s Way corrected.gpx

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