Outside Kildavin

Day five opens with departure from Kildavin, I should add that for me, this was my first completely solo day on trail. Until this point I had groups of friends dropping in and out for certain sections to keep me company. With thru hiking, there will always come some semblance of loneliness, for me this would not strike until later in the journey, around the midpoint; but I certainly felt the departure of my companions strongly on day five. However, the challenge of these long distance travails is partly found in the time spent alone. Discovering how I deal with my own thoughts, fears and stresses when alone in the wild is one of the main attractions and motivators for me personally. Back to our trail, exiting Kildavin, swing right, crossing a busy strip of road, before a swift left turn leads you via road past a number of houses as you begin a slight ascent away from the bustling road. Keep a sharp eye out for the way marker here as it is easily missed. Continue onwards along this quieter road passing numerous farms and beautiful homes en route, pause to look back upon your route noting just how far you’ve come. Wicklow and her mountains, which seemed so big mere days ago, have disappeared into the miles trodden underfoot.

Wicklow fades as you move onward

Follow the road for about an hour before turning left along a steep, somewhat overgrown pathway. Again, be sharp or miss the way marker here as the turn is quite sudden. Steeply ascending, enter forestry tracks as in the distance you may begin to hear the whirr of the wind farm. Here, you’re entering the realm of rotating giants which peak from around corners and above tree lines as you climb. Follow the pathway to a plateau between the saddle of Greenoge and Croaghaun, follow the way marked trail to the right and descend along forestry tracks eventually coming to a barrier, here the way marker guides you to the left and into a small car park beside which there are some picnic tables should you fancy a lunch time respite. However, you may follow this route or continue straight past the barrier as both routes lead to the same stretch of road and the difference in distance is minuscule.

Sleeping giants hide everywhere

Follow the road straight on as it ascends, Mount Leinster and Slievebawn beginning to reveal themselves to your left. Turn left at a well sign posted junction and continue along a large section of road walking. Unfortunately, your next few hours will all be on road as this section comprises about 18km. Ascend toward Slievebawn passing a hidden bridge concealing the River Burren flowing into the valley below. Upwards you continue, eventually reaching a bend in the road as Slievebawn and The Nine Stones come into view to your right. Continue past the path up Slievebawn and begin a gradual descent past Tonduff Hill. Reach a junction and turn right before taking the next left at a fork in the road and a swift second right thereafter. Again, this is a long section of road lined by farmhouses and open, lush fields. Note a pump handle water fountain near Killedmond where you can replenish your supplies.

Old school

Following the road, you’ll note the surrounds suddenly becoming more populated as you approach Borris. Ducking under the, as of writing, under renovation, Borris Viaduct, enter the village by turning right onto the main road. Borris offers plenty of amenities but the long stretch of road walking into it is not a highlight of the journey. Once refreshed and possibly well fed, and if not calling Borris home for the night, continue to follow the road out of the village passing a garage en route. Carefully navigate this busy road before turning left and along the road as it dips slightly toward the River Barrow. A curve in the road leads you downward, look for the way marker before the bridge which indicates the path toward the river itself, here you’ll join the highlight of day five, the Barrow Way.

Bridge over the River Barrow

Beautifully walkable after a day on road, the route follows the River Barrow toward Graiguenamanagh. Offering plenty of wild camping spots near locks or along lush banks, it is a treat after such a tough day. Follow the river, taking in the sound of the water, the wildlife along its banks including cattle stopping for a drink in the evening sun.

Cattle quenching their thirst

At Cournellan Lock, there are facilities for camping and toilets and a life guarded area for swimming should you fancy a dip. If bypassing this respite, continue to enjoy the soft, mostly level pathway underfoot. Guided by the river, you’ll see Graiguenamanagh come into focus ahead, you may even see members of its rowing club speeding along the Barrow to welcome you into town. Pleasant house boats anchor along the banks as you enter the village via a right turn across the bridge. Plenty of accommodation, restaurants and shops are to be found as you reach the end of day five and a welcome bed. 

Beautiful Barrow