Now, dear reader, a confession. I had scheduled to camp in Mangan’s Wood and be rough and tough, however, as often happens on trail, human kindness appeared when needed. A good friend of mine volunteered to give me a hearty meal, use of a shower and a warm bed for the night. This oasis was too good to turn down so, on the evening of day three, I ploughed onward to just outside Tinahely. Said ‘ploughing on’ lead to exiting Mangan’s Wood via a stile before turning right and passing a couple of gates as I trod along the descending pathways of Coolnafunshogue Hill.
When on trail here, you’ll spot Tinahely nestled away in the valley below. Follow the path as it links with a small road, passing an odd scrap yard to the left. Dropping down via this road into the valley below, you’ll meet a bridge, across which there is a roadside bench which is ideal for pick ups from hospitable friends or as a meeting point for transport into Tinahely. Crossing this road, begin your steep ascent up a flight of wooden steps, these have been graciously added to the route by the locals to avoid a treacherous stretch of road. Once conquered, turn right and follow the road along Cuckoo Lane before a left turn leads you upwards toward Muskeagh Hill. Follow the gently rising path along the lower reaches of Muskeagh enjoying some patches of forestry en route. Begin to slope to the right and downwards via an overgrown pathway before emerging onto a road, follow the guiding way marker to the left before turning right at the next junction. Brushing the outer reaches of Mullinacuff, continue to follow the road to the left passing a number of small dwellings. Here you will continue on road for quite some distance, the valley presenting its green, open fields on your left. Eventually you’ll pass a small tin shack and beyond that the famous Tallon’s Dying Cow pub. The welcome is always warm and there is even the opportunity to camp out back if asked kindly enough. On trail, especially when aware of the distances, travails and length of time ahead, moments of brief respite and human interaction cannot be valued highly enough. Enjoy these whenever and however they crop up!
Alas, beyond The Dying Cow there lies more road, turning right at the pub, begin a trying ascent before the road flattens and stretches out long before you. This section of the Wicklow Way is often said to be the least enjoyable due to its over reliance on road walking, I would tend to agree with this statement. However, pleasant farm houses and playful farm dogs make it quite bearable. Follow the winding road as it takes you past St Finnian’s Cemetery and eventually across the R725. Here the route juts to the right before immediately turning left across the major road and upwards, again on road, before a turn to the left at a stop sign leads you onto, yep, more road. Follow the road for quite some time before a steep ascent takes you up the cusp of the hill before turning right and, thankfully, re-joining the off road trail. Enjoy the forestry tracks as you march by large timber stacks, the path eventually levelling out just beneath Stookeen. Veer left and follow a steep, grassy, rocky descent before the path guides you right and down toward (I’m very sorry) a road. Follow this before meeting a junction, turning left continue along the roadway toward Moylisha Hill.
Here you’ll re-enter the forest and enjoy forestry paths underfoot. The path winds its way through the forest before entering Newry Wood. Here, I had initially intended to camp but fine weather, a lack of wild camping spots and my own stubbornness, kept me moving. Upon exiting the wood you’ll join a short section of gravel road before rejoining the more prominent section of roadway leading toward Clonegal. The road veers slightly right at a crossroads as you pass over a small bridge, continue along this section for a long period before Clonegal begins to peek itself out from behind hedgerows and rolling fields, each step bringing it into sharper focus. Clonegal, it should be noted, is lacking in services. There is a small shop but no accommodation. However, you have, upon entering Clonegal, completed the Wicklow Way!
If, like me, you didn’t plan on walking this far on a particular day, the lack of accommodation will be crushing! There are options, one of which is to continue to Kildavin where transport links are supremely greater when compared to Clonegal. Once the obligatory photos have been taken at the Wicklow Way sign, follow the main street into Clonegal, pass through the village and across a fine bridge, crossing the River Derry. Turning right, follow the road, the river a pleasant companion, for about 30-40 minutes before turning right across another smaller bridge and onward toward Kildavin with beautiful fields and the valley opening either side. The road continues on beyond Kildavin GAA club and the cemetery before entering the village where there is a pub serving food. Once full, there is the option to catch a bus outside toward Bunclody or Enniscorthy, both of which have ample accommodation. You have now completed the Wicklow Way and taken those first few steps onto the South Leinster Way.