The official start of the E8 Coast to Coast Trail begins, as you’d imagine at the coast, way out at Poolbeg Lighthouse. I, however, began my journey at the trailhead of the Wicklow Way in Marlay Park. The trail itself is actually a section of a much larger pan-European route stretching from Dursey Island all the way to Istanbul, stretching 7834km. The Irish section takes in the Wicklow Way in its entirety and then sections of the South Leinster Way, East Munster Way, Avondhu Way, Duhallow Way, Kerry Way and finally Beara Way, measuring 622km. This guide, based upon my own adventure on the trail in the summer of 2021, will hopefully enable anybody to tackle what is a relatively unknown route across Ireland.
The trail begins in relatively unspectacular fashion with a gentle stroll through the leafy paths which meander thorugh Marlay Park. In those first initial hundred metres or so, the scope of the undertaking ahead hits home and you may find yourself questioning all you’ve packed in your bag or wondering how on earth you’ve already begun to chafe. The route twists its way beneath the tree canopy and follows the perimeter wall of the park, the busy M50 rumbling alongside. Upon exiting the park you’ll turn right and follow the way marker along a slip road before turning left under an M50 underpass and beginning a steep climb towards Kilmashogue passing homes more akin to the open spaces of the midlands many miles ahead than the slopes of the Dublin Mountains. As you ascend toward Kilmashogue, the road veers left into the forested area, the remaining views of sprawling Dublin disappearing for now. The route follows gentle wooded pathways which wind their way toward the steeper climb leading to Two Rock Mountain. Turn right through a wooden gateway to join the pathway adjacent to Two Rock. As the peak of said mountain passes on your left, veer right along the stony path where the Wicklow Way joins the Dublin Mountains Way toward Tibradden.
Bypassing the Tibradden Trail, begin to drop toward Glencullen where you’ll hit your second patch of road after a sudden end to the wooded area finds you in Glencullen Valley. A decent stretch of road walking lies ahead, stick closely to the verge on the right of the road. Briefly turning right and back upon itself along Boranaraltry Lane before crossing a bridge, the route then begins to ascend again along wooded slopes toward Prince Williams Seat. As you traverse these slopes you’ll see to your left, the broad vista of Dublin Bay opening up, from Howth towards the Wicklow border, pinpointed by the rugged duo Bray Head and the Sugarloaf. This will be the last (hopefully) clear view of Dublin City on the trail. As you descend toward Glencree, you’ll find yourself upon forestry tracks before entering Curtlestown Wood, a slight descent bringing you to a brief road section before Knockree and Lackan Wood greet you. Upon entering the wood, you’ll again find yourself on forest paths before a well hidden way marker points the way off to the right at a deceptive fork, stick right and you’ll soon be heading down via Lackandarragh Lower, a steep and muddy when wet slope criss crossed with overhanging branches and thickets.
You’ll plunge your way out of the overgrowth and onto a road, a few minutes to your left is Knockree Youth Hostel but if continuing onward, be alert and keep an eye out for the way marker in the small car park across the road. Follow this onto the path downward towards the Glencree River. Stick to the path! (Note: there are several worn paths through the heathery overgrowth on your left, stick to the main path to avoid soggy boots and socks). Swing left and downward before following the route of the river itself. After a short time, you’ll cross a bridge which will see you double back on the far riverbank, rising slightly toward Crone Wood.
Turn left and continue to follow the road before a swift right finds you in the car park of Crone Woods, a perfect place to stop for a coffee and lemony treat if so inclined. Once refreshed, follow the Maulin Loop trail into the woods, turning left at the first opportunity. Here, again, you will find a clear route banked by large swathes of trees. Once more a beautiful meander along sloping pathways is in store. After a time, you’ll feel the path begin to rise as you ascend towards the breathtaking views of the Powerscourt Estate and waterfall. Turning a rocky corner, look left to see the cascading deluge of the River Dargle as it hurls itself forcefully downward. Once you’ve snapped enough pics for the ‘Gram, plough on along the often muddy path. Still ascending, you will find the path becoming rockier and slick at times when wet. Continue onwards until you cross a fence, this is where the pathway splits, to the right, Maulin and to the left, Djouce. Here, the path drops steeply to the Watergate and a bridge crossing the Dargle. To the right of this bridge, is an ideal camping spot. If, like me, you’re getting your trail legs up and running with a gentle first day, you’ve now covered approximately 26km.
On a rare day, you might be the only person camping here and, if so, the advice is to camp in the horse shoe of heather to the back and left of the flat area or as close to any decent crop of heather as possible. The wind sweeps through the valley at night so garner as much protection from your surrounds as possible. Note, too, that the ground can often be deceptively rocky here and unforgiving on camping stakes. Settle in for what’ll hopefully be a comfortable, windless evening.