Grand expanses opening on Day Three

 Day Three 

The third day on trail begins under the lush blanket of trees at Mullacor Hut. Each one of these huts dotted along this section of the route is a mini haven when compared to wild camping. Once you’ve packed, fed, watered and checked for any treats left behind in the hut lock box continue downwards along the trail into the Glenmalure Valley turning right at the first opportunity post hut. Following the well indicated yet winding path for a period, you’ll find yourself at a short road section which meets the crossroads at the Glenmalure Lodge, a welcome place to rest if huts aren’t your jam or, simply a place to refuel if hungry. If you be like me and are an early riser, it may not be open so prepare accordingly. Continue onwards as directed by the way marker at the crossroads before turning right, the Glenmalure Valley unveiling itself as you pass, Lugnaquilla slumbering behind its folded slopes. Crossing a small stream you’ll note a pillar denoting the halfway stage of the Wicklow Way ahead. Congrats! Still loads to go though, you’re just over a tenth of the way through your total journey!

Halfway….of the Wicklow Way

Continue past this, keeping to the left as the steep climb out of the valley begins. Follow the way markers as they guide you along weaving forest paths before a sharp right turn sees you enter a deeper wooded area, here your path is marked by a wooden bog bridge before a steeper stoney section as you climb higher along Slieve Maan. Enjoy the low overhang of the trees above before emerging from this wooded section and again linking with forestry paths.

Tree Tunnels

Pause to drink in the views to the east as Wicklow begins to unfurl and the journey ahead begins to unveil itself before you, its vast expanses awaiting your footsteps. Entering another winding forest track, follow the way markers as the route zig zags before a steep drop downward followed by a brief climb upward to link with the Old Military Road. Turn right and follow the road for a short period before a gentle left steers you onto the slopes of Carrickashane Mountain.

Carrickashane Mountain

The route passes just below the summit and descends steeply before passing Mucklagh Hut, the third and final Adirondack hut on the Wicklow Way, an ideal place to stop for lunch or to spend the night. Descend through leafy forest tracks as you leave Carrickashane behind you, a steep decline will see you arrive at Ironbridge, where you’ll cross the River Ow before turning left and continuing onward along a long section of road. Follow the route to the right at a fork in the road, ascending for a period before briefly rejoining a second road section above Ballyteige Bridge. Here, turn right and begin an ascent through shady tree lined paths.

Mucklagh Hut

Expect an extended period of weaving and wandering through this section as the route dips away from Ballycurragh Hill and re-joins a long section of road. Upon exiting the forest, turn left to follow the road. After about half an hour to forty five minutes, continue onwards at a stop sign following your glorious yellow guides, the way markers, onward. Alas, more road lies ahead, adjacent farmyards and fields speckled with cows on your left and right. Come to a slight right hand turn in the road, follow this downward through grassy overgrowth before emerging onto a brief section of roadway. A sharp right turn sees you wander into what will feel like somebody’s farmyard but fret not, this is the correct route! Again, some might say unfortunately, this next section is mainly road for the next while but the views glimpsed through gates and over hedgerows will whet your appetite for the open expanses which lie ahead. Road sections are never easy but the rewards are always worth it, plough on!

Road for the road enthusiasts out there. Anyone? Anyone?

After a little over an hour of road, turn right at a stream, note its accessibility, if in need of a water source, this is ideal. Back to off road now and a steep ascent is ahead, pass over a stile and continue upwards as Garryhoe rises to your right. This section is a delight after a large portion of the day spent on road. Enjoy the soft ground underfoot and the challenge of bashing through ever so slightly overgrown ferns. Follow the track as it veers slightly left and hugs the lower reaches of the mountain, keep an eye out for Tinahely which may be visible as you rise and begin to gain those views missed whilst amongst the hedgerows along the road. Continue onwards as the route rises and falls before eventually descending toward a T-junction. Here the route splits and, if staying in Tinahely, follow the road to the left leading to Mangan’s Lane and your destination.

Choose wisely

If staying on trail however, veer right toward Mangan’s Wood. Upon entering the wood, if following the same schedule as I, begin to seek a secure camping spot. The wood is sparse in patches with flat(ish) areas if you know where to look. Once found, set up camp and settle in for an evening amongst creaking trees and rustling wind. Also listen out for deer calling in the late evening dusk.