E8 (WICKLOW WAY) DAY TWO
The second day may arrive with an unwelcome early morning gust rushing toward you from the valley above, most likely coupled with a burst of excitement brought on by the potential contained within the day ahead. Today, if you are following the same schedule as I, you will tackle 34km from Watergate to Mullacor Hut. As you pack up your tent and bid farewell to the most perfectly flat piece of wild camping real estate along the trail, return to the path and turn right. Your first challenge of the day is a steep incline out of the valley towards Djouce. Following the path, note the small area of youthful trees to your left and the large open expanse of heather hugging the valley’s slopes. Eventually, you’ll come to a wooden stile, upon crossing it, spot the wall on your right hand side. Continue to follow this path onward until you find a second stile bridging a gap in the wall. Cross this to begin your ascent of the undulating pathway towards Djouce. Take a moment, on a clear day, to look backwards toward the Sugarloaf and the Dublin/Wicklow border. It will soon disappear from view as you skirt to the left of the summit of Djouce and onward.
Encountering some rocky terrain, continue onward until you meet a T-junction. To the right is the steep ascent to Djouce summit. Follow the way marker left and begin your trek along the wooden bog bridge which will guide you toward Lough Tay. Sticking to this path for approximately 30 minutes to an hour depending on your pace, you’ll find yourself bobbing up and down between small rises before the expanse of Lough Tay opens up before you. Keep an eye out for the JB Malone memorial, it was he who made the trail you’re standing on possible with his work in creating the Wicklow Way during the late 60s and 70s before its official opening in 1980.
After the monument, the trail takes a steep dive toward a small wooded area, note that the trail has been rerouted to take it off the roads at Lough Tay. It now instead meanders its way through dense forest veined by clear accessible pathways before depositing you back onto a stretch of roadway beyond Lough Tay.
Upon meeting this road, turn left and descend slightly until a right turn on the trail takes you onto a pathway which cuts through a wooded area along the slopes of Slemaine, and beyond that, Ballinafunshoge. Following a logging path through a period of heavy woods, pass through a gate before a second stretch of pathway leads to a sharp right turn, diving you onto a small section over overgrown trail. Be mindful of a brief, but steep descent, made even more hazardous by the tempting views of Lough Dan peaking from behind the tree line. Keep the focus on your footing, there are plenty more views ahead. Pass through a small area of dense forest before crossing a stile which opens up onto broad farmland and open fields, a refreshing moment after a morning amongst the trees. Crossing a second stile, turn right and continue to the bottom of a second field where you will join a brief stretch of path.
Turn left and follow the way markers leading to the road. Follow said road for 30-45 minutes as it descends steadily into Oldbridge. Note that there are no facilities in Oldbridge and the campsite at Lough Dan is reserved for Scouting Ireland. Shortly after crossing the old bridge which gives the village its name, veer left and, leaving the quaint village behind, continue along the road for a stretch of 30-45 minutes before again hitting a trail on your right hand side. Climb along this route taking note of a wonderfully generous sight on the trail, that of a tap supplying fresh, clean drinking water. A treat from the trail gods and a kindly farmer.
Once you’ve replenished your water supplies, continue onwards, crossing a stile and following the trail to the left through a wooded area before reaching Brushers Gap Hut, the first of three Adirondack huts along the Wicklow Way. Stop for lunch or plough on, the trail gentling sloping as the iconic Glendalough Valley begins to open itself up to your right. As you traverse Paddock Hill, take a moment to look back towards the coast. This will be one of your last sights of the sea for a long time. Sloping onwards via shady woods towards Glendalough you go. Crossing both a stretch of Military Road and the Glenmacnass River. Here, the trail begins to feel slightly more populated as fantastic stretches of bog bridge and a foot bridge allow access to the area. The trail takes a steep turn upwards along the northern slopes which precede the Glendalough Valley itself. Prepare for stunning views (on a clear day) over both glistening lakes nestled away far below on the valley floor.
The trail then wanders downward, steeply in places, before crossing a road and, eventually, depositing you right in the heart of Glendalough itself. Before you, the welcome sight of the Glendalough Hotel and all the comforts the area has to offer. Stop for a meal and refreshments, use the amenities or continue onwards. It may take you by surprise how odd it feels to be around people and amenities after a couple of days in the wild. Drink it in and enjoy the comforts of it all, many hard miles lie ahead before trail’s end. The trail cuts its way through the car park of the hotel and visitor centre before linking up with a stretch of walkway on the southern banks of the lower lake. Crossing a bridge, take note of the round tower standing proudly. Then make a right turn and trace the bank of the lake before a left hand turn at the upper lake guides you up a tough incline adjacent to Poulanass Waterfall.
At the top of this climb, veer left away from the more popular Spinc route and begin your ascent out of the valley along the lower reaches of Derrybawn. The meandering path turns right, follow it for a moderate climb before dipping briefly downwards, crossing the stream which feeds Poulanass, before a sharp left turn takes you along a long stretch of forestry roads. A solid 60 to 90 minutes of these roads lies ahead but beyond this arduous section lies Glenmalure Valley. Follow the way markers as they guide you through a stunning spur bridging Mullacor and Lugduff.
Here, pass via a gate and onto another section of bog bridge which eventually gives way to a worn, muddy path before the trail drops steeply via a rocky section. Use caution here, especially in wet weather. Hopping down from this rocky delight, turn left onto your final forestry tracks of the day. Take time to drink in all of the Glemalure Valley, if you’ve timed your day correctly, you should arrive for sunset which is spectacular and highlights the many glistening waterfalls on the opposite slopes of the valley. Take a moment to pause for breath as the view constantly shifts and moves before you. Follow the forestry road as it leads along the flanks of the valley’s northern slopes before reaching the second Adirondack hut on the trail, Mullacor Hut. Here avail of shelter or a potential camping spot if crowded.