The Wicklow Way, Ireland’s premier long-distance walking route begins in Marlay Park. It was Ireland’s first long distance waymarked trail. It is still the most popular even though there are many more way-marked trails now in Ireland. The route is 132km long, from the start at Marlay Park in the south Dublin suburbs to the finish at Clonegal.
Day 1 of the Wicklow Way is Marley Park to Knockree
I found the first part of the Wicklow Way the hardest, perhaps a combination of the hills and my lack of walking fitness during the start of all my long distance walks. For me, it is great to walk away from the city and see it fade away, with all its noise, out of sight and into the Wicklow Mountains.
There are many more waymarked walking trails now in Ireland, and this site will slowly expand to give information on them all including Ballyhoura Way, Barrow Way, Bealach na, Baeltachta Chonamara, Bealach na Gaeltachta Dhun na nGall, Beara Way, Blackwater Way, Dingle Way, East Clare Way, East Munster Way, Grand Canal Way, Kerry Way, Lough Derg Way, Mid Clare Way, Miners’ Way, Royal Canal Way, Sheep’s Head Way, Slieve Bloom Way, South Leinster Way, Suck Valley Way, Western Way.
The Wicklow Way is traditionally walked from north to south, but of course, can be walked in either direction. The hardest part of the way is at the beginning going from Co Dublin into Co Wicklow, a good reason to walk from south to north against tradition; walking fitness will have developed before reaching the hilliest part of the way. Another good reason for walking south to north is to avoid walking into the sun most of the day, however walking north to south still prevails.
The effort required on the first part of the Wicklow Way pays off handsomely in terms of scenery. The most dramatic and beautiful part of the route is the first couple of days, after the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, the way is mostly over rolling countryside and is fairly easy walking.
Marlay Park is easy to reach from the centre of Dublin. Once out on the Wicklow Way, it passes Knockree, near Roundwood, by Old Bridge, through stunning Glendalough, near Laragh, through Glenmalure, near Knockananna, by Moyne, through Tinahely, by Kilquiggin, and close to Shillelagh, Kildavin, Bunclody, and eventually finishing in Clonegal.
If you have five days to spend walking in Ireland you could hardly find a better place to walk. If you don’t have time for the whole route, parts of it can be walked as a day walk.
As usual, all mistakes are mine – If you notice any please feel free to mail me – if your site should have a link here also please mail me – and lastly, if you have accommodation for walkers along the route please let me know and I will add your details.
Wicklow Way – Day 1
Marley Park to Knockree (21km)
The Wicklow Way starts in Marley Park in south Dublin. The start is fairly easy to get to by bus or taxi. I find it strange starting from here with all the people walking around the park; pushing prams and playing with children and me with a rucksack on appearing quite out of place. However, it does not take long to get to the top of the park and head along the side then under the new M50 motorway. At that point, I start to feel I am in the countryside, but the noise of the traffic is with you for a while yet.
After passing under the motorway the route starts up toward Kilmashogue Mountain the start of the Wicklow Mountains, passing St Columba’s College, once the Eton of Ireland. It is all uphill at the start of the Wicklow Way. Soon the Way leaves the road and enters Kilmashogue Woods. There are great views over Dublin city and bay now for quite a while.
A few kilometres into the woods the route takes a sharp right into the forest and up a steep bank. If you are on a bike this will be the first and not the last, time you will have to get off and carry over a rocky path. There is a signpost at the bottom of this path indicating no cycling. At the top of this path, the route continues along a good track, sweeping round right it eventually leads down into the valley of Glencullen and turns left along the Glencullen Road.
This is about the halfway point to Knockree, and there are plenty of sheltered areas here to stop for lunch, however, there are no cafes or restaurants nearby, unless you want to walk the 3km round trip along the road to Jonnie Fox’s pub at Glencullen, (one of the best pubs in Ireland); otherwise you will need to carry food and water for the whole day.
The route starts another climb after crossing the low point at the Glencullen River. It is not as hard as the first climb round Two Rock. Prince Williams’s seat like most Irish mountains in this area is a flat top.
The waymarking is generally good except for this point. The route looks like it is straight on here but it is not, it turns up to the right. Many people make the mistake of walking straight on and then having to walk all the way back. This is the only point on the first day that the marking is unclear.
Traversing around Prince William’s Seat the Wicklow Way route drops down through the recently harvested Curtlestown Wood to cross the Glencree Road and pass round Knockree to the Youth Hostel. There is a new path here and it makes life much easier now along the top and going down the side of the hill.
As far as I am aware the Youth Hostel, (http://www.knockreeyouthhostel.com/), is the only accommodation in this area unless you have arranged for a bed and breakfast to collect you.
The only real alternative is camping. This can be done in the fields in front of the Youth Hostel. Cross the style in front of the hostel and go all the way down to the Glencree River. Here you can see where many before you have camped.
Please be advised that from April 2011, due to a massive increase in anti-social activity, trespass, littering and destruction of trees, An Oige (the landowner) no longer permits camping on its land at Knockree.
Check out my post on hiking the Great Glen Way in Scotland as well.
If you have a Bed & Breakfast in the area and cater to walkers please send me your details and I will list them on this page – please see contact page for details of listing and form