Glendalough through the pines

Walking in Glendalough

Hi folks,

Here are some journal entries in relation to some experiences on our walks in 2014. I hope that they give you a feel for Glendalough. It is an utterly beautiful and tranquil place.

 

JOURNAL: STARTED 21st AUGUST, 2014

It has only just occurred to me to keep a journal, of sorts, of our walking adventures in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow.

Both myself and my husband Martin have been walking there on an increasingly regular basis for the past two to three years. On the home front we have been walking regularly in Jenkinstown Park also which is about 10 km outside Kilkenny city.

Jenkinstown plays a large part in our slow transission from regular walkers to moderately fit hill walkers. It has also seen changes in our lifestyle from one of being sedentary to active and, in Martins case from being a heavy smoker to a non-smoker. All good!

We have both reached that age where we have to actively take more care of ourselves, when the terms “cholesterol” and “blood pressure” and “diabetes” trip off the tongue of the doctor at each and every check-up.

We have been off what we term “yummies” (sugar, chocolate, biscuits … get the idea??) for 8 months now. A combination of change in diet and increase in exercise has meant that “yes” we have lost weight. It has been excruciatingly slow at coming off though but it is going in the right direction. This is going to take some time.

A regular route that we take in Glendalough is the one marked with the white arrow. It is 9km long and quiet strenuous. There is a longer walk which is marked with the red arrows which is about 13km long and we have done that one before also.

We have found that the white arrowed walk has become a gauge of our fitness levels. Last year we managed to get to Glendalough once a month during the Winter and more regularly during the Summer months. It is a two-hour drive from Kilkenny and so takes up the whole day.

I am an amateur photographer and watercolorist and am so lucky to be in such beautiful places on walks. Every time we go to Glendalough we discover something new about the place.

What brings us back time and time again is it’s spectacular beauty and peacefulness. The white arrowed walk brings us up 600 steps to the top of the Spinc (which means pointed hill in Gaelic). From here the vista opens up and it is possible to see down the valley to one of the lakes, to the round tower and onwards.

Then it is a matter of following the railway sleepers along the top of the cliff and down into the Glenealo Valley. We usually stop for respite after the bridge across the river.

Ferrile Goat, Glendalough
I’m watching you…

Just prior to this, if we are lucky, we catch glimpses of the red deer herd and also the ferrell goats that live on the mountainside.

After the break it is down what we call the “zig zag” path to what remains of an old mine and a Miners Village. On route we pass what I think are California Pines. On a nice Summers evening the dappled shade underneath these towering pines is glorious. A little piece of heaven. Then the rest of the route is relatively flat all the way back to the entrance of the car park.

This walk has seen us progress from being absolutely shattered after the walk to being perfectly fine after it. This gives us tremendous satisfaction and encouragement to continue in order to increase our fitness levels. We know now, at least, that the fitness regime we are following is working. We are so much fitter now than this time last year and it feels really good.

This Summer I have taken to jogging very slowly around Jenkinstown Park. It is a 3 km (1.9Miles) circuit and is quiet hilly. I have found that this has helped me with the walking and particularly with my breathing. Sometimes I jog for 30 minutes and sometimes for 45 and other times I walk it. I hope to be able to get in a jog 3 times a week now and anything else is a bonus.

I have run in my youth competitively and thought that it was all behind me. I am so happy now to be able to jog really slowly and work up a good sweat and clear my head. I feel very relaxed after it.


20th August, 2014

Route taken: To Miners village and up along

The heather is beginning to come on now. Another week and it will be in its full glory. It transforms the landscape into a mass of purple. The mountains seem to change their cloak in anticipation of Autumn. The goats and deer have come down lower on the valley slope. We saw a black billy goat at the Miner’s village and could hear the bleating of the goat families from the rock scree above it.

We met an American tourist who was with a group. She was saying to us she was told that the goats were “ferrell” and that term to them meant dangerous. She had visions of them attacking walkers. We explained no that here “ferrell” here just means wild.

We made our way up along the “zig zag” pathway, picking our steps as we went. It is a hard climb going up as it takes a lot of concentration to avoid losing footing, as there are a lot of loose rocks and gravel on it.

Mountain Stream
Mountain Stream

The stream tumbles tumultuously beside the path at certain parts and adds to the wild beauty of the experience. The white water on the myriad of mini falls tempting many a photographer to use slow exposure to it’s best.

Many of the rocks are kindly marked for grip. I have it in my head that someone went up along the walk with a chisel and hammer and put in these marks for improved grip for the walker. Probably the mountain “meithil” (A voluntary group who maintain the mountainside). My hat off to them.

Eventually the terrain becomes flat as we approach the bridge over the stream. It is here that we traditionally stop for a breather, a drink and a change of tee-shirt for the next phase of the walk.

Beautiful Glendalough
Beautiful Glendalough Valley

The view down the valley from here is magnificent. It is a nice place to stop and “be at one with nature” before tackling the long slope up the side of the valley to the plateau on top. At this time of year the weather is changing. There is a coolness in the breeze. Lots of layers are required in order to keep warm. Gloves and hats too.

So on and on and over the hill, breathing in the view as we

wind our way down on the railway sleepers to the point known as the Spinc.

Onwards and upwards

Onwards and upwards

 

 

 

View from Spinc
View from Spinc

Another stop for a breather here – water and a good look at the scenery and then slowly and surefootedly down the 600 steps. Half way down we meet an elderly woman who asks “How much further to the top?”. We reply “20 minutes”. Her two companions are making their way up slowly behind her. She turns and says to the one closest to her “two and a half hours to go”!! Priceless!! Then down the rest of the walk past the thundering sound of the waterfall and back to the old cottage that is the Information Centre.

From here we make our way back to the car park passing families at the picnic tables enjoying the day, youngsters screaming with delight at the freedom of it all, tourists with their cameras marveling at the sheer beauty of the place, lovers walking hand in hand.

We change into dry gear in the toilets and then grab a coffee and a sandwich and watch the world go by…

The perfect end to the perfect day!!


Soon the Autumn colors will be appearing. The grasses on the mountains will turn raw Sienna in color and the wet areas will be show burnt sienna and dark umber. All lovely earthy colors. The rutting season will soon be here also. This is a huge event for photographers who make their way up the valley – the fact that they are laden down with the weight of their equipment totally irrelevant.

I hope to get back up there soon with my camera so that I can capture the beauty of the heather.


30th August, 2014 (Saturday)

Route taken: Up by the waterfall and the 600 steps

We had been watching the weather forecast intently looking for a break in the wet unsettled weather. It came on Saturday.

We decided to do the opposite route today. Up by the waterfall and the 600 steps. The day was overcast but heavy. A lot of water had fallen and this was almost immediately obvious by the sound of the flow of the waterfall. It really thundered down the side of the mountain, halted in small pools as it went turning from pristine white to murky brown as it churned relentlessly.

We made our way up the steps slowly. It was a really warm day and a lot of perspiring was done. At the top we met a young man. Victor was his name. He was Russian and was on a three week holiday. He worked in Moscow. He had been travelling around the country, had been at the cliffs of Moher in Clare and was taking in the beautiful scenery. I took a photograph of him with Martin on his IPad. He went on his way.

After cooling down and drinking a lot of water we set out again. The heather was noticeable now, giving that purple hue to the mountainside. The yellow furze bushes were beginning to emerge also. I had brought my camera and stopped regularly to take shots of the scenery. There weren’t many individual walkers on the route this time but there were a few very large groups, one of about 40 people. It is always gives a lift to the spirit to see people out enjoying the simple things in life.

There was a lovely cool breeze blowing down the valley. Important to keep moving though as the perspiration turns cold rapidly. I have become quiet good at what I call a “guerilla” type of photography. No messing just take the shot and move on.

Martin spotted a small hawk and thinks that it was a kestrel. It had a white tipped tail. It could have been nesting in the cliff side.

We saw a number of hill runners during the course of the day.  It always strikes us how dangerous it is to run this route particularly on the descent where there is a lot of gravel and scree and one could easily sprain or break an ankle.

The deer are a lovely rich color this time of year. The males have their mature antlers and soon it will be the rutting season. There were small herds of them to the left of the path as we made our way to the bridge and further on they were about 300metres to the left of the path.

I saw one small solitary mushroom growing beside the sleepers. There were wet pools on some of the sleepers and I laughed to myself with the thought that these were the last mortal remains of previous walkers – it really was that warm.

We got to the bridge, put on some dry gear and had some refreshments and then made our way down along the pathway. The herd of wild goats were nowhere to be seen but we did hear a solitary bleat from way up on the mountainside but couldn’t see the goat.

We passed the Miners Village. Last week there had been no water in the little stream there. I think the Mountain Meithel had dammed it with some rocks but because of the force of the flow of water the stream was back again.

We travelled on past the enchanted section of trees where the dappled light and shade draw abstract designs on the roadway beneath. As we came to the entrance to the park we spotted a newly wed couple having their photographs taken. They had a arrived on the horse and trap that works regularly along that route.

We congratulated them and asked if it was alright to take a photograph of them in the pony and trap. They kindly agreed.

Then we made a run for the next entrance where I could get a shot of them and the pony and trap in full flight. It was a beautiful sight to behold. “You don’t see that everyday”!!

Back then to the carpark, dryclothes and refreshments – we were somewhat human again!!. It was a very enjoyable day – as always in Glendalough. Every time we go we see something different and I think that is the beauty of it.

We both felt it was a very tiring walk – maybe because of the heaviness. It has been our experience that it goes like that. One can never predict how you will feel on the walk. Sometimes we feel great and sometimes we don’t but that’s hill walking for you. The scenery always delivers!!

I hope we get to go again soon.


HEALTH AND SAFETY

It is imperative to bring a well-equipped first aid kit with you on any walks that you take. Check it often to make sure that everything is in date or to replenish it if you have used anything out of it.

Plasters – both ordinary and Compeed (for blisters);

Savlon cream or some kind of disinfectant.

Scissors.

Rubber gloves.

Bandages (for ankle sprains/arm sprains).

Bug spray.

Paracetamol.

You can create your own first aid kit. Mine is from a wash bag given gratis on a flight. It has two clear plastic compartments on the inside that zip up so I can see where everything is. Never take this out of your rucksack no matter how short the walk.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings (both verbally and literally):-)

Happy walking 🙂

Do let me know of any of your travels.

Brenda