5 miles round trip / 525′ elevation gain
I arrived in Ireland early in the morning after an overnight flight from New York City. Even though jetlag had taken over, I had no choice but to hit the ground running since my hotel room wasn’t available for check-in until 3:00 pm. My friends and I dragged ourselves to breakfast where we fueled up on much needed coffee for the day. We spent the morning and afternoon exploring the streets of Dublin and world famous art inside the Dublin City Gallery. Once we were finally able to check into our hotel room we caught up on a few hours of much needed sleep before enjoying a night of Irish brews and sing-a-longs. Our heads hit the pillow for the last time that night (or should I say morning) around 3:00 am. This was the first day of my two week European vacation, and I was already exhausted!
I had been planning this trip for several months now, and the first thing on my agenda was to make sure I went on at least one hike. On the morning of my second day in Europe, hiking was the farthest thing from my mind – I was hungover and jetlagged with less than six hours of sleep! How was I going to crawl out of bed early enough to catch a bus to Wicklow National Park and spend my day hiking? Knowing that St. Kevins Bus would be leaving at 11:30 am, I awoke with just enough time to gather my belongings, grab a coffee with a small breakfast, and purchase a sack lunch for the hike. I grabbed a comfortable seat near the front of the bus, and after an hour and half bus ride through small Irish towns and countryside, the bus arrived at the Glendalough Visitors Centre in Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Having only three and half hours to explore the park, I chose the Derrybawn Woodland Trail (Orange Route) for its’ shorter hiking distance of 5 miles and little elevation gain of 525′. The trail starts off by crossing a bridge over a narrow river with views of a Monastic City, a settlement first established in the sixth century.
After crossing the bridge I headed east along the trail as suggested by the park ranger who described incredible views from high above the valley floor. After only ten minutes of walking, a sign alongside the trail pointed towards St. Saviour’s Church. Looking at my map I figured I had enough time for a small detour to the church. The short side trail took me through an old wooden gate leading to the site of a 12th century church.
I enjoyed the solitude as I explored the church completely on my own. I headed back to the main trail where soon thereafter it switches back and begins to slowly climb up Derrybawn Mountain along Glendalough Valley. The climb up was slow and steady and as I gained elevation the views became more spectacular. I could see St. Saviour’s Church and the Monastic City from high above the valley floor.
Once I was at the peak height of the trail the best view of all was finally within sight. I could see the entirety of Upper Lake and Glendalough Valley. I had found the perfect location to soak up the sun and sights around me while enjoying a picnic lunch.
After a quick break I headed back down the trail as it slowly descended towards the valley floor and Upper Lake. As I made my way towards the lake at the end of the trail another sign pointed me towards Poulanass Falls. The trail ran alongside a river leading to great views of a small waterfall.
After another quick side trip I was finally headed to see Upper Lake up close. I took my time exploring the shoreline of the lake while basking in the sun-filled afternoon. A duck fighting the current in a small creek flowing into the waves of the lake let me photograph it for quite some time.
As departure time for the bus was getting closer I was forced to head towards the Visitors Centre sooner than I had hoped. This last short walk led me alongside Lower Lake and the Monastic City where I rushed by getting only brief glances in their direction. I arrived at the bus stop just in time to join the other daily visitors to park in the return to the city. After sleeping with the sun pouring onto my face through the bus window, I arrived in Dublin once again. Shortly thereafter I had my first Irish Coffee at a nearby pub to wake myself up before my last night in Ireland.
After a long hike along the Derrybawn Woodland Trail in Glendalough Valley I stopped to rest along the water’s edge of the Upper Lake. As I was photographing the landscape, I noticed this curious duck swimming alongside the beach. The duck spent several minutes curiously looking in my direction as if it was posing for my camera.