On St. Patrick’s Day earlier this month, a happy band of family and friends headed out to Glendalough, home of another Saint (Kevin), to walk in the fresh air and get the heck out of the party zone that Dublin turns into on the 17th of March.
It turns out most Irish people in the Dublin and Wicklow areas had exactly the same idea; there wasn’t a parking spot to be had in all of the Glendalough Park official car parks or along the road leading to the park. At one point I was afraid we had reached grid lock as we tried to pass from one lot to another. Everyone seemed to think that St. Patrick’s Day morning was a super time to stretch the legs, breath fresh Irish air and take in the fantastic scenery Glendalough offers.
We managed to finagle a space about a mile up the road eventually. The plan was to hike the full Spinc Trail which runs around the lake, through the old mining village up over the ridge of the valley and back down through the forest on the other side. Eight miles in total.
The day was foggy and grey as we started out around the lake. The trail was busy (not surprising considering the car park situation), not only with adult hikers but babies, children and dogs of all shapes and sizes. A celebration of the national holiday in one of the most gorgeous locations.
As we started our ascent out of the mining village, the sky began to clear. I ate an apple. We climbed up and up along the rocky, switch-back trail and after about an hour or so found a gorgeous grassy, not-too-windy spot to have our picnic.
Luckily we’d packed enough food and treats to sustain us for the remaining climb and descent. I’d never walked the Spinc before and the views are incredible. It’s well worth the little burning in the quads to be high up above the Glendalough valley looking down on the lake, the graveyard and the mining village.
As we began our decent through the forest, we were aided by wooden steps. There is an option of walking up the steps and around the path the other way. Many people were coming at us from that direction. I am, however, thrilled that we went up the other way and didn’t have to face climbing all those stairs. The ascent that way would have been much steeper and more punishing. Also, if you go up the way we did, you get the views of the valley facing you as you walk back down. I don’t want to toot our own whistle, but that was clearly the best way.
Once safely (if exhaustedly) returned to the valley, we had a little gander through the graveyard. The sun was over the lake, and the mist from earlier made the air sparkle a bit. It’s easy to see why Glendalough was considered such a spiritual place. It’s part of the new Ancient East Trail.
We rewarded ourselves with pints of Guinness (or whatever you’re having yourselves) before the mile long walk back to the car. If we’d parked a little closer the day would have been too close to perfection. The distance to the car made us feel very smug about our ten-mile walk.
Glendalough is close to Dublin and there are buses out there every day a few times a day if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend going. There are other trails and loops to follow if you don’t feel like the full eight mile Spinc adventure. Just being there is magic.