Oct 242009

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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It was a cold and cloudless day in the Wicklow Hills. Lordy-Lord, what a beautiful morning it was. The blue sky stretched wall to wall, the wind hissed and roared sleepily in the treetops, and the conical top of Great Sugar Loaf stood like a dove-grey cut-out along the ridge from the cheeky tilted quiff of its little brother. The trees of Crone Woods pressed close around the zigzag path I was climbing with Dubliner Conny O’Connell – Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, skeletal larch and the occasional tattered but noble Scots pine.

We rounded a bend, the trees fell back, and a hidden valley opened at our feet. It was Lord Powerscourt who had the forest path cut out by hand during the 19th century, so that his guests could enjoy the wonderful prospect from on high. Cradled in the green bowl tumbled the Powerscourt Waterfall – more of a waterslide, in fact – bouncing in long slippery steps down a glistening chute of rock. The 725 m peak of Djouce Mountain, an elegant pyramid of rose pink and smoky blue, filled the notch in the hills behind, the ridge wrapping the whole scene round.

We turned aside from the red route of the Looped Walk, and followed the Wicklow Way up and across a hillside of felled trees. Here the long distance path plunged downhill, and we made up along the spine of Maulin Mountain, the summit in our sights at the crest of a long rubbly trail of sparkling quartzite pebbles.

At the top of Maulin, sitting out of the wind in the lee of the summit cairn, Conny picked out the sights in a stunning 360o panorama – Kippure hulking to the west, Mullaghcleevaun far down in the south-west, and off in the east the soft shimmer of the sea in St George’s Channel beyond the crumpled ridge of the Sugarloaves. In the haze Dublin itself still looked a city of human scale, with church spires and towers rather than skyscraper blocks to draw the eye.

It was a view that could have held a walker for any length of time. In the end it was the cold wind that blasted us off the peak, down the steep breast of Maulin, and on through the dark, silent ways of Crone Woods once more.

Start & finish: Coillte car park at Crone, Co. Wicklow (OS ref O (letter ‘O’!) 193142)

Getting there: From Dublin – M11, R117 to Enniskerry; minor road via Onagh Bridge to car park

Walk (4½ miles, moderate/hard, OS of Ireland 1:50,000 Discovery Map 56): Follow red arrow route (RA) and Wicklow Way ‘walking man’ (WW). In 1¼ miles, sharp right bend (Powerscourt Waterfall ahead). Pass bench on right. In 30m, RA forks right past map, but keep ahead along WW. At top of climb (WW), right across felled slope (WWs). Through gap by lone tree, where WW goes left, turn right (no waymark), following wall uphill to ‘Keep to Path’ sign. Left here to Maulin summit. Aim NW for distant, large white building; descend through stone wall; steeply downhill; cross stile by gate into forest. Right downhill on zigzag road (RA waymarks on trees – hard to spot!). Near bottom of slope, descend wooden steps to track. Ignore RA pointing right; cross and descend through trees to car park.

NB – Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Glenview Hotel, Glen of the Downs, Wicklow (01-287-3399; www.glenviewhotel.com)

Footfalls Walking Holidays, Trooperstown, Co. Wicklow (0404-45152; www.walkinghikingireland.com)

More info: Bray Tourist Office (00-353-0)1-286-7128

www.discoverireland.i.e/walking and www.coillteoutdoors.ie

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