I have done lots of walks and hikes. Each one has a distinct memory. Some have been solo hikes. An opportunity for introspection. Others have been with loved ones. My Mother. My wife. Darkness to light walks with family. All of them have their own story and their own importance. This Dublin Mountain Way walk in one day over 42km was about friendship.
I count myself lucky to have met four men in my college years who are my four best friends. Each of these men are different to me. Each of us have our own interests. We have all since gone our own separate ways in life. But there is a bond between us. I respect each of these guys so much and love them like brothers.
So I was lucky enough to do the Dublin Mountain Way in one day with three of these 4 titans of men. Kevin was absent on this occasion but we are all planning to do Slieve Foye once the current lockdown restrictions are over. An opportunity for more good times with these good friends.
Starting off the Dublin Mountain Way in One Day
We gathered outside of Sean Walsh Park in Tallaght on a dry October morning. Often in the past we have joked about the WAGs joining us on a night out. It was all wives (no longer girlfriends) though that generously dropped us off beside the Tallaght stadium at around 8.30a.m. Indeed it was a true sign of our growing old that Dave’s young son stole the show as we had a socially distanced catch up. Katrina and Louise had also recently announced their impending arrivals. Our carefree college days were definitely over!
A Great Cause
We had decided to do this walk in aid of Barretstown, a super charity that designs camps and programmes for children and their families living with a serious illness. Usually they do a great charity event of a sponsored walk of the Dublin Mountain Way in one day. This year though, because of Covid, they couldn’t do a big one day fundraiser so instead encouraged people to do a self-guided Dublin Mountain Challenge. So here we were!
On the Trail
Soon we were off on the trail, our responsibilities of old age temporarily abated. The Dublin Mountains Way in one day is a 42km walk between Tallaght and Shankill. It’s up to you which direction you want to walk the route. It is not overly strenuous in terms of climbing and altitude however it is 42km long. So if you are doing it all in one go, you need a good level of fitness. This is a marathon that involves climbing mountains so it is not for the fainthearted.
The route is spectacular in places yet contains mundane road walks in others. Overall though, it’s impressive, it’s a challenge and it’s well worth doing.
The official start of the Dublin Mountains Way is from Seán Walsh Park in Tallaght. The park is named after a local politician who died in the same year as the park was opened in 1989. It’s an easy-going start to the walk. The park is pretty in places with nice water features but soon we were out of it and into a residential/semi commercial areas at Marlsfield and Ellensborough.
The route is well marked out with the universal yellow-man signposts guiding the way. Not long into our journey we were into Kiltipper Park. After entering the park, one of the things we really noticed was how friendly everyone was. All of the early morning walkers we met were full of smiles and greetings. People in Tallaght are really nice!
We were kind of following the river Dodder at this point. I say kind of because although we could hear it and vaguely see it, we couldn’t really see it and it didn’t have much effect on us. We wondered why the pathway didn’t follow the river more closely. Maybe due to flooding risks? Nevertheless it’s a nice walk and soon we are up to the lower reservoir.
Now we were really starting to see the beauty of this walk. The reservoir water level seemed low as we passed but still beautiful nonetheless.
As we continued on, the slope to our right gave us glimpses of mini-waterfalls flowing downwards. It was lovely.
Onwards towards the upper reservoir. This is way more spectacular. We get to cross the dam here and it’s really cool! After crossing the dam, it’s a forest walk with the picturesque reservoir lake to your right.
After the reservoirs, we move on to country roads. 7.5km of our 42km is already done. Here we met the first of many cyclists along the Dublin Mountain Way. They are all very cheerful and everyone says hello as they pass us by. We continued uphill. Although it’s only 8km done so far, I can already feel it in my legs. Nobody said this would be easy!
We take a turn to the left and then onwards past the Glenasmole Community Centre. Previously doing the Dublin Mountain Way in one day for Barretstown, this had been a stop off point for tea and sandwiches. As we passed by we agreed it would have been a great time to stop and catch our breath.
Shortly afterwards, we met a couple of lovely ponies who came over to say hello as we took in the great views. For whatever reason, this perked up our spirits no end!
Food With a View
We continued along the small country roads. Stopping to get some sustenance into us after about 12km of walking at a bridge over a dried out river. We ate our sandwiches as we watched the cyclists fly by.
Be warned, the cyclists here are crazy. We were going uphill and they were going downhill at a serious pace around fairly blind corners. So watch out!
Even More Scenic Views
We continued to walk uphill and the views continued to be spectacular. It was all wild looking bogland to our right as we ascended. At this stage I finally felt I was properly in the countryside.
After 14km it’s a left turn and off the road and into a forest walk. We followed the nice pathway for about 500m until we reached the R115, We turned left and had to go along the busy R115 for a couple of hundred metres.
Soon we reached a lovely viewpoint over the city here. Note that it is very busy here with lots of cyclists, day-trippers and other walkers. So while it is a lovely view you might have to deal with a large audience looking to capture it also.
Into the Woods
Then it was on to the Cruagh Road for a brief spell before entering Cruagh Wood itself. If you have time, you can divert and walk to the Hell Fire club from this point. The Hell Fire forest loop is 5.5km. We continued on the Dublin Mountain Way given the amount of walking still ahead of us. It’s a nice forest walk before we emerge to cross the R116.
This was a fun section of the walk as we were walking under a zipline adventure course. Keep an eye for zipliners overhead! We then started to ascend Tibradden (467m). This is one of the busiest sections of the Dublin Mountains Way so if it is a weekend, expect to see a lot of people along the trail here.
Tibradden and Fairy Castle
From the top of Tibradden the way follows a ridge to Fairy Castle.
Between these points there is a brief section (about 1km) that is part of both the Dublin Mountain Way and the Wicklow Way. However, the Wicklow Way branches left towards Kilmashogue while we continued on to Fairy Castle. Fairy Castle is also known as Two Rock Mountain. The summit is marked by a cairn and a trig pillar (used as a triangulation point for cartographers). This is the highest point on the Dublin Mountain Way! Due to the amount of people here, we didn’t get a huge amount of time to enjoy the spectacular views.
Fairy castle is about 24km into the route. Another reason we didn’t wait too long here is that we were starting to get concerned about finishing before night started to fall. At this stage, we had been walking for about 5 and a half hours already. We did this walk in October and so sunset is around 6.30 at this time of the year.
We had based our start time of 9a.m. off a tweet to Barretstown by a person claiming they had completed all 42km in 8 hours. While I’m not saying this is untrue, after completing the 42km route I found this very hard to believe. The route took us 9 and a half hours altogether and we went at a really strong pace. My advice is to give yourself lots and lots of time to get this marathon length hike completed. It was also a key learning for me that I need to be more researched about the hikes I do. Certainly basing my time estimation off a single tweet was very foolish.
In any event, because we were pushed for time, a common theme of the day was not fully being able to take more time to embrace the nature around us and just enjoy the moment we were in.
A Bit of Downhill Walking
After Fairy castle, it was lovely to be going downhill. The television masts dominate the views here and that was the direction we were heading towards.
The summit of Three Rock offers another opportunity for views over Dublin city. Three Rock got its name from the three large groups of rocks that can be seen from many parts of the city. Makes sense!
Ticknock and Ballyedmondduff
We entered Ticknock forest just before hitting the 27km mark. We stopped for lunch in the forest. Only when we stopped moving I realised how cold it was. I was grateful for my woolly hat and gloves.
Once we got going again we soon came across a mountain bike circuit. There were loads of youngsters following the specially designed biking trails. They don’t intersect the walking route so there were no concerns on that front. Indeed it was cool to see them hurtling down the mountainside and getting great airtime as they went over the jumps.
The next part of the Dublin Mountain Way in one day was then through an abandoned golf course. This had a bit of a surreal feel to it and I felt it was like something out of a zombie movie. It is interesting to see how nature was taking over from what was so manicured previously.
The mountain bike centre is called Glencullen Adventure Park. The Dublin Mountain Way passes by its main building at around the 30km mark. We noticed a nice a coffee shop here if you wanted to stop for a break.
Glencullen Village and Some Road Walking
Then it’s on to the village of Glencullen. This picturesque area is probably most famous for Johnnie Foxes Pub. This is the highest pub in Ireland and also well renowned for hosting traditional Irish musicians. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions it was only open for take away services when we passed. We were still in a big rush anyway so probably wouldn’t have had time to stop in for a pint. Although it would have been nice.
We kept moving. This 3.5km section after Glencullen is all road walking and it was probably my least favourite part of the day. The R116 we walked along had quite a bit of traffic. Even when we turned right on to a more minor road (Killegar Lane), this section was mostly uphill.
We ploughed on though and took a left off the lane at around the 33.5km mark.
We passed through a mixture of fields and wood (nicely equipped with a fairy village) then until we got to the next landmark.
This is the Ski Centre of Ireland which we pass on our right. Next to the Ski Centre is the now derelict Kilternan Hotel. This is one of many follies of the Celtic Tiger that lie abandoned across Ireland. Despite reporting spending of over €170m between 2006 and 2008 on the Hotel and apartment complex, the development was never fully completed and now lies vacant. It’s a stark contrast to the natural beauty that we have been lucky to see along the Dublin Mountain Way in one day. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
We passed the security hut for the complex and from there cross the road to the footpath that runs alongside the R117. It’s a short roadwalk and then we turned left into Barnaslingan Wood.
This is a beautiful forest that runs along the eastern slope of The Scalp. We discussed among ourselves the two looped walking trails here that are worthy of a separate visit in their own right.
The Dublin Mountain Way through Barnaslingan is initially through easy to follow forest pathways. There is one short section where there is no pathway but rather you are following the odd sign that has been nailed into a tree. We persevered though and soon came back to a more obvious pathway and continued our ascent to the top of Barnaslingan Hill. This offers a lovely view of The Scalp – a narrow glacial valley with the roadway now running through it.
The trail then continued along the wood and we exited the forest at the car park at Barnaslingan Lane.
Sunset on our Dublin Mountain Way in One Day
We walked another section of road (Murphy’s Lane) before a left turn as we approached Carrickgollogan Wood. The route passes close to but does not ascend the summit of Carrickgollogan Hill (276m). We could see other hikers atop of this hill though as we walked nearby.
Again, if we had more time it would have been great to do a short detour along the waymarked Lead Mines Way which takes in the summit.
Nonetheless it was a very nice walk along the paths of Carrickgollan Wood. We exited Carrickgollan and then it was ino Rathmichael Wood after a brief roadwalk along Puck’s Castle Lane. Shankhill (our final destination is viewable in the distance).
The sun was starting to set behind us as we walked through Rathmichael. A reminder that we were right to keep up our strong pace.
We passed by a twelfth century cross set in a granite boulder base as continued along this pathway.
After exiting Rathmichael, there are a couple of roadway walks (Ferndale Road and Lordello Road) before crossing a pedestrian bridge over the M50. Then it was into the Tillystown area of Shankhill and some laneways through the village and eventually (after 42km!!) bringing us to the car park of Brady’s Pub which marks the end of the Dublin Mountain Way.
Safe to say we were all fairly wrecked at this point after 9.5 hours of mountain walking over 42km of the Dublin Mountain Way in one day. We were also extremely grateful to our very considerate wives for being in the car park waiting to bring us home.
How nice it would have been to stop into Brady’s pub for a celebratory drink but Covid restrictions put paid to that.
So, it was goodbyes in the car park to wrap it all up. The journey home and back to the northside of the city gave me a chance to reflect with my wife my thoughts of the day and the Dublin Mountain Way in one day.
Simply put, it’s a lovely walk. The distance involved makes it very tough going. In addition, there are sections of roadwalking that are a bit monotonous. Overall though, it’s a great walk and it is amazing that it is so accessible and close to our capital city. It’s well worth doing.
For me, doing the walk in October and the resulting reduction in daylight hours meant that we couldn’t fully enjoy the entire goodness the trail has to offer. My regret was that we didn’t start earlier in the morning to allow us this opportunity. I was a bit annoyed that we based our timelines on the assumption that it would be an 8 hour walk.
Nonetheless, it gave me heart that this blog could serve a purpose. It’s very difficult to find online an answer to how long the Dublin Mountain Way should take in one day. It’s even very difficult to find a detailed analysis of walking the route in the direction from Tallaght to Shankill. So my hope is that this blogpost will be of benefit to people who are considering doing the Dublin Mountain Way in one day.
My abiding thoughts following this walk though are about friendship. It had been so long since I had got an opportunity to spend time with some of my best friends. As such, I really enjoyed this opportunity and had a great day catching up. One of my biggest personal faults is not being good at keeping in contact with friends. I operate under the assumption that we will always be able to kick off from where we left off the last time we met. But friendship takes work too and I need to get better at that.
Finally, my thoughts on this walk turned back to Barretstown House. This was the reason we were doing this walk. This is such a great charity and they do such amazing work. I was so glad to be able to help them even in this small way. I was extremely grateful to my friends and family who had sponsored me for doing this walk. Combining beautiful hiking with doing something good for the world. Well, that’s just the perfect combination.