Details of the sixth and final day of my Wicklow Way walk from Shillelagh to Clonegal.
105km done and only 22km to go!
After a big breakfast in Murphy’s Hotel we strolled up to the local Centra to pick up some bits for lunch. Then got a lift from Dad back to outside Saint Finian’s Church where we had finished up the day before. We had the biggest walking party of the trip for the final day. Both my wife and my Mam joined me for the Wicklow Way walk from Shillelagh.
Last Wicklow Way Walk
My last day of walking started with the three of us continuing on the country road and crossing the busy R725. A feature of the last couple of days on the Wicklow Way has been the wind turbines above us on distant hilltops and this part of the journey is a perfect example. The introduction of wind turbines has been met with some local objections in many parts of Ireland over the last number of years. I always thought they looked pretty when looking at them in the distance and this was the case here too.
We continued along quiet roadways taking the left turn at the next T-Junction. After just over 1km further we turned right on to a very steep boreen (from the Irish bóithrín – literally meaning little road). I class anything with grass growing in the middle of the road as a boreen but I’m not sure if there is a more technical definition. It was tough uphill climb with nice views of the countryside to our left and forestry to our right.
Bird’s Eye View
We followed the signpost directing us to a right turn. The pathway brought us alongside Raheenakit forest. As we walked along the gravel roads we came across some lovely fledgling goldfinches. The young birds dallied ahead of us for a little way. We got the impression that these little birds were not used to human contact as they held no fear of us entering their little world. We reached the highest point of the day at c. 7.5km and stopped to get some photos here of the beautiful surroundings.
Soon we were going downhill again, the ground alternating between grassy and mucky pathways underfoot. As the ground levelled off a bit, a battered signpost for Egan’s Bar in Parkbridge reminded us of the possibilities for a detour for liquid refreshments had we been in a non Covid world.
We were soon back on to country roads as we hit the 8.5km mark for the day (113.5km mark overall). We stayed on these for roughly another 4.5km following the well laid out Wicklow Way signposts as we went.
The Final Forest
Then it was into another forest. Our final one of the Wicklow Way. We stopped here for lunch. There wasn’t any ideal places to eat so instead perched on some rocks on the side of the gravel track . Soon we were back on our feet again and eager to complete the final leg.
We stopped to marvel at some large birds hovering overhead. Our guess was that they were hawks but we weren’t 100% sure (need to brush up on our ornithology skills!).
Out of the Woods!
We left the forest and shortly after encountered an official roadway sign. CLONEGAL 5KM. It was all roadway to the village from here. Each sign we met gave us some more encouragement as we neared our final destination.
For me, the quiet road walk finale gave me some time to ponder over the last 6 days. I had truly enjoyed the experience. The scenery, even now on the quiet country roads was scenic. My views were often beautiful and in some places simply spectacular (Prince William’s Seat, the Glencree Rover Valley, Powerscourt Waterfall, Djouce, Lough Tay, Glendalough, the Glenmalure Valley to name a few).
In addition, the various wildlife along the journey had always been a pleasant distraction (deer, red squirrels, heron, hawks, buzzards and gold finches all had made an appearance).
I enjoyed the days solo walking and used the time for quiet reflection and marvelling in the wonders of my surroundings. If you want to practice mindfulness, this is definitely a great place to do it.
Walking with my family and loved ones is also quite special. It was lovely to have the company along the Wicklow Way.
Achieving a Goal
Finally, it was a wonderful sense of accomplishment to complete the entire Wicklow Way. The trail itself is 127km but I had walked c. 150km in the last 6 days.
I did wonder about what it would have been like in a non-Covid time. It would have been nice to pop into the one or two pubs along the way. Or have had more interactions with the locals in the villages that I stayed the night in.
This feeling was quite pronounced when we finally reached Clonegal. I had read often about hikers completing the Wicklow Way and celebrating with a drink in either Sean O’Duinn’s or Osbourne’s pub in the village.
The Finishing Line
For us, we stopped in the small park which marks the official end of the Wicklow Way. We took some final photos to mark the occasion. It was a really great adventure and I would encourage everyone to give it a go.
Our driver (my Dad) collected us in Clonegal. We drove onwards towards Bunclody (5km away) and our lodgings for the night.
Two tough climbs on my Wicklow Way walk from Shillelagh but lovely to finish on a downhill stretch.
Check out my other post on Day 5 of the Wicklow Way,