We have two more days of walking to complete the Wicklow Way, the first leg of our 24-day tramp across Ireland. 70 kilometers of walking unevenly split, first with a 30-kilometer hike from Glenmalure to Tinahely and then with a more grueling 40-kilometer day to Clonegal, the end point of the trail.
The scenery is starting to change. Tall mountains, with the requisite climbs to their peaks, are gradually giving way to smaller hills and a more agrarian landscape. Which is not to say that there is not a lot of climbing involved. It’s just that one big climb is replaced with several smaller hills to conquer. To be exact, there is between 900 and 1000 meters gain in elevation on each of these last two Wicklow walks.
Gail and I are enjoying the lowlands with their sheep, cows, barking dogs, all curious about these strangers beyond their fenced compounds. And the dry stone fences surrounding a mix of ancient and modern farmsteads. And the smell of manure. And the friendly greetings from each and every local as we pass by. It might not be the wilderness of Wicklow’s mountains but, to be fair, that wilderness was often seen from logging roads etched along vast expanses of clear cut. It’s all to be reforested of course and we understand the economic and demand issues. But from our selfishly touristic perspective, it was not a walk in the woods.
For the first time, our walks are taking us through small towns and hamlets, like Tinahely and Clonegal. Clonegal was once a thriving little community. But times have changed and, although a pretty little town, it has no guest accommodation. We need to taxi to the nearby town of Bunclody for that, a place that didn’t even exist at the time of Clonegal’s heyday.
Clonegal is the official end to the Wicklow Way. We have successfully completed our first trail, an achievement acknowledged by Johnnie, owner of Séan O’Dúinn’s pub, who thoughtfully prepares for each of us an official certificate of completion.
And who supplies us each with a pint of Guinness to complete this very long day.