Running the Wicklow Way

Drive from Dublin to Kyle Farmhouse, located a bit south of Moyne, took less than two hours. The sun was setting behind the hills as we drove through the quiet countryside roads. I peered around curiously keen to get my running shoes on the next morning

As the darkness fell and the country roads started getting smaller and smaller we were abruptly stopped by a group of men standing in the middle of the road. Further ahead in the darkness we could spot machines blocking the road for maintenance.

Going to the funeral in Moyne, oi?“, one of the guys asked with a strong Irish accent as I pulled down the car window. I decided to nod knowingly. He nodded back in silence and took off to get the machinery steered off the road and shortly we were again on our way.

The Guinness Lake along The Wicklow WayMy plan for the next three days was to run back to Dublin along a hiking route called “The Wicklow Way” crossing the Wicklow mountains. The planned daily running distances varied between 30ish and 50ish kilometers and I was expecting anything between 1000-1500m of elevation a day. Overall distance was expected to land somewhere in 100-120km ballpark.

The Wicklow WayOn the first morning the weather was clear and sun was rising behind the nearby hills. Grass was still wet after the rainy night and my running shoes were soaking as soon as I stepped out the door. During the first climb I came accross an elderly man with a beard, rubber boots and a shotgun over his shoulder.

Beautiful morning, oi?

I nodded smiling and noticed him peering down my wet running shoes before he continued down the trail.Kyle Farmhouse along The Wicklow WayFirst day was covered in sunshine and included going around “The Kyle Loop” before heading towards Glenmalure. Once passing Moyne, the trail climbed accross deserted hills with roaming sheep (which apparently can get “crazed” in the mountains according to the warning signs). I reached my 1st destination, Glenmalure Lodge, in a bit less than 4,5 hours covering 31km and 1100m of elevation. A pint of Guinness has rarely tasted that good.

Glenmalure Lodge along The Wicklow Way
Genmalure Lodge

On the second day I took off right after breakfast and crossed the 1st hill to Glendalough before lunchtime. After spending the previous day running in quiet trails barely meeting people, the trails around Glendalough seemed almost crowded. And there´s a reason for it.The Wicklow Way Trail RunningGlendalough is located next to a beautiful lake surrounded by cliffs and the numerous hiking routes crisscrossing the area were one of the highlights of the whole journey. I decided to go for the “white route” going around the lake and the 10ish km with 400m of elevation was definitely worth it!The Wicklow Way Trail RunningOnce back in Glendalough I took a seat in the fancy hotel restaurant (getting unwanted attention due to my smelly running gear) and rewarded myself with a cup of coffee and an apple pie before heading on along the Wicklow Way.The Wicklow WayI started to feel the two days of running in my legs when closing in The Coach House in Roundwood after running for 5 hours and covering 35km with 1300m of elevation on day 2. Another Guinness went down well while hoping for a miraculous recovery as I was expecting the 3rd day distance to be anywehere between 40-50km ballpark.

The Wicklow Way Trail Running

The Coach House, Roundwood in the back

The 3rd day offered the best of the Wicklow Way. After leaving Roundwood, the trail climbed up above the treeline and the views around were nothing short of spectacular. Wind was behind my back and running felt surprisingly effortless considering I already had two days of running behind me. I only saw an occasional hiker or two during the whole day and enjoyed the solitude feeling a bit sorry I was already on the last day of my trip.

The Wicklow Way Trail RunningAfter passing “The Guinness Lake” I started veering off the Wicklow Way towards coast as I had a plan to cover the final stretch to Dublin at the shoreline. Soon I saw The Great Sugarloaf mountain ahead of me and realized I was completely unable to pass it by without summiting it.

Luckily, there was an excellent trail going straight to the summit from the car park I was passing by and I quickly hiked to the top surrounded by a number of tourists spending their Saturday going up the mountain. From the summit I had clear view to my final destination, Killiney (or “Bonoland” as the locals seem to call it), and realized there was still some distance to cover.

The Wicklow Way Trail Running

The Great Sugarloaf

I took a run down the mountain passing the surprised tourists and headed onwards towards the coastal town of Greystones to get to the start of the coastal cliff trail.

The trail from Greystones to Bray seemed to be a popular tourist walk and I seemed to annoy a number of Italian tourist groups by running among them smelling like someone who had been running for the last three days. I had already been running for 5 hours that day and suddenly it hit me – I had just exceeded 100km of running during the whole journey.

The Wicklow Way Trail RunningThis combined with the packed trail of tourists and the 10ish km still ahead of me suddenly made me feel very very tired. My legs had already been hurting for hours, I was beginning to run low on water and the action around had made me mistakenly skip an energy gel or two. Just when I was approaching the low point I saw a miracle: An ice cream car parked along the trail right ahead of me!

Coastal cliff trailTwo cans of coke and an ice cream please – no, no diet coke, the proper one with calories!”

I sat down on the cliff, watched the ocean below me and enjoyed the best ice cream I come to remember! Newly refreshed, I passed the same annoyed Italians again and continued my way towards Brey.

Running through Brey felt surreal – the people were enjoying early Saturday evening on the harbour avenue, kids were running around, restaurants were open and I was crossing all of it in the buzzed state you tend to get after three full days of running. I felt more than a bit out of place.

Brey, IrelandAfter leaving Brey behind, I made my way down to the beach and covered the final 5km to Killiney running on the stone-packed seashore. At sunset, I made the final climb up the Killiney hill and headed directly to The Druid´s Chair pub for a pint and a pizza. I stopped my Garmin at total 112km of running and 3700m of elevation gain over the three days.

Killiney Beach, IrelandOverall, The Wicklow Way was a very well marked and maintained route – just need to follow the yellow man. It´s completely doable to run the full 130k in three days relatively comfortably, but then you wouldn´t get the chance to take the detours in Kyle, Glendalough or elsewhere along the way which offered some of the best sceneries out there.

Follow the Yellow Man for The Wicklow WayI was unable to find places to refill water outside the villages so when going out, it´s best to prepare with enough water and energy to get you all the way to the next village.

The one thing making running The Wicklow Way comfortable is The Wicklow Way Baggage service that moves all your luggage between the accommodations and you can spend the day carrying only your running kit. The service was excellent and my luggage was waiting at accommodation each day way before I made it there by running.

The Wicklow Way Trail RunningThis was my first self-organized multi-day run and I have a feeling there´s plenty to come – stay tuned!

Hurricane Ophelia, Ireland

6 responses to “Running the Wicklow Way

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