I spent last weekend in Wicklow, walking, drinking and generally carrying on.
Taking the day off work on Friday, a handful of us drove down early, meeting up for lunch in a lovely cafe in Blessington. From there we travelled in convoy to the nearby village of Ballyknocken where we parked and climbed the two nearby hills: Shileshawn and Moanbane. The weather was cold but sunny, and we had beautiful views across Blessington lake and over the hills. It was a short walk, approximately 3 hours, and with a high point of 703 meters it was a great way to stretch the legs after the long drive.
Back at the cars, we again travelled in convoy to our hostel where, once showered, we tucked into a hot dinner of chicken curry followed by cheesecake. We relaxed in front of the fire and had a few drinks while others who hadn’t managed to get the day off work slowly joined us. I opted for an early night, but others carried on socialising (and singing!) until around 4am.
We were up early on Saturday, ready for a hot breakfast before starting on our hike. Leaving straight from the hostel, we walked through golden trees before starting up the slopes of Sugarloaf, Lowbawn and Table Mountain. The weather was again cold but sunny, and the views were stunning. The day didn’t involve much climbing, but at approximately 20km it was a long walk and the terrain was difficult at times, requiring much scrambling and leaping. The ground in Wicklow can be extremely wet but we were lucky as much of the bog had frozen overdue to the extremely cold temperature, making the walk easier than it could have been. We finished up in Glendalough, but unfortunately had no time to explore as we needed to catch a bus back to the hostel for dinner.
Back in the hostel we were greeted with hot bowls of stew followed by warm apple crumble. We then showered and changed - into our halloween costumes. Because the hostel is so remote, and because we’d booked the entire place out, we had decided that we’d hold our own halloween party right there. Costumes were varied - some people going all out while others wearing only masks. There was much revelry and drink.
The next morning dawned cold and wet. After breakfast most people opted to head straight home, but a few of us decided to brave the weather and climb Lugnaquilla, the 13th highest mountain in Ireland. We drove down the road and hopped out of our cars into the teeming rain. We started our ascent and, the higher we got the stronger the wind. About halfway up a few people chose to turn back and, as the friends who were giving me a lift back home chose this option, I followed them. We returned to the cars, changed out of our sopping wet clothes, and headed to a nearby pub. Eventually those who had forged on to the summit turned up in the same pub, and their stories of continuing rain and wind made us extremely pleased with our decision.
Filled with a big pub lunch, we all went our separate ways and, late that evening I was back home in Belfast.
Another great weekend away with my walking friends!