We stayed the night in the Kukoo Hut at Rivervalley Holiday Park in Redcross. This tiny town has a lone grocery store with not much in it along with Giovannis Take Away which had great hamburgers and fries which we took to our Kukoo Hut for dinner. The Kukoo Hut is small; a double bed on the main floor and a spot for two in the loft above. There is a small frig and a pot belly stove; you need to bring your own sleeping bags and all. Showers close by and a couple of curious donkeys right out your window. Nice running/walking trails right outside the door. Great roads to run outside of town, too. Very nice people at check-in. Accommodating and helpful. Great, fun place to spend the night.
The drive from Redcross to Glendalough wasn’t long distance wise, but you have to remember that driving in Ireland takes much longer than you might think. So the approximately 15 miles took about 30 minutes to drive. Beautiful and quiet the entire way. We arrived early morning to an empty parking lot.
The Glendalough Valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park with Glendalough (means “Valley of the Two Lakes”) the home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Remnants from this early time, and the times since, surround the Round Tower (third to last photo) which stands high over it all. We bypassed the monastic site saving it for when our hike was over.
There are nine marked trails in this area ranging from a short stroll to long hill walks. We chose the Spinc and Wicklow Way trail which would give us the best views and experience in the short time we had here. We chose well as this hike now ranks up in my all-time favorites. We experienced forest, mountainous terrain, boardwalk, ruins, and incredible mind-blowing views while hiking completely around the lake. Sign posts along the way have color coded arrows which you follow for the trail(s) you want to hike. For the Spinc and Wicklow Way trail (have to save that entire hike for another time) we followed the red and then white arrows which directed us the way the other Spinc routes took and then we turned off in the direction of Lugduff Mountain.
Have to give this national park credit – the trail itself was amazing. Well graded, smooth, boardwalk when needed was well built, sturdy, and covered in chicken wire with huge staples so you wouldn’t slip. The boardwalk went on for miles, sometimes steps, other times you just flowed along it seeming to walk atop the grass that grew up around.
It was a bit of a climb up all those boardwalk steps to the top where we were surprised with incredible views of the lake below us and the Wicklow Mountains extending forever. Took my breath away; I felt so blessed to be in this beautiful place. Just us, too. We had it all to ourselves! Once up top on the ridge line, we cruised along the boardwalk. One of the photos below shows a section of the boardwalk on the right of the photo. Way off in the distance, you can see more boardwalk. That was were we had come from. There is another photo showing trails leading down a valley. This trail led to the lake and was the trail we would be taking back. We followed the board walk to the point where, instead of heading west, we were now heading east along the north side of the lake (see map below) and began heading down. The trail zigzagged its way down following a stream surrounded by large rocks which led to the lake. No more boardwalk from here on; now we were on wide, nice trail the rest of the way back.
We came down really fast and before we knew it we were at lake level where there were ruins from an old lead mining operation (operated between 1850 and 1957). Fun to explore. The trail was flat and level and we made good time enjoying the views of this stunning lake surrounded on both sides by steep mountain sides. This is a beautiful place thankfully unspoiled. The trail followed along the north shore of Upper Lake. We were in the trees much of the time and began to see more people as the trail was flat and gentle along here.
Back down to the Monastic Settlement again, we explored the buildings and cemetery, but that’s for another jrrny.
Go early. Bring a lunch. Even a gray day will be beautiful.