IRE­LAND: Cy­cling in Wick­low’s wilder­ness

Walking New Zealand - - Overseas Cycle Tours -

heart of Wick­low. You leave the forested lanes round En­niskerry to as­cend into the rounded Wick­low hills where stone fenced pad­docks are dot­ted with sheep.

Set in a val­ley be­tween two lakes, Glen­dalough was founded here in the 6th cen­tury and grew to be­come a Chris­tian monas­tic city. There are ex­ten­sive walk­ing trails to the his­toric re­mains and round the lakes which is a good op­por­tu­nity to park the bike and walk.

The Round Tower is eye-catch­ing at 30 me­tres high, built to last of slate in­ter­spersed with gran­ite. You can wan­der through the an­cient Gate­way whose walls would have enclosed the sanc­tu­ary, on the orig­i­nal flag stone path­ways. The largest of the mon­u­ments is the Cathe­dral much of which dates from the 12th and 13th cen­turies.

Leav­ing Glen­dalough, you bike amongst wild moun­tain scenery on the an­cient Mil­i­tary Road, built to al­low Bri­tish troops to ac­cess the re­bel­lious tribes of these for­merly heav­ily forested val­leys. This road runs north to south through the heart of the Wick­low Moun­tains for 58 kms and reaches within 20 km of Dublin. It’s amaz­ing how close such des­o­late, empty wilder­ness is to Dublin’s doorstep.

De­scend from the moun­tains to roll into a scenic val­ley for an overnight stop at the pretty vil­lage of Aughrim. Its wealth as a gran­ite quar­ry­ing and stone-cut­ting cen­tre shows through Its at­trac­tive houses and build­ings.

Not far from Aughrim is the vil­lage of Avoca which for many years was the set­ting for the BBC se­ries Bal­lykissan­gel. It also has an­other claim to fame for its lo­cal craft of hand-weav­ing.

Turn east and the route has spec­tac­u­lar views over the rolling farm land out to sea. The ride north along the coast passes beau­ti­ful Brit­tas Bay, where, if you’re brave enough, you can take a dip at this Blue Flag beach.

Wick­low Town is a great place for the last night be­fore re­turn­ing to Dublin. Al­though a very friendly town it does have an omi­nous gaol where you can ex­pe­ri­ence the tor­ture, the cru­elty, the cries of the rebels im­pris­oned there in the upris­ing of 1798, the hunger and over­crowd­ing and fi­nally the de­por­ta­tion to Van Die­man’s Land. See it all through the eyes of the in­mates in a re­cently de­vel­oped mul­ti­me­dia jour­ney. You’ll feel like a pint af­ter this one and Wick­low Town has a few vis­i­tor-friendly pubs with Ir­ish mu­sic.

Guest­houses along the way are warm and wel­com­ing. The Ir­ish treat you like one of the fam­ily. The ubiq­ui­tous Ir­ish cooked break­fast with home-baked soda bread sets you up for the day. It’s what keeps the starch in your knees and a full­ness in your stom­ach to tackle any ter­rain.

At the end of a day’s cy­cling there’s al­ways mu­sic and a sing-a-long and vis­i­tors are drawn in like old friends. The call it ‘craic’, the Ir­ish word for hav­ing a good time.

Above: Bik­ing on a smooth road.

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