Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hiking the Dublin Mountain Way

We saw in the Dublin Event Guide weekly free events post a guided day hike along part of a newly-built trail in the Dublin Mountains.  Both of us (separately) saw that and knew we had to participate.  We signed up with the terrific volunteers running the hike, put on our walking shoes, and got ready for a beautiful Autumn walk.

A trail leads into the Dublin Mountains
Trail leading into the mountains

The trails and these walks are maintained and promoted by an all-volunteer organization, the Dublin Mountains Partnership.  This dedicated group is committed to providing the people of the city a way to visit some of Ireland's natural beauty without traveling great distances.  This hike was designed to introduce city slickers like us to the trails, and what a great job they did.

One side of the view from the peak of Carrickgolligan Co. Dublin
View from Carrickgolligan
The entire length of the hike was 16km (about 10 miles) with a few short peaks to cross.  We entered the woods at Rathmichael, near the ruins of an old church dating to the ninth century.  We skipped seeing the old church site and continued to Carrickgolligan, the highest point of the hike at 278 meters (912 feet.)  This peak affords the viewer a 360 degree view of Dublin City, South County Dublin, and the sea.  We got one of our first real senses of the smaller scale of the island of Ireland and the British Isles in general here.  From this peak, the viewer can see three (!) different countries.  Looking North beyond Dublin, the Mourne Mountain range rises in the near distance.  These mountains are in County Down, Northern Ireland, across an international border from where we stood.  Looking East across the Irish Sea, the peak of Snowdon Mountain is clearly visible on the horizon.  Snowdon is located in Wales in Great Britain.  So, three countries- Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (even though two of those are part of the U.K., which isn't a country, but is kinda a country, but all of the countries within that 'country' are also countries...? Oh dear I've gone cross-eyed!)

A green thicket off the trail for lunch
Lunch in the trees

After the climb and descent of Carrickgolligan, we were guided off the path by the ranger leaders to an evergreen thicket for lunch.  We were all ready to sit down and stretch out after the climb, so our timing was perfect.  We sat down on the blanket of needles and enjoyed our packed lunch while admiring the changing leaves on the hardwoods across the valley.

Cory on the ledge of The Scalp Co. Dublin
Cory on The Scalp
After lunch, the next (and farthest) stop was The Scalp.  The trail leads up to another, smaller, peak overlooking the valley below.  We ignored the R117 road in the valley floor and focused instead on the far views of the Fall Foliage on the near and distant hillsides.

Lead mine smelting chimney Co. Dublin
Lead Mine Chimney
On the way back, we took a detour to see the most interesting cultural site on the hike.  On a high hilltop, a stone chimney can be clearly seen from all around.  This chimney is a long-abandoned relic of a once booming lead mining and smelting operation in this hill.  In the nineteenth century, lead was discovered deep in these hills, and a big mining operation was soon opened.  To process the lead mined from the mountains, a series of lead smelters were built into all around the hillside.  These furnaces were all connected by a sealed stone tunnel that wound around the hill and connected to this hilltop chimney.  This allowed a series of smelters to burn the raw ore with all of the smoke going 'safely' out one chimney.  The ore was burned and the lead was scraped off the tunnel walls by hand, effectively negating the safety of redirecting the smelting smoke.  The unending string sickness and death by lead poisoning gave this area the nickname, "Death Valley."  The ground on the hillside has been poisoned and contaminated so badly from the century of lead mining and smelting that no vegetation grows on the hill to this day.

We walked up the hillside to the chimney tower.  We were able to climb into the tunnel at one of the smelting sites further down the hill and see the inside of the smoke collection system.  At the top of the hill, we were able to walk into the center of the chimney itself and take a photo looking up to the opening.  Hooray for playing around in abandoned mines!

A photo looking up through the lead mine chimney Co. Dublin
Looking up through the chimney
After the lead mine, we made our way back to our starting point at Shankill to catch our bus home.  As a memento and a token for completing a sponsored hike, the Dublin Mountains Partnership guides issued us official merit badges to sew on the hiking shirt of our choice.  We felt like real scouts.

Dublin Mountains Way Official Badges on display after a hike in Co. Dublin
Dublin Mountains Way Official Badges
This experience was amazing.  There was so much more we saw and learned that just couldn't be included in this post.  We would highly recommend participating in this great program or simply getting out into the woods.  Now that we have seen what is available, we certainly will.


  1. Check out the Dublin hillwalking group on meetup.. There's two and one is only ten euro for the year.. The group organises hikes regularly enough and it's easy enough to get a lift if you have no transport.. Nice bunch of people

    1. Thanks for sharing this group. We will certainly check it out. You always give such great tips.


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