With all those rolling green hills, hiking in Ireland (sometimes adorably referred to as “hillwalking”), is a no-brainer. I was lucky enough to spend a beautiful, cloudy, and very, very green day on the trails of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
I like going uphill.
I can climb up, up up, jump over boulders, keep my eyes on the prize, push through until I can barely breathe. And enjoy it.
It’s almost like my body was made for ascension–all my strength and skills go into the climb. But when I’m finally at the top, and it’s time to head back down? I stumble, slip, and slide. I slide a LOT. It’s like I’ve used all my hiking prowess up, spent it on the climb, and then I’m stuck. It’s not just physical, either; there’s a mental block the size of Everest. I move laughably slowly when I’m hiking downhill, guys.
Whatever goes up must not come down, or at least that’s what my body and mind tell me.
The Wicklow Mountains of Glendalough, not far south of Dublin, were no exception.
Wicklow Mountains is Ireland’s largest National Park, and the only one so far East. Its hiking trails were all that you’d imagine when you think of “Ireland” and “National Park”, and then some. We hiked the Spinc and the Wicklow Way, the longest and most strenuous option elevation-wise. It is classified as an 11 km “hillwalk” and took about 4 hours. It was going to be a hiking in Ireland highlights reel, straight out of a postcard.
The first part of the hike, before we get to the epic uphill journey and subsequent downhill struggle, was through flat, green valley. Stupidly gorgeous and lush, as Ireland tends to be.
After walking through flatter areas, full of sheep and some random ruins-looking structures, we got to the mountainside. The climb up was a mix of dirt path trail, boardwalk trail, and rocky steps. It was a lot of fun. It started to rain (thanks, Ireland) partway up but that actually felt amazing on our increasingly sweaty skin and labored breathing.
Oh, hiking in Ireland… can air taste green? Because I swear the air tasted green.
I had reached the top a bit before my fellow WWOOF volunteers, but they beat me by a long shot on the way down. A very long shot. The rain that I felt so appreciative for earlier made all the rocks slippery. My downhill phobia did not care for that one bit. Luckily, the views were so ridiculously spectacular that we stopped for pictures on the reg.
By the time we got to the bottom, I felt emotionally as well as physically exhausted. It’s not that the hike was the steepest I’ve ever done, but it was one of the longest consistently moderately steep downhill slopes. It was no cakewalk, but the Spinc trail ended up being one of my favorite outdoorsy days hiking in Ireland.
Happy, happy times. Nothing like post-hike endorphins… except maybe that post-hike pint of Guinness.