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Staycations are here to stay so it’s time to hit the Wicklow Way

Staycations are here to stay so it’s time to hit the Wicklow Way

Wicklow has a wealth of places of interest, many of which are household names, others still waiting for only you to discover.  Suffice to say that St Kevin, who pitched his tent at Glendalough, knew a good wild camping spot when he saw one…

Before there were greenways or blue ways, there was the Wicklow Way. The 127 km long Wicklow Way was Ireland’s first waymarked trail, boldly going where so many others have since followed.

Wicklow, proclaimed the Garden of Ireland, could with some justification lay claim to a stake in the Garden of Eden, such is its magnificent landscape.

In more recent times the success of the Wild Atlantic Way may have wiped Wicklow’s eye and I must confess to having somewhat neglected this gem just up the road. Very few counties can boast the richness and diversity of the Wicklow countryside, the original ‘only an hour from Dublin’ destination on the doorsteps of the capital.

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Wicklow’s lakes, mountains, forests, babbling brooks and gushing rivers are as abundant as they are accessible, forming a picture postcard backdrop, an Instagram photo-op at every bend on the road; across the famed Wicklow Gap and Sally Gap routes and that’s before you ever start exploring its resplendent coastline along the Irish Sea from Bray to Brittas Bay and beyond.

A brief foray into the heavenly countryside of Wicklow, is the first of several planned excursions to those parts to be put to rights our neglect of having previously preferred to hit the west coast at every available opportunity. It turned out to be a great idea and more than whetted our appetite to return to Wicklow as much, and as soon as possible this season.

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Wicklow has a wealth of places of interest, many of which are household names, others still waiting for only you to discover. On this occasion we ventured to Glendalough, Glenmalure and Greystones, the latter to ensure our fix of getting to the seaside, a must for landlocked landlubbers from Laois!

Our timing was impeccable. The snow was giving way to snowdrops and daffodils, and newborn lambs heralded the spring. Although there was still a breeze in exposed parts that would skin you and prompted a hasty postponement of an assault on the 19 km Miner’s Way for another day. None of that stopped some hardy souls who were camping in a yurt down at Glenmalure from taking to the arctic waters of the Avonbeg River for a dip.

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After a fairly dour and dreary February I cannot tell you how much this excursion into the heart of Wicklow dusted off the cobwebs and replenished the desire to get back on the road for more campervan adventures. And Wicklow is just waiting to be explored. It’s a walker and hikers paradise, with hill walking, mountain climbing, orienteering, fishing, kayaking and sight-seeing all on the menu from the easy-going to the more experienced adventurer.

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And speaking of menus, as it’s not really BBQ season just yet, we took the opportunity to sample some local fayre in The Glenmalure Lodge, which is a mighty spot altogether, friendly and welcoming. Lamb (€16.50), rhubarb crumple (€5.50) a pint of Guinness and a Sea Dog Rum (€9.60) all went down a treat. With lots of space, outdoor benches and the river glistening in the spring sunshine I could see this being a grand spot in the height of the summer. A stop-off for a bit of breakfast at The Wicklow Heather in Laragh the next morning was equally as satisfying. Fantastic staff here, a great selection on the menu as hikers and fishermen fortified themselves for the day ahead, with a good breakfast selection for two coming to €22.06. No hesitation whatsoever in wholeheartedly recommending both eateries.

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Happy days at The Happy Pear

Later on in the day Greystones by the sea was taking the full brunt of an easterly wind as the Great Sugarloaf mountain itself was shivering as hardy souls braced themselves and braved the icy waters for a dip in the brine. Queues out the door and happy days at the justifiably popular Happy Pear vegetarian and organic produce restaurant. We’ll be back there for sure to sit out, and it’s just one of many food, coffee and refreshment offerings available in this increasingly delightful seaside town.

Here at Vanhalla Camper Heaven we hold to the view that wild camping spots are called just that for a reason, and so we generally refrain from giving specific details on places to park-up. Part of the fun is exploring and finding favourite spots for yourself, as once they have gone down in print, well they’re certainly not secret anymore…

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St Kevin knew a wild camping spot when he saw one

Suffice to say that St Kevin, the patron saint of Wicklow, who pitched his tent at Glendalough knew a good wild camping spot when he saw one… there’s an abundance of options and we scouted a few lovely stopovers for our next trip.

On this particular excursion we know we merely dipped our toe into the refreshing waters of Wicklow and you wouldn’t do the county justice in a week, let alone a weekend. Glendalough itself and its fabulous walks and vantage points, ponds, lakes, and waterfalls, full to the brim with forest, ferns and frogspawn, would take a weekend of its own to get around properly. As it saws from one of the stunning viewing points, a national treasure.

Wicklow is certainly the place where you can state with some conviction, that if you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view. So it is worth the effort to put on your boots and scale the heights of Glendalough, the Sugarloaf, The Three Rock or The Scalp. Be aware though that it’s important to have the right gear as the weather can deteriorate in jig time and underfoot conditions slippery. Phone connectivity too can be poor in spots, in the event that you should require assistance.

So we are certainly not going to leave it anything like as long again before returning to the byways of Wicklow, with Avoca, Avondale, Blessington, Baltinglass and Brittas Bay, Lacken and Lugnaquilla, a certain Wicklow Wolf, and the Hellfire Club, all on our Vanhalla Camper Heaven radar…

Watch out Wicklow, we’ll be back… and very soon.

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About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie. John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie. Safe travels...

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