A Trail Runner’s Account Of Running Ireland’s Wicklow Way

Just south of Dublin, Ireland, you’ll find everything imagined of an Irish countryside. The green hills are sprinkled with grazing sheep, lined with stone walls, spotted by lakes, and adorned with stands of bright yellow Gorse bushes. There are valleys home to ancient ruins, standing as stone reminders of past wars, rebellions and exploits. And, of course, the quaint villages and pubs filled with aged whisky, local stouts and ciders, hardy cooking, and warm hearths.

Should you choose to weave this all together in an action-packed adventure, you can run the Wicklow Way, an 83-mile trail that runs between Wicklow and Marlay Park in Dublin. Depending on how much time you are able to take and your desired pace, you can run all or most of the Wicklow Way in a long weekend or, alternatively, you can make a full week of it and add on some side trails and take in some more of the southeastern Irish coastal sights.

As the brainchild of J.B. Malone, born in 1914 in Dublin’s southern suburbs, the Wicklow Way came about through his meticulous notes and regular hikes into the heathery hills that he explored and shared by documenting the history and landscape in various writings. The first complete concept of the trail was published in 1966.

The route allows one to run through history with variety at every turn, covering every surface one could desire, and some that may elicit an expletive or two. The footing types include boardwalks of raised wooden planks covered by chicken wire and U nails, mud, bogs, some road connections, rocks, sandy sections, and grassy tracks over the knolls that afford coastal views of the Irish Sea.

I arrived in Dublin early on April 21 and took an incredibly scenic train journey along the coast to Greystones, where Fred Verdier of Wicklow Country Tourism met me and shuttled us to the start of our run at the Glenmalure Lodge, a beautiful pastoral setting where we met up with runners Paul Daly, Stephen Brennan, and Cindy Doyle. Daly and Brennan then gave us a guided running tour leading the way from Glenmalure to Glendalough, covering some incredible terrain and views that included waterfalls, Lungnaquilla Mountain (one of Ireland’s highest), and, eventually, some lakes that marked the 18K day’s stopping point.

The day was completed with dinner at the Wicklow Heather Restaurant, where we had our first pints of Guinness and were given a tour of the historical prints of famous Irish authors like James Joyce and Bram Stoker.

The next morning we were greeted by a chipper group of Wicklow-area trail runners. The route of the day detoured from the classic Wicklow Way to include Scarr Mountain and Djouce Mountain. The 32K day was clear enough to see the Irish Sea and the Guinness estate, which features a black-watered lake and imported white sands to mimic the look of a Guinness pint.

Exploring the Wicklow Way, I had covered more than 50 very pleasant miles in three days, met some wonderful people and tasted some delicious food and drink that makes this running destination a sport worth exploring.

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