Taking my life and that of my dog in my hands, I ventured out from my house on Sunday to walk along the cliff walk to Wicklow Head, a round trip of c.3.5 miles. The first major obstacle was to cross the Brittas Bay road, ensuring Toesun was firmly on the lead in case a stray car might venture along it. Into the car park, we passed under the above sign warning us of dire consequences if some debris might fall on us. I’m glad to say you are now reading this, so we survived. Toesun never even bothered to stop to read it!
Descending the steps to the “dangerous” beach, I noticed a few blackberries still on the briars and had a surprise late autumn nibble as I passed by. The pathway bisects Wicklow Golf Club, with golfers chasing their little white balls on either side of us as we made our way to the beach. The danger of being hit by an errant golf ball along this route is certainly real and a suitably tall wire mesh fence has been erected to keep Joe and Josie Public safe. Toesun had ducked his head and charged ahead underneath the golfer overpasses to Glen Turn beach, the subject of the notice. Having survived the flying golf balls, I found my mutt with his hind legs in the Irish Sea and his tail wagging furiously to let me know he was ready for some stick chasing fun in the water. However, this was one day that we took the sign seriously (tongue in cheek!) and I turned right to follow the path towards the Head. Taking his disappointment on the chin, he charged up the stony beach and nearly took my feet from under me forging ahead as he sniffed and explored the rough terrain alongside the footpath.
Being a sunny November day, several groups and families were out risking life and limb to take advantage of the fine weather. The autumnal colours were dressing the cliff walk in beautiful hues of brown, yellow and green amongst others. Toesun popped his head up from his investigations every so often to check no debris had fallen on his master.
The picture above was taken on this section of the walk. The rock is locally known as the East Planet, but I’ve named it Crocodile Rock, for obvious reasons. There are wonderful rocky features including a sea arch and caves all along this area.
Recently some very public-minded citizens went to the trouble of improving another former hazard by placing several slabs together to form steps at the wall beside St Bride’s well; a holy well going back centuries to the venerable St Bridget, a contemporay of St Patrick.
Following along the path on the sea side, we come to Bride’s Head, a small headland c.halfway out to Wicklow Head. My previous dog Pepper absolutely loved wandering out along this area and we buried him just a few hundred yards offshore from here, with a flotilla of 5 boats in his cortege and several landlubber fans observing from this headland. The views north of here along the Wicklow coastline are breathtaking.
Adjacent to Bride’s Head is a small stony beach (the last all-stony beach all the way to Co Kerry) which at this time of year is the seal resort of Wicklow. Mothers and adult seals mind the new pups in the family while chilling out themselves on the beach. During the summer, bathers regularly visit here to avoid the busier beaches closer to town. In the rock wall, there is evidence of several drill holes which I understand were made in case the beach had to be obstructed for military purposes, by blowing the rock up.
It is called Lime Kiln beach after the kiln that still exists there, which was used to break down rocks of lime into powder for agricultural purposes. Just beside the kiln, are the faint remains of a tiny chapel, the ruins of which were used for the celebration of Mass in the Penal times in Ireland.
From here, we have a small hike up to start the next leg out to Wicklow Head, passing through more heather, furze and fern clad hilly terrain in their autumnal finery. Toesun was still busy with nose down sniffing the tracks of rabbits and other wildlife, mooching in and out of the shrubbery as we wandered along.
Up ahead, the 2 disused lighthouses were slowly getting bigger, the one on the right known locally in some circles as the “Big Penis”. This one also happens to be in the care of the Irsish Landmark Trust and is available for hire as a novelty holiday property. Neither of these lighthouses were effective as they were obstructed by part of Wicklow Head.
From Wicklow Head, the most easterly point of the Republic of Ireland, there are fabulous views both north and south along the coast and further inland. Also, it commands a panoramic view seawards to Wales, giving the observer a chance to watch shipping and smaller boats plying up and down the Irish Sea. Offshore to the south east, the recently installed wind turbines on the Arklow Bank are visible on a clear day. If you were very lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or even a whale – but don’t hold your breath.
Now properly off the Head, having got our “fix”, it was time to return to base. With Toesun doing his own thing as usual, we headed back but instead of retracing our steps, we took the lighthouse road back through the farmland. Conscious of the still dangerous environment we were operating in, I attached the lead to my mutts collar as we reached the Brittas Bay road again and allowed him pull me all the way home.
Luckily, not only did we survive the ordeal, but there were no reports of any other tragic accidents on this supposedly dangerous but very beautiful pathway out to the Head. It won’t be long before we venture forth on another hike, so fingers crossed, all will be safe.