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Archive for the ‘Coillte’ Category

A gentle 6km forest walk within easy reach of Dublin, with a ruined castle and a 9/11 memorial.

Donadea Header

The return of good weather at last has seen me looking to take slightly longer walks again – I’ve been trying hard to keep up my walking to fitness routine through the rainy days, but not blogging it, as I’m fairly sure that “walked up and down xyz road for the fifth time this week” would not exactly make for exciting reading.

I was lucky enough to have today (Monday 27th August) off work, and decided to head off in the car to somewhere I had not been before. A quick scan of the Coillte website – http://www.coillte.ie – turned up Donadea as a good possibility: not too far from Dublin, big enough to have a a 5+ km walk, and not somewhere I have been before.

Getting to Donadea in Co. Kildare is fairly easy, though the directions on the Coillte website do lack some vital details. You can reach it either by taking the R407 south from the Kilcock junction of the M4, or the R407 north from the centre of Naas.

Coillte would give you the impression that the forest park is actually on this road, but it is 3 or 4 km west of it, reached via a righthand turn (if coming from the M4) or lefthand (from Naas) – just look out for the brown tourist sign marking the turnoff, and follow that. The park will eventually be on your left.

Entry fee is €4 per car, payable in exact money only, to a mechanised barrier, which only accepts €1 or €2 coins. Once inside the park there is ample car parking and also a shop and toilets (which we will come to later).

At the bottom of the car park there is a good map of the park, on which our walk is clearly marked in blue.

Donadea map

(click on any small image to see fullsize version – this one is particularly useful, as it’s a photo of the map!)

There are various walks possible in the park, my choice being the blue, or “Aylmer” walk, which is the longest, circling most of the forest. This can be walked in either direction, but I chose, and would reccomend, clockwise, as it saves the lake, the tea shop and the ruined castle for the end rather than having them near the beginning.

To do the walk in a clockwise direction, head back from the carpark towards the entry road, and the walk is just beyond the end of the car park, on your right if the car park is behind you, and very clearly signed.

Walksign

From here the walk proceeds to the east, along a gravel surfaced pathway. After about 500m you will reach a T and turn to the right – this and all major junctions are clearly signposted for all the different walks. Just keep following the blue signs.

Bluesign

Walking now along the eastern side of the forest, the route passes through a large area of mostly pine trees, and being the longer walk, is less popular, and for the most part deserted.

conifirs

The planting, as usual with pine forests, is very dense, with occasional larger and smaller firebreaks, pathways and ditches leading off on either side.

One narrow firebreak leading between trees was almost tunnel-like, and very dark, and I couldn’t resist venturing some way down it in order to try getting shots at different exposure levels to see how the patterns of light and shade looked in picture.

Light & Shade

Re-emerging suddenly from this hidden pathway onto the main track I did rather startle two young walkers who must have thought themselves alone on this seemingly empty track, and they looked anxiously at each other as I appeared in front of them, busy tucking my shirt in from where it had come out as I crouched down to get the best camera angles. They looked quite relieved when I purposefully waddled off in the other direction!

The walk around the eastern and southern sides of the forest is peaceful and lovely, and here and there are dotted benches for the weary. The circular nature of the trail also means that to cut the walk short, you simply have to take one of the intersecting paths to the right, though I’d reccomend the full 5.7km if you are up for it.

Gradually the end of the southern boundary is reached, and the pathway turns north, now leading through mostly mixed native woodland.

Mixed

This part is mostly uphill, though fairly gentle. A little while after passing a turning labelled “nature walk” to the right, theblue trail itself turns to the right, and heads through a plantation of ash towards the forest’s 9/11 memorial site.

The memorial, standing in the middle of peaceful forest, is both well designed and also very peaceful.

Two stone pillars are placed in the size and positioning of the Twin Towers, and are inscribed with the names and ranks of the firefighters, police, and port officials who died in the rescue attempt, while nearby benches are dedicated to the passengers on the hijacked planes.

911a

911b closeup

From here the pathway curves back to head towards the centre of the forest, where the lake and tearooms are, though before reaching them it passes one side of the ruins of an old castle.

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Very shortly beyond the castle, the lake is reached, and this marks the end of the walk, the car-park being reached by a main avenue leading past the tea rooms and the from of the ruined castle.

lake

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The entire walk took me about an hour and a half, though this was with frequent stops for photographs, and a few side trips (and the odd scaring of other walkers!). A fitter walker could easily do it in an hour.

I’ll be putting this up on the “Walks by Car” section in due course.

More soon, if the weather holds, if not, its back towalking up and down xyz road in the rain.

Fat Steve

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A forest walk with a detour to the top of The Scalp – panoramic views, but not for the faint-hearted!

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Finally, following week after week of downpours any time I was off work, we’ve had a couple of days sunshine and I’ve been able to undertake a little exploration that I’ve wanted to do for years – seeing if the top of “The Scalp” was accessible by an easier route than just climbing up the sides!

If you have ever driven to Enniskerry or travelled on the 44 bus you will know The Scalp – a very steep sided gorge where the road seems to go straight through the centre of a huge rocky hill, with jumbled loose rocks of varying sizes overhanging the road and “falling rocks” signs. I’d often wondered what the view was like from the top, but the route up the sides from the road looks very sheer and dangerous for someone who is just a walker rather than a climber.

Local exploration had shown me that a small road – Barnaslingan Lane – runs behind The Scalp on the eastern side, and my plan was to approach from that direction. When coming from Dublin and Dundrum,  Barnaslingan Lane is on the left, a mile or so before The Scalp, but very easy to miss, as both the turning, and the road sign showing it are hidden by hedges. Basically you pass the Golden Ball pub and the filling station at Kiltiernan, and pass the new traffic lights that control the junction with the Ballycorus Road. Carry on towards Enniskerry, and when you see a long straight row of old cottages on your right, the turn for Barnaslingan is on your left, as you reach the end of the row.

A couple of km along this narrow lane there is a forest park on the right – easy to miss, but it is directly opposite the first turning on your left.

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Forest Park gate – click on any thumbnail for fullsize picture

This park, despite having signs proclaiming that the gates get closed at 8pm, never seems to be actually opened – several time I have passed during the daytime it has always been closed. The somewhat strange hypenation of “To-morrow” in the sign is also unusual!

There is just room for a car or two to park on the side of the road, as long as you in as close to the hedge as possible. Few people come here, so there should usually be a space. Once you have parked, pedestrian access through the gates is easy.

Once in the carpark, I took the smaller of two pathways on offer, which seemed to be the one leading most directly upwards.

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The pathway was clear in some places, and slightly overgrown in others, presumably little used because people pass by if they can’t drive in. It was quite walkable though, even in the overgrown sections.

After crossing through an open area where high voltage ESB lines cross the forest, the path rose gently between mature trees. So far, so good, as long as I was heading upwards and directly west I was fairly sure I was bound for the top of The Scalp.

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After about half a km the path comes to a T junction, with the main path going to the left. I followed this for a while, but turned back when it was clear that it was going downhill again and away from the hilltop. I retraced my steps to the T, and took the other fork, more overgrown. Almost directly after taking this, there was a small path on the left, leading directly to a low point on an old stone wall that seems to encircle the top of the hill.

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The wall has an obvious crossing point, and climbing over it, and scrambling up a rock just beyond it are the only mildly difficult parts of the trip.

Few people use the forest park, and fewer still go beyond the wall, and although there is a fairly clear path through the trees and undergrowth, the area was wonderfully still and utterly silent, and I frequently came across birds and small animals who seemed startled to see me.

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The ground here was uneven, but easy enough to cover, climbing over large smooth embedded rocks, and choosing trails that seemed to head in the direction I wanted to go in. For about 10 to 15 minutes I followed trails through bracken and scrubland, heading southwest and beginning to descend slightly. I still wasn’t sure at this stage that I would get to a point where I was on the top of the steep sides of The Scalp, but finally the great cleft in the hillside came into view ahead of me, and a stunning vista across the Wicklow countryside came into view, dominated by The Sugarloaf (a future walking ambition of mine).

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The picture above (click on thumbnail for fullsize) shows the view towards The Sugarloaf. If you look carefully, the top of the spire of Enniskerry church can just be seen in the middle distance, a little to the right of the centre of the picture.  The village itself is hidden in a hollow at the foothills of The Scalp. The Enniskerry Road can also be seen, and some of the houses around the Ballyman Road.

Very shortly beyond this, I came to the edge of The Scalp, where there are some flat rocks to sit on a safe few metres away from the edge, which is steep enough to make even me nervous. Unfortunately a strong sun was setting directly on the other side somewhat restricting my photography options, through trees could sometimes be used as cover.

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Above: Destination reached – standing on the edge of The Scalp, with the road far below.

I won’t be archiving this into the “Walks By Car” section, as I feel that the last part offers too much scope for the unwary to have accidents, especially if they take some other trail for the final few minutes, and perhaps come to some sheer drop that I did not myself encounter. it is safe enough for anyone cautious and level-headed, butI certainly would not reccomend it if you are walking with children!

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While sitting on the top, a 44 bus passed way below, and I used the zoom lens to get a birds eye shot. Unfortunately the sun intervened again, and the circular discoloured area in the lower left is a reflection of direct sunlight on the lens.

The Scalp itself is right on the border between Counties Dublin and Wicklow – I’m sitting in Co. Dublin, but the bus is in Co. Wicklow at this point (although about to cross back into Dublin very shortly).

All in all, a nice after-work walk, a chance to realise a long held ambition, and after all the rain, it was great to be out and walking again.

Fat Steve

 

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