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

Scalp Header

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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With open vistas in every direction, and a cool breeze on even the hottest day, the Great South Wall is the hidden gem of Dublin Bay.

NOTE: Full details and directions for this walk can be found in our Walks by Car section. A version for bus access and including Irishtown Nature Reserve will be produced shortly.

Fat Steve had a fairly good weekend just gone, though with a little less opportunity for walking than might have been hoped. It started off with a trip up the mountains with some work colleagues, including JS the American who was amazed to see the Irish cotton fields (well, OK, peat-bogs with cotton plants growing on them) and AC the Comedy German, who wanted to see the German Cemetary at Glencree. I’m sure AC plays up to his national stereotypes, but the questions “what is the purpose of this plant with purple flowers?” (heather) and “Why is it planted randomly all over the hillsides?” was apparently asked in all seriousness.

There wasn’t much chance for walking, and I was busy all weekend so after finishing work at 9pm on the hot sticky Sunday evening, I opted for one of my favourite treats, a cooling walk out along the hidden gem that is Dublin’s Great South Wall.

Many people have never heard of it, others wouldn’t know exactly how to get to it, but those that do, swear by it. Built in the late 1700s it is in effect a massive pier that stretches more than 2km out into the middle of the bay from a starting point near the Pigeon House.

On hot summer evenings it is just the thing – no matter how still the air, there is always a gentle cooling sea breeze. The views of the city and mountains are stunning – you can see the whole of the bay and up the Liffey, quite a unique viewpoint.

Dublin Bay South

Click on any thumbnail to see fullsize image

It’s an easy walk, can be taken at any pace, and at Fat Steve Speed takes around 35 minutes in each direction, from the car parking area to the tip with the lighthouse.

There are always some people walking the wall, more so in summer, and this Sunday there were quite a few enjoying the late evening. A large party of Polish fishermen were busy piling up stacks of what looked to me like Sea Trout, whatever they were, the time was right for catching, as they were leapingout of the water all the way along the wall.

Walking the wall, there is always lots of activity to see, with arriving and departing shipping, in this case the Norfolk Line and the P&O as well as some freighters.

Great South Wall sunset

The sunset is superb too, if you time it right, and arriving back at the car as it was getting later, I was surprised to see a fox, as I would have thought this area too remote from the city and food sources.

The drive to and from the wall, along Pigeon House Road is very atmospheric, all post industrial with decaying buildings, scrapyards and scrubland. Beside the modern Pigeon House complex itself you will see not only the red-bricked former generating house, now in disrepair, but also a much older military building, used as offices by the ESB.

One day soon, much of the abandoned landscape will be swept away by a gleaming new city quarter of glass, but the great wall, which has stood for hundreds of years, will remain.

Fat Steve

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A visit to a 150 year old tower on a hilltop with a scary-looking outside staircase, visible in many parts of south-east Dublin.

For my second expedition, I picked something much more manageable, and took my American friend JS along with me. I will write this up as a “walk page” with directions shortly.

Carrickgollogan is a medium-sized hill in south county Dublin, but one whose name would be unknown to the majority of people, even though they would have a knowledge of it as part of the landscape in their area as “the hill with the tower on it”. The tower can be seen over quite a wide area, from Killiney and the Bray Road over to Sandyford and Kiltiernan.

The hill is located between the Enniskerry and Bray roads, a little south of Glenamuck, and can be easily accessed from Ballycorus Road (turn left off Enniskerry Road just after Kiltiernan).

Even from quite a distance, the spiral staircase on the outside of the tower can be seen, though it is only when you get closer that you observe that it is not complete.

Tower on Carrickgologan hilltop

Tower with staircase – click to view fullsize on this and all pictures

The reason for the stairs being on the outside is that this is in fact a chimney rather than a tower as such, and the inside would back in the days of its use have been full of choking noxious fumes. The structure was built on top of the hill, and at the end of a flue nearly a mile long, which conducted the smokes and fumes from a lead works in the valley below up to the hilltop, where they were discharged at a height of 900 feet, thus sparing those living below from the effects of their industry.

The hill itself was once penetrated by a lead mine, but lead from other mines was also transported to Ballycorus to be smelted, and the area was a teeming centre of employment at one stage. It is now long since abandoned, and has been so for as long as I can remember, certainly when I first visited in the early 1970s it was already a matter of history. The mine is sealed and forgotten, the works gone, though some buildings remain in the valley, but the giant chimney remains, and should stand for a long time into the future, as a recognisible landmark in this corner of County Dublin.

Travelling from the Ballycorus Road, we took the side turn which is signposted “Pucks Castle” which leads to the most convienient of the several approach routes to the top of the hill. Pucks Castle itself, a ruined fortified dwelling rather than a fullsize castle, can be seen in a field on the left after about a km, but the hedges are high and it is visible just once through a gap, so blink and you’ll miss it.

The road climbs, and after the Pucks Castle golf range on the right, there is a track leading up the hillside, with just enough room to park a car or two.

Having been up here more recently, I was able to let JS know that the climb would be about 20 minutes, and that the first half is the worst.

The track is rough but walkable, with forest on the left, and a stone wall and hedge on the right, behind which is the golf range, built on such an impossible slope that you wonder how the ball does not just run away.

Chimney 2

For most of the climb, thre is no sign of anything on the hilltop, but as you near the top, the structure suddenly comes into view. The stairs can now be seen clearly, as well as the fact that several gaps mean that they cannot be climbed – one of the gaps being close to the bottom, and possibly deliberate on the part of the local authority to stop people from climbing and suffering accidents.

Stairs

 

Where the steps still exist, they are steep and unprotected, and the prospect of being able to climb them when they were all in place must have been both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. A platform at the top, similarly unprotected, would have allowed access to the top of the chimney, and must have given stunning views across Dublin.

The flue up from the mineworks below having long since been filled in, there is now an opening at the bottom of the tower, and it is possible to go inside, and look up, and out of the giant stone chimney.

Inside

The views from the hilltop, while not as extensive as those from ThreeRock, are none the less very good, and comprise most of Dublin city and bay, Killiney Hill, and to the west, the Scalp and Glencullen valleys, Two Rock and Three Rock mountains.

West

Looking west over towards Glencullen, the massive redevelopment of the Kiltiernan Sports Hotel is carving an ugly scar in the valley below, and it is to be hoped that once finished and landscaped it will fit in better. Both time I have been up here recently has been in the evening, and the view westward over the valleys and hills can give some lovely constrasts of light and shade, and rays through the mist (the picture used as the header of this blog is taken here).

view north to Dublin

Looking north across Dublin you get a good view of the eastern half of the city, with the sweep of the bay, and Howth Head in the distance.

Killiney

Looking east across the Loughlinstown valley, the sprawl of Tulley and Cherrywood can be seen, as well as Killiney Hill, with the sea behind it.

Coming back down is easy of course, and we managed to reach the car just in time to avoid a sudden squall of rain.

Compared to my last efforts, a successful conclusion!

Fat Steve

 

 

 

 

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Fat Steve Learns

If you’re reading this while it is the only post on this blog, apologies. You’ve caught me while I’m still trying to get everything set up and photos and other information transferred across.

What I’m aiming to do here is to build up a library of walks that can be followed in the mountains, countryside and occasionally urban areas around Dublin, some accessible by public transport, others which will include directions by car. These, as I get them complete, with required info and photos will form pages that can be read or printed as a guide to each walk, complete with interesting stuff that can be seen on the way.

The blog part will cover my putting together of all of this, doing the walks, trying to find various items of interest, getting the photos, and occasionally failing and having to try again.

I already have some complete walks accessible by public transport which I used to host on another site, and I’ll put these up and update them as neccessary, as well as trying out new ones.

There is a book, “The Neighbourhood of Dublin” written back in 1910, which is scanned online at http://www.chaptersofdublin.com which contains fascinating details of things which could be seen in walks around the area nearly 100 years ago, and in some expeditions I will be trying to retrace the routes used, and see how many of the old buildings or pieces of history can still be found, or are now gone or inaccessible.

I’ll also be looking at other old texts to try to find as many things as possible to discover on walks, as well as redoing my own favourite walks and climbs from childhood.

The background to this is that Fat Steve is, well, fat, and needs to start getting exercise and get fit otherwise he’ll be six foot under Steve.

20 or 30 years ago I cycled all over Dublin and regularly climbed the hills, these days I can barely waddle around the supermarket.

It’s time to change this, to get active, to go on a voyage of discovery, and turn Fat Steve into Fit Steve.

And the blog is the best way I can think of to keep myself constantly shamed into not stopping.

Fat Steve, May 2007

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