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I’m still here, and still walking, but somewhat frustrated in my ambitions to redo my favourite longer walks to put them on here, due to the almost constant rain for the last month, which has neatly coincided with every free day or evening!

Have plans to put a mountain walk and some more coastal ones online as soon as I can update the pictures, more soon . . .

Fat Steve

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

Two acheivments in the last 24 hours – this evening I’ve created the “Walks by Bus/Rail” page, and the first two of many subpages listing and giving directions for walks. These will be added to gradually to build up a library of walks, with directions on how to get to and from, starting point, directions, general info and cautions, and how to get back to Dublin afterwards. A “walks by car” section will follow.

And yesterday I took a good long walk that I’ve been thinking about for ages – all the way from Kilcock to Maynooth along the Royal Canal, about 7km of blissful rural tranquility. Well, six if you count the first stretch by the main road.

Bus route 66

On the 66 approaching Kilcock – click on any picture for fullsize version

Dublin Bus route 66 has occasional (and infrequent) extensions to Kilcock, and this was my outward travel, hence the cheesy post title.

Weighed down with rather too much in the way of coat, camera, bottled water – I really must get a rucksack – I headed off along the canal, which runs alongside the road for a while, before going its own way through the countryside.

Canal walk

Royal Canal, Co. Kildare

It was pretty hot, so I took my time ambling along at FSS (Fat Steve Speed) the entire walk taking just under two hours, but you could probably do it a lot quicker if you didn’t waddle breathlessly along the canal bank taking occasional breaks under shady trees as I did!

I’m pleased with myself though, as when I was a little more than halfway, I passed a lock with a short laneway leading to a nearby road on which a bus would shortly be passing, and despite the heat I didn’t even think of cutting the walk short and taking the convienient bus.

Well, maybe a little bit, but I resisted, and trudged on gamely, and enjoyed it too!

Bridge detail

 Various locks and barges on the way were of interest, and one bridge looked to be original to the construction of the canal, complete with details of the engineers.

Passing St Patricks College the tall trees of the grounds behind the high wall looked very inviting – why is it that walled in places seem so tempting?

St. Patricks College, Maynooth (wall)

I made it to Maynooth exactly in time for a 67A home, and a well earned shower and smugness.

I’m getting to like this walking lark.

I’ve written up the walk complete with lots of photos and directions (and minus the blog waffling) so check it out if you want to see more, or do this walk yourself.

Fat Steve

 

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

 

 

 

 

Last Sunday (May 20th) I set out for the first of my walks/explorations for this site, spurred on by the untimely death of a friend, who was only a little older than me, and of a similar level of unfitness.

Having recently been rereading the excellent “Neighbourhood of Dublin” written by Weston St. John Joyce in 1910, and made available by the good folk at chaptersofdublin.com, I decided to try to retrace a journey in chapter 14 of Weston’s book, covering the area of the Wicklow Mountains above Kilbride, and including the relics of a long closed (even in 1910) iron mine, both for the exercise I would get, and out of curiosity to see how many or how few of the landscape and historical features extant in his time can still be distinguished.

The route starts at Oldbawn Cross between Tallaght and Ballycullen, which in his day was still of very rural aspect.

Taking the road towards Bohernabreena we soon enter into a valley, with the River Dodder on our right, and higher ground to the left. I remember cycling this way when younger, when the old 49A busused to come along this road, about half way to the waterworks. These days the 49A is much reduced, just a couple of trips a day as footnotes on the main 49 service, and these take a different route, going up the hill to the church on the old Bohernabreen Road, rather than the lower route. The pull-in where the 49A used to turn round has been blocked in, and is now barely discernable.

The road has a tight S-bend where it crosses the river, and then climbs steadily, with the waterworks to the left. The gap in the hills it is ascending to is called the Ballinascorney Gap, not one of the better known areas of County Dublin.

Finding the point where the route taken by Weston branches off was more difficult than I expected, as both Weston and the latest Ordinance Survey map (No.50) describe a roadside cross – a Famine Cross – at the junction, whereas due to a road realignment at some stage in the past, this cross is now located off the main road, on a little loop from where the road to Kilbride Camp can be taken.

The Neighbourhood of Dublin describes it thus:

——

At the top of Ballinascorney Gap is a large plain granite cross, erected some sixty years ago, and at this point we turn to the left along a well-kept road, bounded by low hedges, interspersed with fern, foxglove and other wild flowers, and passing through a partly cultivated country, with occasional meadows and stunted trees. Some distance further, a pretty ford leading to a farmyard, crosses the little stream beside the road which here begins to rise sharply, having already attained an elevation of over 1,000 feet. As we continue the ascent, the character of the country becomes wilder, the whitethorn and hazel hedges give place almost entirely to those of furze, and rising majestically to the left of the road in front is Seechon Or Slievebawn – the great mountain dominating all this region, its rounded summit seared and scarred by the winter torrents, and its brown, heather-clad slopes variegated by patches of soft green sward. It will be noted that those portions of the top denuded of vegetation assume a whitish tint in dry weather, which circumstance may have originated the name of Slieve Bawn (the White Mountain). It should, however, be mentioned that the name Slievebawn, which has now disappeared from the maps, is quite unknown to the country people in the neighbourhood, by whom it is invariably called Seechon (the seat), corrupted by the Ordnance Survey in the more recent maps, into Seahan.

——

Famine Cross at Ballinascorney Gap

Some things are there 90 years later, others have changed.

The cross is still there, and the road towards Sehan is still pretty much as described, starting off between hedges and cultivated fields, and quickly climbing to a level where furze predominates. There is little or no view of the mountain though, as forestry cplantations block the view to the left until you are past the highest point of the road. Of the ford to the farmhouse, there is no trace, and it could be any one of a number of buildings which now adjoin the road or stand close to it.

To the right, there is a great view westwards towards the flatter countryside of southwest Dublin and Kildare.

Presently the road starts to descend towards Kilbride Camp, the forest ends, and a lovely open vists of bog and mountain opens up. That such places still exist within a very short drive of Dublin is something very much to be appreciated.

Towards Kilbride Camp

The road runs down rapidly into a valley, with Sehan behind to the left, and the slopes of Seefin and Seefingan to the left. At the bottom of the hill we cross the Shankill River, little more than a stream really, at the enterence to Kilbride Camp, which in Weston’s day was “a collection of huts” but now comprises a number of buildings and some antenna masts, well fenced off and with a variety of signs forbidding access and warning of the dangers of the military firing range.

Kilbride Camp

Beyond the camp the road continues on for about half a mile, before coming to a junction where we turn to the right.

Now heading west, we follow this road for less than half a mile to a bridge where the Shankill River is crossed again, apparently on the site of an old ford. On the right the land is being used for motorbike trekking.

At the bridge, there is space to park a car, and it was here that I ventured on my first walk, in what was a futile attempt to find any remnents of some old buildings and a closed off former iron mine as described in The Neighbourhood of Dublin.

In 1910, signs of the old mine workings were still very evident, according to Weston, and I felt sure that something, particularly the broken stone wheel, might remain to this day.

Weston wrote:

——

. . . we turn to the right by the road leading to Ballinascorney, again crossing the river by a bridge on the site of the old Shankill ford. If, however, the excursionist is on foot, or if he is not afraid of taking his bicycle along a rather rough track through the heather, it will be well worth while to diverge from the road on the left, by the pathway which crosses the river, and leads to the Cloghleagh iron mine. The high mountains, Gravale, Mullaghcleevaun, and Moanbane present an imposing appearance from this point, traces of snow often remaining on their summits as late as mid-summer. Keeping to the pathway, we presently reach a curious-looking stone house, which was erected as a residence for the manager of the iron mine some fifty years ago. It would seem that no earnest attempt was ever made to work this undertaking to a successful issue, as the great stone segments of the crushing wheel, now lying beside the river, and other machinery obtained from England, were never put together, so that the whole concern was a failure from the start Just beside the house is the entrance to the mine, the shaft of which, now closed up, extended a considerable way under the hill.A short distance beyond the house we reach a wooden gateway leading by a pretty bridge to a picturesque little defile, planted with firs and larches, through which the Shankill river tumbles and splashes along its rocky bed to join the Liffey a few hundred yards below Cloghleagh Bridge.

——

All traces of the pathway referred to are now long since gone, and apart from the first couple of hundred yeards, which are fairly clear, it is hard enough to walk along the path of the river, and would certainly be impossible to bring a bicycle.

Shankill River

The old book does not clearly state which side of the river the buildings were on, other than that the path crossed the river at some point, nor exactly how far down the river from the bridge the building and the mineshaft were located. So I decided to stick as close to the river as possible, and look for any remnants of buildings, or possibly chunks of the great stone wheel referred to, which surely would not have been moved or taken away.

The further down the river gorge I went, the tougher it got – dense forest with lots of fallen trees on one side, marshy ground with high thorny bushes on the other. I tried cross over a few times, but whatever side I was on always seemed to hbe the hardest!

There was a time 20 years ago when I would have waltzed through such a landscape, however years of inactivity saw me on this, my first outing, tired, heart racing and pespiring from exertion almost from the start.

I have a long, long way to go from Fat Steve to Fit Steve – hence why these excursions are neccessary!

I struggled on for nearly an hour, for what I would estimated to be slightly more than 1km down river, but found no sign of anyh of the buildings, sealed off shafts, or stone segments. Either they have been removed, which seems unlikely in this remote location, or it is all so overgrown as to be invisible, or else I did not go far enough on this occasion.

Hard Going

Progress was very slow over fallen trees at waist level, and I somehow managed to cut myself quite badly without realising it, so bad the time I got back to the car I was quite tired and grumpy. I had intended starting out with a successful trip, and getting interesting photos for my first blog trip, but failure instead.

The exercise did me good though, and I’ve not struck this off my list yet – I shall return at some stage with a curious American friend, and the lost mine may be found yet.

Fat Steve

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