The Last Leg of The Wicklow Way
With our tents packed up we couldn’t quite believe that this would be our final day of hiking. By the evening we would have completed 100 miles, The Wicklow Way, in just 5 days! For two inexperienced hikers this would be a massive feat. I’m really glad we got to stay in this beautiful little town. It was so quaint with the bunting everywhere and the small local shops.
We headed off in the direction of our final destination, Clonegal. Just 15 miles to go. The sun was shining and the path was mostly flat, which was lovely. However, even with such flat terrain, after 4 days of intense hiking our bodies were struggling. Every sign we passed we were counting down the miles and trying to predict how long we had left. After the first 5 miles we took cover from the midday sun and let our feet breathe. The thick socks and crazy heat had caused my feet to break out in heat rash. Grim! I let my feet enjoy the breeze and wriggle room for a while until the sun started its long decent. As much as I didn’t want to I had to put my poor feeties back in their boot cages ready for the next 10 miles. Just 10 miles to go!
We hit a long straight road, it was so long that we couldn’t even see where it would end. These past two road walking days were very different to the earlier days. Not only because of the terrain, but the effect that this terrain had on our motivation and our moods. The paths were easier on our bodies, but the views were not as breathtaking and distracting from the task of hiking. My feet were happy for the Tarmac below them, but my brain missed the valleys, the breeze whipping my hair across my face and the challenges of getting across to the next map marker.
About half way down this long old road a car passed us and pulled over just ahead. A very kind lady offered us a lift to the next town. We looked at each and then back at her, our heads slowly turned to the comfy empty seats that lay just behind her. It was so tempting but we had come too far to bail now. We thanked her but declined the offer. As she drove away we wondered whether we had made the right decision. I’m happy to say we did.
At the next junction we decided to have a little lunch break. Gas cooker, flavoured rice, water…done! I lay back on my bag, just listening to the sound of the world go by, staring at the sparse clouds that littered the sky. I was actually starting to enjoy this outdoor living. I kind of felt like I did when I was travelling round Asia. Nothing to worry about but getting to our next destination. I am really looking forward to planning our BIG travelling adventure. We still haven’t ironed out the details…but we will be very soon.
After packing up our lunch things, we headed down the road and reached a cross roads. Were my eyes deceiving me?! Could it be? There was a sign for Clonegal and it actually said “1 mile to go”. If we could have sprinted there we would have. We did pick up the pace a little though…well as much as our legs would actually let us.
Before we knew it, there it was “Welcome to Clonegal” We hugged the sign with such excitement! We’d only gone and bloody done it!! 100 miles in 5 days! We had completed The Wicklow Way!
With no pubs open, what with it being in the middle of the afternoon in a tiny village we parked up on a bench next to this gorgeous river and admired our surroundings. Such a lovely little place to finish our hiking adventure in.
We were informed by some fellow Wicklow Way hikers that the only place where we would be able to catch a coach to Cork, was in a town 4 miles away! The thought of walking another 4 miles sent shivers through my body. The two hikers were staying over night in Clonegal and getting up early to head to Bunclody. We couldn’t face getting up super super early for another morning of walking and we just wanted to kind of get it out the way. So with our bags and boots back on we headed south. This time however we wouldn’t be turning down any lift offers and actually stuck our thumbs out to hitch a ride. I have never done this in my life and never thought I would!
After about 10 minutes of cars passing us by I gave up on the idea of this actually working. I kept sticking my thumb out though, just in case. As we struggled up a steep hill a small car passed us….and actually pulled over at the top. It had only gone and bloody worked. Irish people…you guys rock!!! This guy, probably around my age, was also heading to Bunclody and said he was happy to take us! YES! So we all got chatting…you know, the usual conversation questions. Where have you been? Names? Where have you come from? When I mentioned Essex he looked back at me in the review mirror:
“You don’t live near Bas Vegas do you?”
Now only people from Essex seem to know of and ever call Basildon Festival Leisure Park, Bas Vegas!
“Er…I actually don’t live that far from there. How do you know of Bas Vegas?”
It turns out he had lived in London and Kent for years and had often visited friends in Basildon. I mentioned I went to university in Kent and…small bloody world…we had both gone to the same art institute around the same time.
He was a wicked guy and told us the best places to head to for dinner and areas to avoid when he dropped us off. Driver man, who ever you are, I thank you dearly!
After dinner the guy behind the bar told us of a park that we could camp in that wouldn’t be any trouble. This was my least favourite wild camp of them all. It wasn’t like a foresty park, it was a football/rugby park where a lot of people walked their dogs and carried out their evening jogs. I didn’t feel sheltered from prying eyes and felt very uneasy as I got into my tent. Nick kindly gave me some weapons to help me feel safer. A mini shovel and a swiss army knife that looked like it had come out of a Christmas cracker, I think it did actually come out of a cracker last year. It would have to do! I fell asleep hugging my defensive weapons of choice.
I felt much better in the morning once all my stuff was packed up and my wild camping days had come to an end. The next part of our holiday was much more traditional in the way of a city break. A coach to Cork to take in the sights, the food and the local booze!
Hiking mission – DONE!