Two-weeks pet-sitting in south Dublin meant time to search for my grandmother’s birthplace. Ten years ago, on my first visit, two genealogists told me Nana was born somewhere between her family’s hometown in Donegal and Southampton, from where her young parents embarked for a new life in Queensland. There was an added layer of difficulty: my great-grandparents were illiterate and depended on others to write their names on official documents. They left Donegal with the surname Barren and arrived in Cairns as Mr and Mrs Barnes.
This time, no searching required. A few minutes and the help of an enthusiastic staffer at the National Library of Ireland and up popped Nana’s birth registration — in the county next to the one in which she was born!
Job done left me with time to indulge one of my great loves: walking. Here are five walks in south Dublin:
1. Dublin Mountains Walk
A brochure packed full of free events exploring south Dublin heritage gave me the lead on the Dublin Mountains Walk. While aimed at locals, no-one seemed to mind me tagging along.
Big pat on the back for finding 1, the Enniskerry bus and 2, what I thought was the starting point. Alas, it was a sign for the turn-off to the starting point. With ten minutes to go, I faced a kilometre-plus walk to the car park at Barnaslingan Wood. Didn’t make it, the group left without me but a very kind dog walker named Vicki took pity and walked me, together with Maggie the dog, to where she guessed the group might be headed. Success!
The septuagenarian group leader turned out to be part mountain goat, of which there are many in the Dublin mountains, and he set a cracking pace. The scenery blurred as we belted along but we did stop several times to learn about flora and fauna and take in the views — on a clear day Wales appears on the horizon. We were happy with the Dublin coastline below and aircraft from the Bray Air Display above.
The walk took in Barnaslingan Wood, Carrickgollogan and the Lead Mines. The latter featured a well-preserved chimney which was used to disperse lead fumes; a very dangerous place to work back in the day.
2. Cliff Walk, Bray to Greystones
On a bright blue day, I took the DART from Blackrock to Bray for walk #2. The 5.5 km cliff walk stretches from Bray, a seaside town with lots of summer ‘entertainment’ along the Strand, and finishes in Greystanes, a former fishing village in the throes of development.
The route, running above the train line, is flat. Walking along you gaze down to green sea and up to green hills. I had lunch in Greystones, turned around and walked back to Bray where the ‘entertainment’ was in full swing.
Feature image, at top, shows the cliff walk.
3. The Cliff Walk and Above, Greystones to Bray
This beautiful part of the world called me back so I took the DART to Greystones and walked along the cliff before climbing up high above to the hill path. There’s a cross at the very highest point, right above Bray. Most people climb up to the cross, look at the view and go back down. Pity, because the walk, high up along the path above the cliff, is by far the best part. At the beginning, the path is overgrown with scratchy scrub, then there’s a short scramble up rocks, but the top is heaven. Actually, it’s not a pity that most people don’t take this walk — the experience of being high up, and alone, except for a few other like-minded souls is magical.
4. Fairy Castle Loop, Ticknock
Fairy Castle Loop was just up the hill from where I was staying. It took me about thirty minutes to walk up and find the starting point, thanks to an American girl who showed me a shortcut. From the entry point, it’s a steady climb up to the giant cairn which marks Fairy Castle. Behind runs the Wicklow Way. I was tempted to head south along the plateau but kept on around the loop and made my way back to the start. In total, it took about two hours, which included a stop to eat my sandwich and a detour down a fire trail that ended at locked gates. From the number of people I met, it’s very popular with walkers and cyclists — there are dedicated mountain bike trails along the way.
5. Marlay Park
For a gentle hour or two of walking, Marlay Park is perfect. At one end there’s a golf club, with an excellent cafe and at the other is Marlay House with extensive, and very beautiful, walled gardens. Another cafe is inside the entrance to the garden. In between the house and golf club are playing fields ringed by walking tracks. On weekends there is a small market near the house.