Wicklow is a great corner of Ireland if what you love is rugged scenery and outdoor pursuits. The mountains are picturesque, windswept, and just crying out to be the backdrop for your own romantic adventure. Helen Fairbairn’s Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide will ensure you don’t get lost on your trek, nor (if you follow her advice) will you find yourself hopelessly out of your depth.
Beginning in Dublin, the routes Fairbairn details take you more-or-less gradually further and further into Wicklow, which is useful if you intend to follow the Wicklow Way for several days, or string a couple of paths together for a longer hiking experience. (Note on jargon: Americans go hiking, the Irish go walking. I use them interchangeably.) Each walk is graded for difficulty, so you can quickly find hikes appropriate for your party’s fitness level.
The author is chatty, and weaves in some local history with geological and ecological detail on the routes, which is nice if like me you can’t tell a beech from an ash at 50 paces. The book is small enough to stick in a pocket and you should, because Fairbairn talks you through the routes, including vital details like which way to go when a path fork. So, this is not some inspirational trail guide that makes you get out into the wilds but leaves you on your own when the roads diverge in the yellow wood.
The maps are colorful and accurate, but small and obviously for illustration only. The author makes the point that if you’re intending to hike in the Wicklow mountains you need to buy the detailed Ordinance Survey of Ireland (OSI) maps — she helpfully identifies which one you’ll need for each route — because anything less-detailed will see you lost, cold, and wet, possibly on some very exposed terrain. Some guidebooks offer maps large and superficially detailed enough to make inexperienced hikers (or walkers, depending on where you’re reading this) think they only need the guidebook for a successful day’s adventuring. Beware, that way hypothermia lies!
Favorite part of this guidebook:
Unlike many guide books, which wax lyrical about the beauty of individual hikes, but offer only vague clues for locating the correct starting points, this book provides clear directions how to get to the trail head, where to park, and where you find yourself at the end. This lack can spoil a perfectly good hike, as it’s hard to maintain your enthusiasm after getting lost and asking three different groups of German hikers for directions, all of whom gave you such over-precise directions your brain couldn’t retain it all. Thankfully, Helen Fairbairn knows hikers want to get in and out with the minimum of fuss — especially if kids or teens are involved.
Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide is the essential pocket guidebook for hiking/walking south of Dublin and in the Wicklow Mountains.
If you’re reading this in Ireland or the UK, you can order Dublin & Wicklow: A Walking Guide here…
When you’re in Co. Wicklow, you may want to check out some of the locations used to film the History Channel’s hit show VIKINGS.