What better way to spend a sunny Sunday than a hike in the Dublin mountains, only 12 kms from the city centre, or so I thought. The day started out misleadingly sunny. I packed my camera in my bag, a little water and an insufficient snack and hopped on my bike for the city centre. I’d never been hiking in the mountains before but the VisitDublin website made it sound like pleasant, and within reach.
For those without a car, the mountains can be reached from Shankill village, on the DART route. Taking the DART from the city centre, Shankill is about 40 minutes by train, with an additional 15 minutes walk to get into the village from the DART station. From there, kindly locals will point you in the direction of the trail. It is another 25 minutes, through alleyways and on a footbridge over the M50 before you reach the mountains.
I was tired before I got sight of a mountain.
Blue skies and green hedgerows welcomed me through Rathmichael Wood and left me out on a narrow, windy road looking for the wooden posts with yellow walker signs for the next section of the trail. Finding a steep, stony path with the sounds of early risers, I kept going through Carrickgollgan Woods, lured by the arresting sight of the Lead Mines Tower at the top. From there I continued on the path as the snow started to fall. Its frenzied dance reminded me that in February the weather cannot be relied upon. I reached the top of a viewing point as the wind brought snow whipping across against my face. I didn’t dawdle. I found a narrow, uneven path and followed it the whole way down, passed ‘Keep Out’ signs and wire fences I hadn’t come across on the ascend. I had no idea where I was.
The sun peeked back out from behind commanding clouds and any remaining snowflakes fluttered to the stony ground. The trees creaked, groaning against the strong winds. Some rested against accompanying trees, others were not so lucky and I scrambled under fallen branches and over heavy trunks. Any wildlife I had hoped to see stayed sheltered from the early spring afternoon. I trudged on down windy country roads, reminding me of childhood. There was a calmness to the countryside that you can easily forget amid the confusion of the city.
After about 25 minutes, I was back in the village, cold and tired. I looked back at where I had come from, the sun baking the mountains that minutes before were being battered by a snow shower. Ireland in February never disappoints.