Dublin to Knockcree
Day One of the Wicklow Way
It was a rare day of beautiful Irish sunshine and mild summer breezes. It was a perfect day for us to begin walking the Wicklow Way. The path begins in Marlay Park, a lush field of grass. The park is a lovely playground for children and adults alike. Surrounded by tall forest pines, the open area is the size of four football fields, a varietal of green oasis in the suburbs of southwestern Dublin.
To begin our pilgrimage, we offered prayers read a piece from John O’Donohue about the journey becoming a sacred thing. Julie O’Brien had given us the poetic narrative as a means of sending on our way with her prayers.
We walked more than a mile to make our way out of the park. We made a final “pit stop” at the parks golf course knowing we wouldn’t see a proper toilet until arriving at the Knockree Youth Hostel fourteen miles and seven hours later. Just as we were returning to the path, two young adult women from Israel stopped to ask if they were on the right trek to the Wicklow Way. We assured them they were on the right path. They stopped to use the facilities and we keep walking.
Leaving the park we started the 1600-meter climb out of Dublin. The ascent is gentle, winding up the lush sides of the Dublin Mountains. The first three miles we encountered several locals out for a day’s hike. This early part of the Wicklow Way is intertwined with the Dublin Mountain Way, a series of day walks. At one juncture we must have missed the sign marker for the Wicklow Way and got onto the Dublin Way. But after a mile, we stumbled back onto a Wicklow Way marker taking us to the top of mountain.
Turning back we could see a spectacular view of the bay of Dublin and the entire sun splashed city. We started our descent onto a log rock path cut across a treeless mountainside covered with a dark green impassable shrub growing in the bog. A mile across the barren looking landscape we came to a T-junction with a signpost pointing two directions for the Wicklow Way and the Dublin Mountain Way. We debated which path to take and finally decided on the turn to the right based on the arrows. About a hundred yards down this path we met the two girls from Israel walking up the path. They saved us from walking probably a few miles out of the way. Ah, thanks be to God for “chance” encounters.
We walked through the cloudy mist hanging over us like a protective wrap and across the top of the Glencree Mountains through the dark forest and down along the barren landscapes where trees once stood, now harvested. Ravens arrived at a most needed time to offer encouraging words. My companions, Chad and Jana kept telling each other our pictures fail to capture what we have seen, and of course my words do still less.
Now we are on this morning to walk across Djouice Mountain and the infamous White Hill.
Priest, pilgrim, writer, alchemist—living into the mystery, the knowledge, and the practice of sacred alchemy. I've walked across Ireland, almost 400 miles of mountains, valleys, forests, and magic. The pilgrimage was a mirror of my life's journey, coach, president, priest. Traveler of the life's struggles—from failure to re-imagination—still walking.