Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains can be either utterly miserable or utterly amazing depending on the day you catch it. Sunday 28th December 2008 was one of those utterly amazing days.
I had done far too much drinking, eating and socialising in the run up to Christmas. Now that the big day had passed, I was itching to get away from all the wine and food. I also needed some peace and quiet, and I knew I could get that the mountains.
I drove to Sally Gap. It took a while to get there from Dublin, inching my way along the narrow, icy roads that wind their way through Wicklow. Outside my windscreen, the sky was blue and the air seemed crisp. The winter sun cast a brown hue over the bog and heather. The long grass was already frozen stiff from the cold.
I decided to head to West Wicklow, a barren place with no tracks and potentially no people. I was right. Up on to Carrigvore, towards Gravale and Duff Hill, it was just me and myself in the mountains.
It was a distinctly winter’s day. The saddles, usually wet marshy muck, were frozen solid. The heather was low, hiding away from the winter chill. The lack of heather made indistinct the tiny tracks that usually lead from peak to peak. But the lack of tracks didn’t matter – the winter had beaten down the foliage underfoot, allowing me to take whichever route I wished between hills.
I hadn’t been here since my July 2008 Wicklow Round attempt. That day, I could see only 20-30 metres ahead. Today I could see as far as Lough Dan, some six kilometres away. It was good to see the mountains at their best and to enjoy them in fresh winter weather. And it was fun as ever to boot down the boggy slopes and to run free in the Wicklow wilds.