Five best... Wicklow Walks
On a blustery day, it’s as difficult to climb as it is to spell, but Djouce holds its own in Wicklow for its centrality (it's something of a lynchpin along the Wicklow Way), its striking shape, and the sheer variety of terrain you encounter along the way.
The length of the walk depends on where you start — kicking off at Enniskerry is a popular, if masochistic, choice, as you can cut a couple of hours by parking at Crone Wood.
From there, proceed towards smashing views of Powerscourt Waterfall, before skipping through a brief valley and coming face to face with the mountain herself. Djouce looks simple, but invariably has the last laugh. The final stretch is a real calfbuster, and believe me, the winds will take the map right out of your hands.
Distance: c.10km. Walking time: 4hrs (allow 6hrs from Enniskerry)
THE DEVIL'S GLEN
The Devil's Glen, a short drive from Ashford, is basically the artistic equivalent of golf. In the thick of a gorgeous flush of woodland is a sculpture trail (www.sculptureinwoodland.ie), laid out along a family-friendly path with some perfect picnicking spots along the way. The glen is beautiful, the kind of gorge you wouldn't be surprised to see crop up in the next Mel Gibson opus.
Cut by a retreating glacier during the last ice age, today it nestles the River Vartry, a cool waterfall, and a pool known as the Devil's Punchbowl. I recently walked a stretch of this with my toddler, and nary a tantrum was had.
Distance: 4km. Walking time: 1.5hrs.
LUGNAQUILLA FROM THE GLEN OF IMAAL
Lugnaquilla (or ‘Lug’) is Leinster's highest peak, with an elevation of just over 3,000 feet. On a clear day, views stretch across the Irish Sea to the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales.
On a foggy one, however, you can barely see your nose. The mountain can be tackled via a number of routes, but if you're looking for a test, hit it from the Glen of Imaal. The route skirts the perimeter of a military range, mind, so call the Army Information and Advice Centre (tel: 045 404653) to avoid making it more demanding than necessary. Lug can be a moody beast, so be sure to check the weather and follow the usual advice: dress appropriately, tell someone where you're going, avoid hiking alone, and remember to bring a mobile phone.
Distance: 20km. Walking time: 7.5hrs.
COASTAL WALK, BRAY TO GREYSTONES
I live in Greystones, so I'm biased, but anyone who has skirted this piece of coastline by train will know this is as short and sweet as a leg-stretch gets.
Kicking off at Bray Head, a souvenirsized hill lifts you up on to the cliffs, and from then on you're on the level.
The route is easy, taking you past cliffs, seabird colonies and hidden coves before hitting the gradual incline to Greystones' Victorian seafront.
And therein lies the beauty — done in this direction, the walk lands you in one of the best café towns in Ireland. Push on into the village for nibbles in the Happy Pear, Nosh n' Coffee or the Three Qs, before plonking yourself on the Dart back to Bray.
Distance: 6km. Walking Time: 1.5-2hrs.
Also known as Fancy Mountain, Luggala's main selling point is a showstopper.
You really haven't lived until you've seen the peaty blue water and shockingly white beach of Lough Tay from these heights, smack in the middle of the Wicklow Mountains. Beginning at the entrance of the Guinness Estate of Lord Iveagh, this walk carries you along the cliff top of Luggala, and can be lengthened, if you're feeling frisky, to include Knocknacloghoge (it takes roughly the same amount of time to climb and pronounce).
Knocknacloghoge peers over Lough Dan too, so be prepared to wax lyrical in the pub when you get home. Distance: 13km (including Knocknacloghoge). Walking time: c.4.5hrs