An easy, 5km walk around Oulart Hill culminates with a passageway taking you through the veil between present and past
Did you know you can walk inside a hill in Wexford?
Tulach a’ tSolais means ‘Mound of Light’ in Irish. Perched atop Oulart Hill, the bulge is cleaved in half by two chalky-white concrete walls forming a passageway. Step into it and you’re taken into a chamber, an echoey arc stowed away inside the earth.
The mound is a memorial to the 1798 Rebellion, and the highlight of The Jean Kennedy Smith Walk, a 5km loop around Oulart village named after the US ambassador who turned the sod on the mound in 1998.
I started out from the trailhead at St Patrick’s Church, following a boreen for a kilometre or so up to the top of the hill (there’s a car park here if you want to cheat the climb). There, I turned left onto Cosán na Glóire, a short trail lined with commemorative stones skirting the 1798 battlefield. One of them recalls the “Wexford Republic” that United Irishmen are said to have administered for a few weeks afterwards. Views stretch for miles, and I met just two other walkers.
“The approach should be like the surprise of a fairy ring,” as Ronnie Tallon, the architect who created Tulach a’ tSolais together with sculptor Michael Warren, put it.
And it is. Passing through a small thatch of trees, I found a short, freshly mown path leading to the portal. I felt like Indiana Jones stepping inside, my steps echoing as the chamber opened up, revealing two giant slabs of 220-year-old oak. They would have been saplings in 1798.
The monument commemorated the bicentennial of 1798 in the context of the European Enlightenment. And certainly, you can muse on how the big, bisected mound evokes political divisions and culture wars. Or how its passageway takes you through the veil between present and past. Inside, I thought of Newgrange — though the light slicing through Tulach a’ tSolais is brightest on June 21, the Summer Solstice (and date of the Battle of Vinegar Hill).
But it’s also brilliantly immersive. Kids can climb or crawl in and around it. You marvel at how your voice changes, or how the rain forms a showery curtain inside. And I didn’t see a speck of litter anywhere in or around it.
From there, the walk loops through woodland containing Fr Murphy’s Well, where the 1798 leader is said to have washed a graze on his neck. The waymarkers then led me through a field into Bessy Breen’s Lane, a pathway closing into tunnels of hedgerow in places, before circling past other sites and monuments back towards Oulart.
The Jean Kennedy Smith loop is one of three walks around the hill — Cosán na Glóire (0.5km) is the shortest, while a 10km linear trail continues to The Unyoke along 3km of the medieval Dublin to Wexford coach road.
Oulart (An tAbhallort) comes from the Irish for orchard; The Unyoke is so-called because farmers and travellers once ‘unyoked’ their carts at its inn.
Talk about time travel.
Level: Easy to moderate. The Oulart Hill walk is a looped trail on a mix of quiet country roads, forest trails and grassy tracks. Sections are not suitable for wheelchair users or buggies.
Distance: 5km. Allow roughly two hours with stops to explore.
Tips: The 10km trail to The Unyoke is linear, so have a plan for getting back to your car or the Oulart trailhead. Pack binoculars for bird- and wildlife spotting.
Nearby: There are lots of walking trails in Wexford - see the wexfordtrails.ie website for more ideas, or our recent features on the Cahore Point Trail and Raven Point loop. For more great walks in Ireland, visit our Irish walks hub.
More info: oularthill.ie and wexfordwalkingtrail.ie.