12/11/2017

Climbing the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow

Climbing the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow

When you think of 'Sugarloaf mountain', you might be thinking of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, but there happens to be a sugarloaf mountain in Wicklow, Ireland too. I only learned this 3 days ago when I was trying to distract myself from falling asleep on my lunch break by planning a day trip to Greystones for the weekend. Now I'm sure Greystones is wonderful and all, but there was this funny-looking mountain poking out from the landscape in the pictures I was googling, and I knew it needed to be climbed. A fun little Saturday activity.

So 3 days later I'm panting for my life on the steepest, rockiest trail I've ever put my feet on, wondering who the hell decided to call this hike 'beginner-level' and 'suitable for families'. Nevertheless, it was amazing.

The sugarloaf mountain in Glenview, Wicklow is 501 metres in height and is accessible through a 1 to 2-hour walk (more like hike, as it turned out) to the top. It's a very cool thing to do if you have an extra day to spare while visiting Dublin since it's fairly close and surprisingly easy to reach. For the first year of living in Dublin I kept telling myself it's impossible to get anywhere without a car but it turns out you just have to do a bit of digging and you can get to great many places around by public transport.

Alex and I hopped into Bus Éireann route 133 from the city centre, but alternatively you can take the dart to Bray and take Dublin Bus 184 from there instead. Both options take you to Glenview, which is basically a junction in the middle of a motorway, consisting of a hotel and a garden centre. The bus trip is an hour-long, so bring snacks for your hike. The best way to plan your journey is to use the TFI (Transport For Ireland) Journey Planner. In case you need more tips about transport in Dublin, read through my helpful guide.

So we hopped off at this random bus stop in the middle of nowhere by the motorway after panicking about it for 10 seconds in the bus ('Is this the stop?? I think it is - wait no - no yes, yes it is!!') and started navigating our way through the farmlands. The walk from the motorway to the mountain takes half an hour and is slight uphill all the way to the start of the trail. So here's what we would be working with:

Sugarloaf Mountain Walk

I had checked the trail to the top of this mountain in advance and wondered if it could really be as straight up to the top as the maps indicated. Seeing this mountain appear from behind the bushes for the first time made my hip-injured, back-injured and knee-injured ex-dancer body squirm uncomfortably for a bit. 

There's no pedestrian walk on the road through the farms, being in the middle of rural Ireland as we are, so be prepared to dodge a few cars on the way. The landscape is absolutely picturesque though, so you won't get bored.

The Rural Road to the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

You can even make a few friends on the way!

Irish Sheep on the way

The start of the trail makes it look like child's play. The mountain is just a pimple on the face of the earth and everything's just good craic. The weather was good for Ireland too (to quote Alex, 'Any percentage chance of rain in the forecast means 100% chance of rain, and 0% chance means 50%') so the odds were in our favour for this hike.

Honestly though: it says family friendly, but please don't show up in a skirt - and I'm not kidding, someone really did.

The start of the Sugarloaf Mountain walk

Climbing the mountain

Halfway through the ascension the trail starts to get rocky. The top seems to be just a few good leaps away...

A rocky trail to the top

But then it get's more rocky...

Even more rocky trail to the top

AND MORE ROCKY.......

Serious rock climbing to the top

... Until this is what you'll be dealing with for the last dozen metres. Be ready to use your hands, maybe take a pair of gloves with you in case the idea of fondling wet rocks isn't your cup of tea. The final part of the trail is very steep - watch your step.

The view from the top is well worth the effort:

View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

A happy blogger on top of the Sugarloaf Mountain

View towards Dublin from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

We were able to see past Greystones all the way to BRAY from the mountain peak, and a glimpse of Dublin too. The patchwork quilt pattern in million shades of green dominating the Irish landscape never ceases to astonish me. To be completely honest, I found the views in Ireland to be quite depressing at first when I had gotten used to being pampered with the Canadian snow-top mountain ranges, but after living in Ireland for 1,5 years I have finally found my peace with it. There's something so very tranquil in the lush, mellow shades of green and brown, the mist lingering above the fields and the silence of the rural landscape. And well, the sheep are just the best.

A view towards the Irish sea from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain

A happy boyfriend at the top

On the top we also met a man playing With or Without You by U2 with an acoustic guitar. The man had moved to Ireland years ago and told us that the Sugarloaf was the first mountain he saw upon arriving in the country. He had promised himself that one day he would climb on top, but since then life had happened and he never quite found the time - until today. So as we reached the top, he sat there playing guitar and drinking a can of Guinness he had brought along. Oh, Ireland.

Descending from the Sugarloaf turned out to be trickier than the climb up, and my butt made some pretty close contact with the rocks quite a few times as I tried to drag myself down the crazy steep hillside. The rain caught us halfway through our way down so that's +1 in difficulty...

As mentioned, the climb is described as 'suitable for beginners' and 'good for families', and I guess it applies in the sense that the climb is indeed quite short and in no way comparable to our 6-hour mud hike in Vallée du Bras du Nord a few years ago, but be prepared to do some moderate rock climbing to reach the peak. And make sure to install the TFI Journey Planner app on your phone so you don't have to be like us and try to install this thing under a bridge on a motorway while it's raining cats and dogs, your fingers are cold and your shoes are soaking wet, you have no idea when the next 133 is going to pass, and Lycamobile's internet speed is equivalent to trying to install an app to a rock.

Descending from the mountain

Have you been to the Great Sugarloaf? Are there other mountains worth climbing in Ireland? Share your tips in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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