Anyone ever bought a car with the intention of ‘this means i can start walking more’?
Living so close to the Wicklow mountains but not having a car to drive in and do the trail routes was always a pain point of mine. Now that we have a car and my leg is finally healing after my surgeries we couldn’t wait to get out in to the mountains for some exercise, fresh air & views. Stuey & I set the intention to complete ALL of the hiking/trail walks in the Wicklow mountains. How long will this take? I have no idea. How many trail walks are there? I also have no idea! Regardless, we will complete them ALL, however long it takes. Of all the intentions/goals i have ever set, i think i’m most exited about this one.
We set out on Sunday to do the Vale of Clara forest walk, but we ended up doing 1/2 of the avonmore way instead. It was very difficult to find the route’s for the vale of clara.. we drove down the R755 laragh to rathdrum direction, looking for that beautiful white church and bridge in so many photos. Driving in the same direction look for Clara Lara fun park on the left hand side, keep driving past the fun park and a few minutes later you will see a small sign on the left saying Clara RC Church and a very steep slope down. Take that left and drive down to the bottom of the steep bank. You have arrived in Clara!
What a beautiful & picturesque tiny little village. The river, arched bridge, church & nature make for some really breathtaking scenery. We didn’t drive over the bridge we actually parked just in front of the big house at the bottom of the bank. We were unable to find the starting routes for the Vale of Clara walks, however looking back on maps afterwards we should have walked over the bridge and took a right up that steep road to get to the start. Instead we went in to the gates of the church, around the back of the church building, and saw a stick with a yellow man & arrow on directing us on to the starting point for ‘The Avonmore Way’ trail.
We followed the Avonmore way route up a steep woodland path through the trees. The path was very clearly marked throughout so once one the Avonmore way route it is impossible to get lost. On our way up to Clara the rain was torrential however by pure luck as soon as we started on the route the sun came out and stayed with us for the entire walk. We were blessed with that ‘after rain earth smell’ & sunshine glistening through the trees all at once, it was truly beautiful.
We were laughing and strolling along seeing how high we could throw sticks and acorns when we spotted two wild deer up ahead. It was so unexpected. We stopped to watch them as we didn’t want to frighten them but after a minute or two they caught wind of us and leapt off in to the mossy forest, it was so magical. Seeing wild deer was not what we set out to do but it was sooo very welcome.
The forest walk itself was like something out of a fairytale, we kept stopping just to take it all in or to take a few photos. The green moss across the rocks & forest floor, the tiny little streams trickling & winding their way through the flora, the sun beaming down through the foliage and highlighting the little ponds on the forest floor. It really has to be seen to be believed, the beauty of this place is something else.
After some time walking through the forest the trail made it’s way out on to a tarmac road (unlike the grassy forest road we were previously on). We walked around to the white house overlooking the mountains and the view from the road up there was so worth the trip, nature is incredible. If we continued on the yellow marked route this would have took us another 2 hours and lead us towards Rathdrum. As we had the car parked down at Clara church we couldn’t walk 2 more hours to finish this trail and then 3 hours to get back, so we turned around at this point and followed our same route back down.
At the starting point of the trail we noticed a few little signs pointing to another path saying ‘our Lady’s statue’, so on our way back down we took a little de tour up this path and we were not disappointed. If you are visiting this area i would strongly recommend visiting the statue. The statue itself was very beautiful and was overlooking the Church and river. At night time the statue must be lit up as there was flood lights underneath, i would love to go back and see her at night one day. The view from up there was also so breathtaking, i’m so glad we decided to follow that little sign and wander up. There’s a little bench behind Mary so we sat down for a few minutes and just soaked up the sunshine and fresh mountain air. So peaceful and quiet, i never wanted to leave.
We’re definitely going to go back and do the full Avonmore way route, but we will wait until the summer when the days are longer and warmer since it would be a total of 6 hours there and back. We’ll also go back and take the right turn up the road past the church and do the original Vale of Clara walks (the ones we set out to do in the first place). I found the directions / explanations of how to find the VOC routes were not clear at all and very confusing so when we do those routes i’ll make sure to be as descriptive of possible to help you all find your way.