This has been on my “to do list” for a long time. Finally with all the bad weather that Dublin has been having, I decided it was time to explore. I was pleasantly surprised. Though initially noisy this soon dies down and there is a lot to see.
If you are coming from Dublin you take the N11 towards Bray, pass “Kilmacanogue” then shortly afterwards there is a sign for “The Glen of the Downs” on your LHS. The entrance to the nature reserve is about 500 metre after this. My advice would be to immediately indicate, as the entrance comes up quickly on your LHS and with fast moving traffic behind you, it can be a bit nerve racking.
Anytime I have been there, the car park has been relatively empty and with steep slopes either side there, is a lot of protection from the weather. It`s a bit quiet and isolated, so probably not the best for a lone female and I would hide any valuables. Having said that, it`s used a lot by local dog walkers and everybody I have encountered has been very friendly.
The route I took was along the left as you come in and initially follows a stream. There is a park map showing a “giant loop” and if you keep your orientation to the motorway below, it`s unlikely you will get lost.
It`s great to see mature oak and beech and there are even some “Australian gum trees” which are truly magnificent. It`s my understanding that the Glen of the Downs was originally part of the “La Touche” family who were prominent French Huguenots. They were supporters of William of Orange and were granted vast estates in Ireland as a reward. They also owned the “Luggala” estate with its black lake and were persuaded to sell in the early part of the last century as the Guinness patriarch wanted to give one of his daughters a spectacular present. I think they may have also married into the family.
It is initially quite noisy as the path ascends, then meanders to the right but as you make your way further in, the woodland vegetation acts as a natural “muffler”. The trees are lovely with a wide mix of old oak and beech. Quite surprisingly for me was the sight of 30 ft holly trees, I had only ever really seen the odd one in the countryside, usually part of a hedgerow. You start to understand the importance of woodland to bird life, when you hear the range of calls coming from all directions.
ascending along a well worn pathway, you come to the ruins of the ruins of the “La Touche” family summer house, known as the “Octagon”. It has lovely views of the “Glen of the Downs” valley below and the surrounding Wicklow mountain`s. There is an out cropping of rock on the other side of the valley, that is known locally as “gallows rock”. If you committed a crime in the past, such as sheep stealing or worse, you would be hung and left there, as a warning to others.
There are beautiful beech trees and Scots pine all around the “Octagon” and it is a popular place to stop for a snack. The “La Touche” family it is rumoured, liked to startle visitors by having a stuffed mechanical panther jump out at them, as they neared the entrance. So I associate this place with happiness and mirth.
With your back to the “Octagon” the path facing you will lead away from the motorway to “Kindlestown wood”. This is another nice walk approached from the Delgany side. There is also a car park there but it can be full, as it`s very popular recreation area.
With your back to the “Octagon” you will see a dirt roadway to your right. If you follow that it will bring you back on to your circular loop. It is again very beautiful with lots of lots of oak, beech, ash and Scot pine. There is also a bit of pine forest here, so you really get everything here.
If you keep to the main track, the route starts to curve back to the motorway and out of the trees, part of Delgany golf course appears. This is short lived and for me perhaps the high light now appear`s, a pathway with mature beech and oak either side. The sides of the valley are quite steep here, so there is a wonderful sense of being overlooked and also looking over the trees below. There is about 20 minutes of this and it makes you realise how special the “Glen of the Downs” really is.
Before you know it you are back at the stream where you started. I would thoroughly recommend this walk and if you can take into consideration the initial noise, you will not be disappointed. It took me about 2 ½ hours from start to finish, dawdling time included.