Wicklow Way: The First 85,000 Steps

Kelsey Breseman
3 min readMay 5, 2023

It's been two days and about forty miles, with full packs and constant elevation change. Underfoot, we've had roots, bogs, rocks, tarmac, railroad ties, fields, and gravel. The weather has been spectacular, sunlight setting the moss aglow and sparkling across the brooks, though the wind has chapped my cheeks.

It's beautiful, but the mileage is a lot. This evening, I soaked in a cold bath for fifteen minutes while eating a plastic cup of instant noodles. I was hungry and sore, and our B&B host wasn't seating for dinner until seven.

We didn't give ourselves much leeway. Sitting at the table in February, I remember looking at the table of distances, thinking seven hours a day sounded about right. Eileen probably pushed back; she prefers not to go over five. But the Wicklow Way is not well supported, so in the end, we didn't have much choice.

This path, Ireland's oldest signposted long walk, was only opened in 1981. Unlike other long walks in Europe, this is no ancient pilgrimage. As such, the infrastructure is more or less whatever was there already. In this case, that means: very little lodging available directly on route, but also camping is not allowed. Few towns; no groceries, and hopefully there's a pub for dinner. If you need a bathroom — good luck, there's nothing.

The sparsity of amenities makes the Wicklow Way a surprising combination of expensive and grueling. The length of each day's walk was determined almost solely by our ability to find a place to sleep, so we're doing it in fewer days than recommended.

We booked in February, but it barely helped; the towns are small and scarce. We've added substantial mileage both days so far just to have a place to rest as close as we could find to the trail. There's little bus service and few taxis. At the end of the day, we trudge down the side of the road, only to check in to posh little B&Bs with 8am breakfast hours and at least three bed pillows per person.

On the other hand, it's gorgeous. As any endurance athlete can attest, scenery that astonishes when encountered in the first hour fails to delight in the fifth. This is me, writing at 9:30pm. I remember this morning falling in love with the banks of the Glencree River: wood sorrel and violets, shamrocks and bracken, moss-covered…