Gettin Out of the City!
So, I’ve been in Dublin for a little bit now and, having come from a beautiful state such as Minnesota, I wanted to go for a hike. My friends and I got together a group of students and decided to check out this funny sounding trail in the mountains surrounding Dublin.
Ticknock is located in the Dublin Mountains, only a half hour trip from the City Center. Take the 44B bus (or take a cab which would probably be faster than the bus, but more expensive). You can bike of course too, but the last hill before the parking lot of the trail is like climbing your own little mini mountain.
The Trail – It’s A Mountain Biker’s Dream!
We hiked the trail, but there is a fantastic mountain biking trail if you are so inclined. The hike is billed as a hike of moderate difficulty. And being of moderate physical ability myself, I’d say this was true. The Fairy Castle Loop is 5.5km long and billed to take 90-120 minutes. We did it in just over 2 hours, which is probably average. You climb 210 meters, so be prepared for wind and cold at the top! We had our beanies, scarves, and mittens out! The Fairy Castle Loop traverses sections of the Dublin Mountains Way and Wicklow Way, before returning to the car park via an old rifle range. The hike starts at the top of the car park and is marked by little green circles with white feet. So, follow the feet! And make sure you do because if you accidentally get on the biker trail – well, that might not end well.
The forested and mountain hike has some spectacular views of Dublin Bay, Dublin itself, Wicklow Mountains, Bray Head, and the Irish Sea. The forested path goes through plantations of Sitka spruce, Japanese larch, Monterey pine, Lodgepole pine, and Scots pine trees. It really is an amazing walk, and definitely worth the time of escaping the city.
If you decide to do the trail, which I highly recommend, be prepared! Make sure you have a warm and waterproof jacket, hiking boots or shoes that are also water proof, plenty of water, and a snack. The majority of the trail will be dry, but at one point you are walking through bogs, which can easily leave you with wet and cold feet – something that happened to one of my friends unfortunately.
The Fairy Castle, Atop Ticknock!
So if you’re lucky like me, you’ll have made some friends with Masters students from the Archeology program at UCD. If you haven’t, well I got you! Let me tell you what they told me. There is human history on this hike. It’s not visible in some places, but it’s there. The whole point of the hike, as one of my hiker buddies told me, was seeing the Fairy Castle at the Summit. This mound of stones actually sits on a passage tomb from the Bronze Age. You can no longer see the entrance, but can you imagine? A Tomb! From the Bronze Age! Seriously, wrap your head around that. One thing Minnesota doesn’t have is tombs from the Bronze Age that you just stumble upon during a hike through the woods.
Fun fact, the Fairy Castle is visible from many parts of the South County of Dublin. So, when you get to the summit and are standing next to the Castle, have a good look around, and wave! You never know who can see you, especially on a clear day. Back to the history though, the passage tomb beneath the surface is one of many Neolithic or Bronze Age tombs scattered throughout the area, but this is the highest one. The large collection of rocks forming the Castle is roughly in the shape of a pyramid. The tomb underneath had a height of 3 meters and some of the original circle of stones are thought to be still in position but have disappeared under the peat and vegetation. The entrance to the tomb, called “The Cave” at one point, has also disappeared under the peat bog – which was another source of excitement for my archeology friends.
The bogs were excitedly talked about by my friends because of the Bog Bodies. So, over the past centuries, people harvesting peat have found more than a thousand bodies and skeletons in bogs such as the one that is on this walk. Bog Bodies, according to my friends, pose very interesting questions. Some of the bodies recovered are children who poses deformities, but are at around 10 years old. This suggests that their families let them live through childhood with their deformities and then killed them when they were adults. Which is not what archeologists are used to finding, usually a child with a deformity are killed when they are just born, not allowed to go through childhood. All this brings up questions which archeologists can’t answer.
Don’t Forget the Rock!
The mound of rocks on the summit have gotten the name Fairy Castle because the Irish are suspicious. They believe in Fairies, even if they don’t actually admit it. There are Fairy Mounds and Fairy Trees, and all of them have enough superstitions around them that they don’t touch them if they can help it. Seriously, they even built a highway around a Fairy tree because they didn’t want to cut it down!
Same applies to the mound. Fairies built the mound and now the legend is that you have to bring them a pretty rock, leave it on the mound as a gift, and you’ll be blessed by the Fairies. We all did this, and there are plenty of rocks along the way to choose from, but don’t leave an ugly rock! They’ll take offense and curse you instead!
I seriously cannot express how amazing the views from the Castle are. The views alone are well worth the climb. If you’re in Ireland long enough, get out of Dublin and enjoy the many beautiful hikes. Ticknock, is well worth it.