Hike Number 2
Glencullen to Tibradden Along the Dublin Mountains Way
Want to go hiking but you don’t have your own transport?
Or you have your own transport but want to avoid using it unless absolutely necessary?
If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then read on; this one might just be for you!
So you might be wondering what’s so hidden about the well publicised and popular Dublin Mountains Way. I agree it might be a bit of a stretch to describe this hike as little known and off the beaten path, but what’s special about this point to point, is you can get to the start and back from the finish by public transport. Yes, you read that correctly! Now, there is one caveat in that these services only run on weekdays – at least for the moment and we can always hope or even lobby for this to change – so for the weekend hikers, you’re back to the car drops. But for a mid-week escapade, sneaky or planned, this might just hit the spot!
In fact, the public transport journeys, courtesy of Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead, are part of the charm of what converts this pleasant and scenic 3 hour hike into a 5 hour excursion, or, if stopping for lunch and maybe an apres-hike drink – all things permitting, of course – a full day’s outing!
When I lead this day trip with groups myself, the meet point is generally at the bus terminus in Dundrum, beside the LUAS station (green line), so plenty of options between public transport and parking, on street or in the old shopping centre carpark. The trusty 44b bus is the one, as it winds its way up Ballyedmonduff Road, Dublin’s Khyber Pass! In your pre-planning, do study the timetable, as the trip to Glencullen is not the most frequent.
44b bus journey along Ballyedmonduff Road
While technically still in county Dublin, the cosy, rustic feel of Glencullen suggests a land far away. Bus stops are more miss than hit , so tell the driver to drop you at The Gap, or just ring the bell after turning right at the village crossroads. Timetable permitting, this can be done in the opposite direction, when a visit to the popular Johnny Fox’s Pub might offer some welcome food and drink post hike. But this way, head through the gate on the right hand side, leaving the road to follow a driveway for 500m or so to The Gap cafe. At the carpark, you’ll see the mountain bike centre on your right. To your left, is the cafe, where you might like a cuppa and a snack and a toilet break before heading along the way marked trail that is the Dublin Mountains Way.
The well defined track starts in a southwesterly direction initially, then veers northwesterly into a gentle climb before turning back in a northeasterly direction. It’s almost as if the 180 degree turn was designed so the hiker can take in the full vista, like a pilot might turn an airplane so its passengers can marvel at the scenes below. In all but poor visibility, the expanse of the southeast Wicklow mountains, from the Sugar Loaf right up to the Dublin mountains, afford breath taking views.
A short diversion takes us to the first of 3 megalithic burial tombs on this hike, and Ballyedmonduff, estimated to be between 4,000 and 4,500 years old and regarded as one of the finest wedge tomb in these parts, is well worth it. Remove and Replant that is underway in the Dublin mountains, a long term project to restore a mixture of native and non-native tree species, is starkly apparent in these before and after photographs I took of the tomb. Decide yourself which setting you prefer!
Balledmonduff Wedge Tomb 2019
Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb 2021
The route demonstrates its wonderful variety of surroundings as the trail now passes through the almost spooky dark green conifers, and it is well marked as it needs to be. Then, turning right onto a forest road to arrive at Three Rock, this could be a good spot to stop, grab a wee drink or a snack and take in the view over Dublin city and bay area.
The trail now heads back south-southwest up a somewhat quaint stoney path. Leaving the tree cover, any wind seems amplified on the exposed hillside approaching the highest point and the older, and never excavated cairn tomb at the summit of Two Rock, also known as Fairy Castle. Beside the summit is the unmissable trig pillar, a relic of the 1960’s re-triangulation of Ireland and only made redundant by the use of GPS technologies. Weather may well dictated how long or short one might linger here.
The next section follows what best resembles a ridge in the Dublin mountains, with its classic rounded granite features, but with wonderful views, this time Glendoo Mountain and Glencullen valley to the left, and Dublin to the right. The path ahead is fast or gently downhill until a right turn into Tibradden, from Tigh Bhrodain – The House of Brodin. Climbing gently to its summit, follow a sign and sleepers to the the third and final tomb, said to be the burial place of the ancient warrior, Glun Dubh – Black Knee. En route, from late July and August, some wild fraughans or bilberries may be seen among the heather to the right of the path.
Two Rock Summit with Cairn Tomb and Trig Pillar
Descending Tibradden in a Light Dusting of Snow
From here it’s down hill all the way as Montpellier Hill, site of the notorious Hell Fire Club looms into view. A spooky tale or two here might shorten the final leg to the finish. The repurposed railway sleepers are a welcome addition, courtesy of Mountain Meitheal, not just to keep a firm footing but also to prevent erosion, as the trail enters Tibradden forest. If having arranged a car drop, follow the path as it zig zags down to the car park. Otherwise, veer right and continue to the more secluded northern forest egress to join the aptly named Mutton Lane in its surrounding farmland. In late Autumn, it may be tempting to linger to pick some blackberries, abundant in the briars that flank the quiet boreen.
If you fancy a lunch stop, then the quaint, rustic Hazel House coming up on the left is just the spot. A true treasure offering wood fired pizzas on Fridays and Saturdays, and who grow their own veg. Open for takeaway only at the time of writing, but hopefully, soon…….
Follow the road downhill and up again to the hairpin bend at the entrance to Rockbrook school. Just down the main road on the left is the 161 bus stop. If you’re early or late for the bus, or just fancy a tipple, The Merry Ploughboy is only a short hop down the road.
Following Tibradden Forest Trail
Map, Profile & Metrics
The hike itself is approximately 12km or 7.5 miles and will take about 3 hours at a leisurely pace. Allow extra time for getting to and from, depending on your mode of transport.
The 44b bus runs between Dundrum and Glencullen Mon – Fri. The service is relatively infrequent, but the departure time that works best for me for this hike leaves Dundrum, beside the LUAS station, at 8:50am. See Timetable
Returning, the 161 bus runs between Rockbrook and Dundrum Mon – Fri. There are several afternoon departure times from Rockbrook. See Timetable
If doing a car drop, parking is available at Glencullen Adventure Park (The Gap) car park for a modest daily fee of just €2. At the other end, parking is free in the Coillte car park at Tibradden, but this regularly fills up, especially at weekends.
The Gap Kitchen is the perfect spot for the last minute fuel up or just a relaxing sip and a much before starting the hike, open Wed – Sun
The Hazel House is a rustic cafe tucked away beneath Tibradden mountain. As well as super home grown food, they have a craft shop, a petting farm and woodwork school, where you can even make your own pizza!
The Merry Ploughboy another option just down the road if you fancy a pint.
If dong this hike in the opposite direction, you might fancy taking a step back in time an visit Johnny Foxes
EastWest Mapping North Wicklow and Dublin
OSI Map Sheet 56, Discovery Series