Monday, December 14, 2009

Stepping Back Into History - The Kilbride Circuit

View from Seefin

Classification: Dillon, Hewitt, Marilyn
Range: Wicklow Mountains
Mapsheet: 56
Walked previously

Kilbride Circuit
Date First Walked: Decemeber 12th 2009
Range: Wicklow Mountains
Mapsheet: 56
Distance: 11km

1. Seefin
Classification: Dillon
Height: 621 metres
County: Wicklow
My Dillon Count: 20

2. Seefingan
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt
Height: 724 metres
County: Dublin/Wicklow
My Dillon Count: 21

3. Corrig Mountain
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt
Height: 618 metres
County: Dublin/Wicklow
My Dillon Count: 22

4. Seahan
Classification: Dillon, Hewitt
Height: 648 metres
County: Dublin/Wicklow
My Dillon Count: 23

After what seemed like an eternity of weekends cancelled due to the Irish weather, the incessant rain finally stopped and the wind died down giving us a much-welcomed chance to get back out onto the hills. The varying plans for successive previous weekends, all of which had been cancelled, had included a walk up Croagh Patrick, a traverse of the Knockmealdowns and a walk in the Mournes. With the forecast predicting a dry weekend, we settled on a trip down to Wicklow having decided that negotiating the pre-christmas traffic around Newry would rule out the Mournes. I was joined on the trip by my neighbour Jason.

Compared to other ranges around the country, the rounded granite mountains of Wicklow can seem quite dull while the raised and blanket bog covering the range can make for very heavy going in places. In the past, I've struggled to get enthuaistic about a trip to Wicklow but this was overcome somewhat by the choice of an interesting circuit of the Kilbride Rifle Range to take in the 'Three Sees', namely the mountains of Seefin, Seegingan and Seahan, all of which were topped with passage tombs. The circuit also takes in the boggy hump of Corrig Mountain.

To add further flavour to the morning, we decided that we'd combine a recently resurrected hobby of running with our interest in hillwalking by staring off the morning with a run up the access road to the summit of Kippure. And so, at 9am on a cold Saturday morning, we found ourselves limbering up beside the gate at the foot of the access road looking up at the cloud-covered summit of Kippure for a glimpse of the RTE transmitter. Around 25 minutes later, I rounded the far corner of the fence enclosing the mast to reach the lonely trig pillar. Next step is to try out some hill-running proper! This was the second time I'd stood at the highest point of Dublin and like the last time, I was denied any view of the surrounding hills and could only catch glimpses of the 120 metre high mast as the clouds scurried by.

Jason nearing the top of Kippure

Job done
Feeling sumg after running up Kippure

After a leisurely jog back down the road and a bar of chocolate, a short drive took us to Kilbride Rifle Range outside which there is room for parking. From outside the range, a short walk along the road in a southerly direction takes you to it's edge where a fence runs uphill along a forest. You will pass a flag-pole which indicates whether or not firing is taking place in the range. It's then simply a case of following the edge of the forest uphill until it swings right at which point you need to take a bearing uphill. In keeping with my experience of the Wicklow Hills to date, navigation is easy due to a distinct track which leads all the way to the large cairn marking the summit of Seefin.

The Fool on the Hill
Jason atop Seefin

The impressive passage tomb is something of a miniature Newgrange and is the most interesting of the circuit. You will need to be both slim and agile to squeeze through the very narrow portal into the equally narrow and dark passage. However, you don't necessarily have to squeeze through the passage to get to the burial chamber itself as the roof of Seefin is open, presumably having collapsed at some stage in the distant past. A short and easy walk up Seefin would be the perfect walk for children who would enjoy exploring the cairn. Seefin marked something of a minor milestone for me being the 20th Dillon that I had climbed to date.

On the summit of Seefin
Me on the passage tomb atop Seefin

Kilbride Circuit
Seahan, Corrig and Seefingan viewed from below seefin

Bogtrotting in the Wicklow hills
Jason crossing from Seefin to Seefingan

From Seefin, a short walk of about 1km along the edge of the firing range in a north-easterly direction takes you to Seefingan. A small section of boggy ground needs to be negotiated between the hills before reaching the broad summit of Seefingan. The cairn on Seefingan is similar in size to that of Seefin but unlike it's neighbour, it doesn't have a portal or chamber although an indentation on the east side of the cairn looks like it could have been a passage entrance. The cairn is topped by a concrete pillar which marks the edge of the firing range. The cairn is positioned away from the summit proper, presumably as it's position would make it more visible from the ground below. The summit proper is around 200 metres away from the cairn towards Kippure and for completionists, some very boggy ground has to be encountered to reach the top which is marked with a firing range sign.

View from Seefingan
View from the cairn on Seefingan

'Nearly There'
Approaching the summit proper of Seefingan

On Seefingan's Summit
Me at the summit proper of Seefingan

Seefingan Cairn
Walking across to the cairn on Seegingan

Next up is a longer slog across boggy ground towards Corrig Mountain, the poor relation of the circuit but a 'Dillon' nonetheless. The trudge was made worthwhile as the cloud-cover began to move away opening up stunning views across the Wicklow Mountains, the summit cone of the Great Sugar loaf poking out over the distant hills looking very much like one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The summit of Corrig is marked by another concrete pillar stood in the middle of a boggy pool. What the summit lacks in appearance, it makes up for with excellent views out to Dublin with Howth and Ireland's Eye visible to the North of the capital.

Heading for Corrig Mountain
Heading for Corrig Mountain

Corrig Mountain
On the rather plain summit of Corrig Mountain

View from Corrig Mountain
View from Corrig across Dublin and Howth

A very distinct and wide track leads from Corrig to Seahan, the last top of the circuit. For the first time of the day, the sun broke through the grey clouds and illuminated and coloured the slopes of Seahan. A short and easy walk of about 1km takes you to the top which contains a passage tomb, a cairn and a wedge tomb. The summit is marked by a large trig pillar sat atop the cairn. Again, the views are excellent and the summit of Seahan offers the best perspective of the circuit which you have just walked, the previous three tops clearly visible. From Seahan, head south-easterly to meet a track which will take you back to the road from which a walk of around 2km will take you back to the entrance of the firing range.

Winter Light
A rare bit of sun lights up the slopes of Seahan

The last few steps
Jason climbing Seahan - Kippure mast visible in the background

Seahan Summit
Me at the summit of Seahan

The circuit of the Kilbride Rifle Range offers the ideal walk for a winter's day. At 11km, the circuit can be comfortably completed in 4 hours while the cairns offer plenty of interest during the walk. It might be worth considering doing the route in reverse (Seahan first) thereby keeping the best tombs until last.

More Photos

Seefingan Cairn
Time out on Seefingan

The sun breaks through the clouds over the Wicklow Mountains (from Seahan)

Descending Seahan
Descending Seahan - Find the track and you are grand!

Seefingan and Seefin
Seefingan and Seefin

On the slopes of Seahan
On the slopes of Seahan

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