Art O'Neill Walk, Co Wicklow

In early January, robust hikers trek for over 50 km through the Wicklow mountains. The long walk starts at midnight on a weekend around 6 January from Dublin Castle to recall the escape from there of Red Hugh O'Donnell and Art O'Neill in the severe winter of 1592.


The hike for over 14 hours is not for the faint-hearted. The route from Ballinascorney follows rural roads near Kilbride to Ballynultagh Gap above the Blessington Lakes. For about 20 km the challenging trek crosses rough terrain by Black Hill and Glenbride, to Ballinagee Bridge on the Wicklow Gap Road between Glendalough and Hollywood.

Across the King's River, the mountain route reaches Art's Cross which is marked on the map. The cross and a plaque recall the death in January 1592 of Art O'Neill. A rescue party sent by Wicklow chieftain, Feagh Mc Hugh O'Byrne, buried O'Neill on the mountainside but Red Hugh O'Donnell survived.

Tough trekkers continue to Glenmalure, the O'Byrne stronghold. For an easier walk of a few hours, start in daylight from near Ballinagee Bridge. Go through forests and along Glenreemore Brook to Art's Cross and recall a heroic ill-fated escape.

Tony Quinn

More: OS Discovery map 56;'Neill
Red Hugh O'Donnell and the Nine Years  War, D McGettigan, 2005