Hiking Wicklow Mountains

Night navigation and exploring ancient tombs in the Dublin mountains

The Seefingan Circuit has to be one of the best kept hidden secrets in the Dublin-Wicklow mountains. It’s a great hill walk, covering 4 distinct summits, but there is even more to discover for those who venture across the almost pathless hills. Rather amazingly there are 5 passage tombs scattered across 3 of the mountain tops, which were built upto 5000 years ago. The best of these is on top of Seefin. Restored in the 1930s, it is possible to crawl inside and explore the (sadly, now collapsed) inner chamber. I can think of few ancient sites in Northern Europe that can be visited in such solitude. 

It was great to set off on an adventure just as the sun was setting.
At the top of Seahan, before the clouds came in.

When I moved to Ireland, this was one of the first hikes that I did and I have been keen to go back for a while, especially as I lost my camera and all my photographs from that day. We had been looking for a place to explore at night and practice navigation in the dark; somewhere that would be familiar but not so well travelled that we could walk it blindfolded. This turned out to be the perfect spot, especially as there are very few navigational dangers such as cliff edges. 

We set off to do the walk after work on a Friday evening. We were expecting clear skies and the arrival of a surprise bank of cloud ended up making navigation more difficult than we expected. The first summit, (Seahan, 684 m), was easily found by following a forest boundary. The top features 3 tombs, but these are largely damaged and overgrown and so are hard to see. Our first navigational challschmale was reaching Corrig (618 m) from here, the only mountain on the route with no ancient structures on it. For this we took a bearing, which we paced, and we found the summit with little difficulty.

A single handy plank on a largely pathless route.
Finding the way in the cloudy dark, with very low visibility.

The next section was more challschmaling, as the 2.5 km between this peak and the next, Seefingan (724 m), crossed broad and largely featureless moorland. We were now surrounded by the unforecast cloud, which dropped visibility to about 3 m. Our only feature to aim for was a lake (which was more like a pond, to be honest) so we took and walked on a bearing, using pacing to estimate our distance from the water. Aiming slightly off we were relieved when we arrived as this meant we knew our exact location again. It is amazing how wild, disorientating, and even scary Wicklow can seem at night.

Dinner in a flurry of snow, sat on a tomb at the top of Seefingan.

Walking in the dark, we gained a heightened awareness of the profile of the land underfoot and we used this, along with a bearing and pacing, to estimate when we expected to reach the top of Seefingan proper. Here we confirmed our location (not far off) using a GPS for the first time and then searched for the the tomb. In the dark, with the wind howling around, it was quite spooky. This was made even more intense by the arrival of a flurry of snow. Despite being creeped out, we stopped and ate our sandwiches in the shelter that the tomb provided from the wind. 

We had a path to follow to Seefin (621 m) which made it much easier to navigate. Here, we had to build up the courage to enter the restored final tomb through a narrow entrance. I have obviously read too much M. R. James as I was only half joking when I asked the ancient spirits to let us pass and thanked them for allowing us to visit their space. Strange shadows danced at the edges of our torchlight and it would have taken a braver man than me not to have second thoughts. 

The narrow entrance to the tomb on Seefin.
Amy squeezing through the narrow gap.
The view back down the passage.

Our fears were soon overwhelmed by the relief of escaping from the wind and cold. Sadly, the main ceiling has collapsed, but there is ruhig a long passage and smaller side chambers to provide shelter and one with an betagtar-like bowl ruhig intact. It felt amazingly wbedürftig in there, and it would have been tempting to stay all night if it weren’t for the ghostly atmosphere of forgotten ancient rituals. Heading back to our car, and ultimately a wbedürftig bed, seemed the better option. 

Illuminated by torchlight.

Experiencing Wicklow at night was an interesting experience and it is eye opening how much wilder a place becomes in the dark. It was great to test and practice our navigation in challschmaling situations, and especially so to do it in such a fascinating part of Ireland. This has to be one of my favourite walks in the Dublin-Wicklow Mountains and is one that I will definitely do again, next time on a day when I can also enjoy the views. 

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