Dawn Run: Dublin Mountains Way

Since we don’t have late nights and wild social lives now, it’s an opportunity to get up early and enjoy the best part of the day. The dawn and sunrise are a feast for the senses. The bird song starts after 3am. Gradually a lone blackbird is joined by a robin and it grows into a crescendo.

Your eyes adapt to the darkness, with moonlight or streetlight to guide you. The sky changes colour. Starting over the eastern horizon, it turns from dark blue to lighter hues. Very gradual, spotted if there are clouds.

The roads are empty save for a roaming fox, who is the boss of the night. You hear your every breath and footsteps in the calm air. No need for headphones to distract in such a peaceful world. The busy city reverts to the home of nature. All the wonder and life that it holds, usually hidden from our bustling lives.

For the past two weeks I’ve kickstarted my weekends by getting up for dawn run. Last week it was a Sunrise Marathon for Pieta House. This week no challenge or time pressure. My route this time was to cover the first part of the Dublin Mountains Way – a 42km trail that runs from Shankill near the coast to Tallaght in west Dublin, traversing the mountains in between. I completed part of it, all within my 5km from home limit.

It was a still, mild night so I started in the darkness at 4am. Street lighting helped all the way to Shankill, passing Cabinteely and along the empty N11. Starting at Brady’s pub, it gradually climbs to Rathmichael Wood. The sky was turning orange behind me now. I hoped to reach a height to be able to enjoy the vista.

Carrickgollogan was where it exploded into colour. Pinks, oranges, purples, reds. All behind me over Killiney and Bray. Spectacular. A few ferries arriving in from Hollyhead and Liverpool were the only moving objects. That’s the moment I had hoped for. A real adrenaline rush, even if the birds didn’t seem to notice me.

Onto Barnaslingan, but first I had a brief fall on a rock in the woods. No damage, just a few skin scrapes on my hands. The views from the rocky outcrop of the Scalp were wonderful, with the Enniskerry Road below and the Sugarloaf nearly within touching distance.

Over towards the ski slope in Kilternan. A new trail I had never explored. The security man was there at 5:30am protecting the finished shell of a Celtic Tiger hotel that never was. So sad, such a waste. Anyway, I got to run up the ski slope – all 2 minutes, so not exactly an Alpine climb. Passing a Fairy Village on the boardwalk and a massive stable yard with gallops.

Out onto Killegar Road, then onto familiar roads up to Glencree. Past a silent Johnnie Fox’s pub, into GAP and a moment of stillness as shafts of light shine down on Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb. Worth a visit alone. On up towards Three Rock – this time I noticed there are actually three rocks! Past four teenage lads. What are they up there at 6am for? Two girls chatting at Two Rock.

Wow. Stop, do a 360. The Sugarloaf over there, then Bray Head, Killiney Hill, Dublin Bay, the Mourne Mountains visible above the horizon over 80 miles away. Howth and Ireland’s Eye, Poolbeg towers, Dublin Airport, the M50, Dundrum Luas bridge, Leopardstown racecourse, Kilmashogue and the Kippure masts. Glencullen valley, Prince Edward’s Seat. Such a diverse topography in all directions.

Back down to Ticknock, a jaunt through the lovely Fernhill Gardens, on that new connector trail, then home via Ballyogan. Well over 3 hours later, happy, a few cuts, tired legs but not exhausted.

Along the way there was so much nature. I was interrupting lots of birds and animals going about their early morning forage for food. Deer, foxes, chaffinch, goldfinch, sparrow, wren, robin, blackbird, magpie, thrush, crow, dove and even a peacock shrieking. No swallow or cuckoo. Here’s hoping next Saturday. I hope you get outside and enjoy all that’s on your doorstep.

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