Clara Vale loop walks are a hidden gem in Co Wicklow, nestled between Rathdrum and Laragh. We stumbled across it in October (before the lockdown, thankfully), after going across the narrowest bridge I’ve ever seen!
From the trail head at the car park, there are three looped walks: 2km, 5.6km, and 9.5km. We chose the 5.6km and it’s a beauty. Clara Nature Reserve is a natural woodland area, so it’s a mix of pine, oak, and elm and layers of mixed vegetation. You’ll be able to spot willow, birch, hazel, as well as shaded groves perfect for bluebells in season. There are no tall columns of neatly planted trees – it’s all mixed up and wonderful for it.
Clara Vale loop walk meanders around
The great thing about the Clara Vale loop walks are, one, that they are loops! I’m no fan of the straight over and back routes. But, best of all, our 5km trail meandered around, so you had no real sense of where you were. It is well sign-posted so there’s no fear of getting lost. And, around each corner, a new vista opened up.
According to one of the information panels at the entrance, Clara Vale Nature Reserve contains the remains of a vast oak woodland that once covered much of east Wicklow. There’s even a link to Napoleon. Seemingly, oak was felled here for ship building during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Avonmore Way passes through here, aptly named after the Avonmore River, which runs along the eastern boundary. Along the way, you can listen to the birdsong, as crossbills, dippers, jay, and woodcock are just a few of the feathered variety here.
Wicklow mountains stunning
There are different entrances to the Clara Vale loop walks. We used the entrance just up the hill from Clara Vale church beside the bridge on the road off the R755 Rathdrum-Laragh road (There’s an Irish set of directions if ever there was one!). We looped north and came out to walk downhill back towards the entrance – and the views of the Wicklow mountains were amazing. You can’t really appreciate those views in the woodland, but they are worth seeing.
A wonderful walk at any time of the year – but the Autumnal colours will be stunning just now! It was just great to discover a new walk in Wicklow, one of the most scenic counties in the country, surely!