Locals unhappy at closed gate blocking access to walk
Keep Ireland Open are supporting a planned protest walk to the Lighthouses on Wicklow Head on Saturday 16th September 2023 at 2pm. The protest will leave from the Glen Turn carpark and walk out along the public footpath to the Lighthouse Road and the lighthouses. Protesters want Wicklow County Council (WCC) to re-establish and make permanent access to the first two Lighthouse sites together with access right out to Wicklow Head.
Concerns have been raised by councillors during the year at the arbitrary closure of part of the access road to the Lighthouses on Wicklow Head, a Special Protection Area, by a local landowner but there seems to be no progress on sorting out this issue. Whilst WCC are to be commended for their registration of the Cliff Walk as a Right of Way and development and maintenance of the looped cliff walk, this is only accessible to those with good mobility.
Many locals use the Lighthouse Road for exercise, birdwatching, photography and other outdoor pursuits as it is a suitable surface to access the countryside within walking distance from the town. Traditionally this walk has been enjoyed by townspeople but recent years have seen locked gates, security guards and confrontations between one landowner and walkers. Fintan Clarke, a local activist of long standing, recalls this route has been used for as long as he can remember, ”This Irish Lights roadway has provided the only connection that people have with Wicklow Head, the most Easterly point of the Republic. It is a place of enormous national interest not alone because of its natural beauty but also because of its built heritage dating back to the late 1700’s. The people of Wicklow and potential visitors from further afield deserve better than to have this priceless heritage snatched away and one might ask what our public representatives intend to do about it”.
Wicklow Head Preservation Group member Sam Conway remembers when they entered the Lighthouse Road in the Pure Mile competition and won the Best Natural Heritage award. In order to enter the competition, permission was sought from the Irish Lights who maintain the road, “Irish Lights stated at the time that they had no problem with members of the public walking the road down through the years. Now we have the very sad situation that people are deprived of walking the full length of the road […] and the Irish Lights and Wicklow County Council it would seem are unable or unwilling to get involved.”
Locals during the recent pandemic experienced the importance of access to a quiet, natural landscape for health, both physical and mental – and this benefit should not be denied by the actions of one individual. Direct action now is called for. Chairperson of Keep Ireland Open Robert Dowds believes this walk is an example of the problems with current legislation, “Even if Wicklow County Council negotiate a solution under the current legislation this could arise again. This is why Keep Ireland Open are campaigning for legislative change”. To show support for keeping the Lighthouse Road open meet at 2pm Glen Turn Carpark on Saturday 16th September.