The Art O’Neill 2015

by John Shiels

A long cold night followed by a cold bright dawn and freezing fog at the top of the mountain, so how was your Friday night?

Once again the 200 hard souls headed off from Dublin Castle in the centre of Dublin towards Glenmalure 53km away at the other end of the Wicklow mountains. The event recreates the famous escape of Red Hugh O’Donnell, Art O’Neil and his brother Henry from the castle in 1592 (believed to be the only successfully escape attempt from the castle in its history). Action Photography’s John Shiels was there to see them all off and then follow them on their trail southwards through the night.

The first group left the Castle at midnight and planned to walk the entire way. they were followed an hour later by the runners who were planing on running the first 30km road section to Checkpoint  one and then walking the remaining cross county sections to the finish via CP 2 and Art’s Cross. At 2 am the Ultra runners left hot on their heals with the intention of running the entire route, course record is around 5.5 hours.

The temperature was above freezing in the city centrer but soon dropped below zero up in the hills above Dublin. By the time I got to stone cross there was snow on the road and only the fact I have Snow tires on the van I’d have been taking the long way round to Check Point one (CP1). CP1 Was an oasis of light and heat in the forests near black hill with hot soup, tea and coffee courtesy of the “Last lap cafe”. Two large fire pits where very welcome but hard to leave  after 4 hours walking but somehow they manages to head off south again. Volunteers from the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team operated the checkpoint and took 60 of the participants across the hills in 3 guided groups.


Dawn saw me at CP2 where the scouts of the 65th Dublin (Greenhills) Scout Group had hot porridge and an other log fire to tempt the weary from completing the walk. with the sun up   (somewhere behind the clouds) I headed up to Art’s Cross with a group of walkers before letting the keep going while I took photos (which is also a euphemism for getting my breath back).

Arriving at the cross at it was below freezing, covered in snow and not the kinda place to be hanging around but I did anyway. The first guide group came trooping over the hill about 10 minutes later so we took a few selfies and went our separate ways, me back to CP 2 and they continued on to the three lakes and the finish.20150117_APL-1178On the way back to CP 2 I meet a number of peopel who were self guiding and still going strong despite being up for 36 hours at this stage. Remember most, if not all, had put in a full day at work before heading to the castle on Friday night.



Back down to the memorial plaque at the foot of the very steep drag up from to the cross I came across the remaining two guided groups who were still smiling despite the cliff rearing up in front of them.20150117_APL-1274