Dublin is in a unique position for a capital city in that it has both mountains and sea at its doorstep.
We caught up with Melissa McDermott – Galz Gone Wild founder – and Ruth Farrell, to find out about the group of women who escape the city to find some scenic hush in the Wicklow mountains.
Mel founded the group after moving home from London last year. She found herself lacking direction, and she was unsure of her next step. She started to hike to clear her head, but the hiking community she found were mostly male and older. They were hiking for different reasons.
“There is a community there, but it’s very much about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. That’s not what I was about. I want to be able to meet new people, have a chat and use nature for healing.” she says.
Now I have a new group of wonderful, supportive women behind me
Over the next few months, Mel undertook a solo hike through the Wicklow Way. She admits it was a bit naïve; she had to leave the trail after three days having picked up an injury. She realised how helpful it would have been to have other women by her side, and with that, Galz Gone Wild was born.
Over the past eight months, the group have gone on numerous hikes. Along the way, they have inspired one another, celebrated the outdoors, shared adventures and created a fast-growing and connected community.
“Everyone is individual, but there’s a shared openness to try something new, even if you’re a bit scared about meeting new people. Galz Gone Wild is about having the freedom to go out into nature and have the comfort of being with a group of women.”
While there are different reasons for wanting to take part in GGW, it’s clear that everyone in the group has a shared motivation – to get outside and make some friends.
this was more than just getting outdoors. It was about encouragement and support
“I remember our first hike. I was so emotional. The conversations I was having with these women showed me that this was more than just getting outdoors. It was about encouragement and support.”
For Ruth Farrell, GGW has formed the backbone of her adult friendships. “It’s no secret that it’s hard to make new friends as we get older, but not with GGW. Now I have a new group of wonderful, supportive women behind me to hike, hang and drink with. It’s the community that makes GGW extraordinary. It’s a very inspiring thing to be part of. Mel is an amazing leader, and the energy she brings to the group is infectious. In no time at all, you’ll have made friends with everyone else on the hike and be having great craic.”
GGW has had a busy few months with sunrise hikes, yoga adventures and sauna trips in the Wicklow Mountains, but the year ahead has even bigger things in store. Mel is looking to expand the group countrywide and to share her skills with a group of ambassadors.
“I’d love to have a Galz Gone Wild in every county, with ambassadors getting women out into nature. There’s such a lack of women in the outdoor industry. I’d like to get more 22-35-year-olds outside.”
Galz Gone Wild is a force of nature. Rain, hail, snow or shine; these women are motivating each other to push their boundaries – physically and emotionally – and mastering 15km hikes and yoga while they do it!
If you’d like to get involved, visit GGW on Instagram. All levels are welcome to join, and whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you’ll gain solace, friendship and even some muck on your boots.
The people, places and things that make Dublin special.
James Caulfeild, the 1st Earl of Charlemont, was a man who did things with style, and then some.
His townhouse on Parnell St, which now houses the Hugh Lane Art Gallery, reflected his elegant, artistic nature, and was initially designed as an adornment to the city, where paintings by Rembrandt and Titian hung. When he embarked upon his Grand Tour – the 18th century equivalent of a gap year – he spent a rather impressive 9 years taking in the delights of Italy, Turkey, Greece and Egypt and became close friends with the future King of Sardinia. As you do.
One lasting souvenir from Caulfeild’s travels was a deep love of everything Italian, resulting in one of Dublin’s most beautiful buildings. After his Grand Tour, Caulfeild commissioned the Scottish-Swedish architect Sir William Chambers to design a summerhouse on the grounds of his main residence, Marino House. The latter, which he named after the Italian town, was torn down in the 1920s to make way for affordable housing, but the Casino at Marino (casino meaning ‘small house’ in Italian – it’s nothing to do with gambling), completed in 1775, still stands and is often regarded as the finest example of Neoclassical architecture in Dublin. Better still, these days it’s open to the public.
It’s the element of surprise that hits you every time you visit the Casino, which took around 20 years to complete. Sure, it might look relatively modest from the outside, but the building actually contains a whopping 16 rooms across 3 floors – size-wise, it’s about the same as a modern family home, albeit the one of your dreams. So much of the Casino is smoke and mirrors: the huge front door is an illusion, with only two panels opening to allow entry, while some of the Tuscan columns surrounding the Casino are actually hollow, to allow rainwater to drain down. The interiors include a state bedroom, reception rooms, kitchen and servants’ quarters, as well as a wine cellar. Rich parquet floors made from rare African and South American woods, ornate plasterwork ceilings and beautiful fireplaces are but some of the exquisite design features; then there’s The Zodiac Room, a study decorated in symbols reflecting Caulfield’s interest in astrology. It’s all terribly beautiful and harmonious and wonderfully judged, and it’s no surprise that it’s become a popular wedding destination.
Rather intriguingly, 8 tunnels lead from the Casino, but their exact purpose remains unclear. One tunnel, which originally connected the Casino to the main house and was subsequently boarded up, was probably used by servants running between the two establishments. There are also rumours that the tunnels were used for target practice during the War of Independence, with the stonework dulling the sound of gunfire.
Although Caulfeild’s son succeeded him, the Earldom died out in 1837 and the Casino fell into disrepair. A major restoration took place in the 1980s and a subsequent revamp happened in 2014, with some controversy surrounding the latter. Once upon a time, the erudite and well-travelled James Caulfeild would have enjoyed a series of formidable sea views from his pocket palace, when the surrounding area was still countryside. Suburban sprawl means that those views are no longer available, but a trip to the Casino still provides a fascinating and visually arresting insight into the life and tastes of a rather fashionable 18th century Earl.
Cherrymount Crescent, Off Malahide Road, Marino. See casinomarino.ie for more details.