Hill Walking Lugnaquilla – Wicklow
Highest Peak in Wicklow and Leinster
3 Ways to Walk or Hike Lugnaquilla
Lugnaquilla is the highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains at 1003m and the highest in Ireland outside of Co Kerry. On a clear day, the views from the summit are truly awesome. You will see most of the east of the country and Wales on the other side of the Irish Sea.
It is not a mountain for beginners but certainly one to aim for once you have gained some knowledge and experience of hiking in Wicklow. It is often clouded in mists so hiking Lugnaquilla will truly test your navigational skills in bad weather as the mountain rescue services can confirm.
Top Tips for Hill Walking Lugnaquilla:
- Good Waterproof Walking Boots and Rain Gear are essential.
- Bring a good hearty lunch, stop at the peak (weather permitting), enjoy the views, listen to the skylarks, watch the sheep, look at the clouds!
- Take a picture of any map/route information if available at the trailhead.
- Take note of Coillte car park closing times.
- Check the military artillery sessions via The Irish Army website.
- Access is mainly over private land – No Dogs are allowed, on leads or otherwise, as a result of sheep killings by runaway pets.
- Be prepared by brushing up on your navigational skills, having lots of layers, food and water.
- Hilltoptreks offers guided hikes on Lugnaquilla as well as Mountain Skills courses.
- Afterwards, you are guaranteed a hearty meal and a lovely pint in The Glenmalure Lodge or Fenton’s pub depending on the route you take.
Lugnaquilla, or Lug for short, tops three valleys, the Glenmalure Valley to the east, the Ow Valley to the south and the Glen of Imaal to the west. We have chosen 1 route via each of these valleys.
The highest point is a large flat, grassy summit bounded by the sheer cliffs of the North Prison and South Prison. The views and the high winds blowing up and over these cliffs can take your breath away for entirely different reasons. Navigating your way in cloud between these two treacherous precipices can be disorientating and confusing and the most common reason people get lost on Lugnaquilla. Hilltoptreks offers guided hikes in the Wicklow Mountains including Lugnaquilla.
Warning: This is a high mountain route and should only be undertaken by those with navigational skills and who are fully equipped with waterproof rainwear, warm clothing, food and proper footwear.
Respect the mountains – Check the weather, plan your route, bring a map and know how to use a compass, let someone know your plan and wear the proper gear.
Hill Walking Lugnaquilla from Baravore, Glenmalure Valley
Start: Baravore, Glenmalure Valley
Walk Length: Approx. 12 to 17km
Height Gain of 900m,
Time Approx. 5/6 hrs
Map: OSI Discovery 1:50 – Sheet 56 or East West Mapping 1:25 – Lugnaquilla & Glendalough.
Trail Head Large Public Car Park at Baravore
The most popular and challenging access route to hike Lugnaquilla is from the Baravore carpark at the end of the Glenmalure Valley. We call this the Fraughan Rock Glen hike. It is not trail marked but there are paths worn by sheep, goats, deer and hikers. On a clear day, they are easy to follow but when the cloud descends, it is map and compass time. Mobile signal is patchy at best which is another attraction of this area!
The Fraughan Rock Glen hike up to Lugnaquilla is difficult and the descent can be via northeast to Clohernagh and then north to Arts Lough and back to the Baravore carpark or continue east to the Zigzags from Clohernagh, having left a car there enroute to Baravore. Of course, you can ascend and descend the same way too. This Lug hike is 12km and will take 5 to 6 hours depending on weather and fitness.
Glenmalure Valley and History:
The Glenmalure Valley is a fine U-shaped glacial valley and the scene of one of the rare Irish military victories over the English Army. In 1580, Feagh McHugh O’Byrne and his band of rebels defeated a 3000 strong English Army at the Battle of Glenmalure.
Following the 1798 Rebellion, the valley became home to the great rebel, Michael O’Dwyer and his followers. They waged a guerrilla war of attrition on the English forces, so much so, that combined with the ever-present threat of a Napoleonic invasion, they decided to build a new road, north/south, across the top of the Wicklow Mountain range linked by five massive military barracks.
Today, this 58km road is still called the Military Road, running from Rathfarnham in Co Dublin to Aughavannagh in south Co Wicklow with a side arm to the top of the Glencree Valley from Enniskerry.
It is wonderfully scenic, and took 8 years to complete long after Michael O’Dwyer and Napoleon had surrendered. Needless to say, the Barracks had a very short-lived existence but the locals made great use of the road and bridges!
Hill Walking Lugnaquilla from the Glen of Imaal.
Start: Fenton’s Pub, Glen of Imaal.
Walk Length: Approx. 12km
Height Gain of 750m,
Time Approx. 5 hrs
Map: OSI Discovery 1:50 – Sheet 56
Trail Head: Car Park available at Fenton’s Pub. (Be considerate and buy something on your return to thank then for the use of their car park)
From the other side or the west, the Glen of Imaal to Lugnaquilla Hike is also popular being slightly shorter and easier underfoot.
However, another warning. This route goes straight through an Irish Army artillery range so check with The Irish Army website for the route closures. It is important to stick to the path due to unexploded ordnance about the place. The area with the red diagonal lines is the artillery range.
Like the Fraughan Rock Glen route, this Wicklow Hike is not trail marked. We start from Fenton’s Glen of Imaal pub, hike along the military access route up and over Camarahill with great views over the midlands of Ireland. Following the spur, it is a steady climb, being wary of the North Prison on your left, up to the cairn at the top of Lugnaquilla. Descend via the same route.
This Lug hike is about 12km and will take about 4 hrs depending on weather and fitness. As with any hike of Lugnaquilla, plan your route and bring a map and compass knowing how to use them.
Hill Walking Lugnaquilla from the south via the Ow Valley
Start: Slievenamough (TO25856), Ow Valley
Walk Length: Approx. 17km
Height Gain of 722m,
Time Approx. 6-7 hrs
Map: OSI Discovery 1:50 – Sheet 56
Trail Head: Small Car Park.
Starting at Slievenamough (TO25856) climb up through the forest trails of the Slievebwee Woods and out onto open moorland north to Carrigatheme. Then heading northwest via Lybagh, Slievemaan turning northeast to Lugnaquilla taking care not to walk over the North Prison! Descend the same way.
The ground underfoot will be wet and boggy in places. This route is 17km with a height gain of 722m. Allow 6 hours at least for this Lug hike depending on weather and fitness. And, again, plan your route, bring a map and compass knowing how to use them.
Walking and local information:
Map: For this section of Wicklow and Lugnaquilla , we recommend OSI Sheets 56 or East West Mapping – Lugnaquilla and Glenmalure.
Lugnaquilla is a strenuous walk from any direction to it’s summit and all care must be taken.
Food and Drink: The Glenmalure Lodge offer great food and accommodation for before or after your walk.