Standing over 3,000ft, Lugnaquilla (Log na Coille, ‘hollow of the wood’) boasts a range of superlatives: Highest summit (and the only one that reaches Munro standards) in Leinster, highest in County Wicklow and the highest mountain-top in Ireland outside Kerry. It’s no surprise then that it’s such a draw for hikers who get a tremendous sense of achievement from scaling Leinster’s highest point. For many people, its lofty summit is just known as ‘Lug’. On a clear day, you can see all of the Wicklow Mountains and as far as the Dublin and south Leinster hills. If it’s very clear, you can even see the outline of the Welsh Snowdonia mountains across the sea.
Lug is a classic mountain with far-reaching views. I’ve done it a countless number of times going as far back as the 1990s. Today, unless I’m guiding, you’ll rarely see me up there at during the day. My favourites times to climb Lug is over the golden hour at sunrise and sunset, or a winter ascent when the mountain has a coat of snow – these are the moments that I can truly experience something really unique up on its summit plateau.
There are a number of approaches to Lug’s summit: from the east at Glenmalure, the south from the Ow Valley and the west from the Glen of Imaal. Being the highest mountain in Leinster, any route up Lug is strenuous and demands respect. However, this approach from the Glen of Imaal is by far the easiest in terms of distance and terrain. It’s also quite popular, especially at weekends.
Park at spaces adjacent to Fenton’s pub near the army base at Seskin (Grid Reference: S 973 935) then turn into a lane beside the statue of rebel leader and United Irishman Michael Dwyer (1772-1825). The lane soon turns into a broad, surfaced track. After a few hundred metres, veer right before continuing to reach a crossroad around a kilometre further. Continue straight here as the track becomes stony underfoot before rising to meet a metal gate. Beyond this the route is obvious: follow a well-trodden path uphill to the rounded, peaty shoulder of Camarahill. Catch a breather here and enjoy the fine views across the Glen of Imaal, then over to Ballineddan Mountain and Keadeen.
Next, steadily climb to a broad, peaty saddle then ascend a steeper, rock-strewn slope. Once the gradient relents, it’s a comfortable walk eastward across a wide, grassy expanse known as Percy’s Table (in honour of Colonel Percy, an eighteenth-century local landowner). When you arrive at the summit, you’ll find a trig point perched on a large stone cairn. Nearby, there’s an orientation plaque indicating the direction of all the surrounding peaks and landmarks.
Respect The Mountain
Despite this being the most straightforward route up Lug, check the weather forecast on the morning of your walk and be equipped for all conditions. Lug does have its own micro-climate and is often shrouded in mist. The summit is around 700m higher than the start so the temperature can be up to 7°C colder than at Fenton’s – and a few degrees cooler still if there’s a wind blowing. Wear good hiking trousers (no jeans) and even in the summer, bring along a warm hat and gloves. Also make sure you pack an extra fleece layer and waterproofs just in case it rains. You’ll need a good pair of boots to do this hike, ideally 3-season ones with good ankle support. Bring along a head torch, a packed lunch and sufficient liquids to drink. Bring along a fully charged mobile phone and if you have to call for Mountain Rescue ring 999 or 112. Despite the summit area being broad plateau, Lug is bounded by vertiginous cliffs of the North Prison and South Prison, so do take care. You’ll need good navigation skills in poor visibility to ensure you take the correct descent route and do not go anywhere near these cliffs. During the winter, conditions can be challenging and sometimes require the use of specialist equipment like crampons and an ice-axe.
Wait For The Weather
Forecasting the weather is a bit of a specialist subject for me. I’ve come up with the knack of getting the forecast nailed over the years – as a photographer who climbs I need the conditions spot on to come away with the best images. My advice is to use yr.no; use their website not the App and always look at the latest update (they do these four times a day). Look up ‘Lugnaquilla’ there and dive into the detailed, hour-by-hour forecast – this gives you all the important information like the wind-chill factor, precipitation, wind speeds and cloud cover. Apart from yr.no, the Met Éireann Rainfall Radar and Atlantic Charts are also useful.
Have A Look Around
The views from the summit are great, all the hills are prominent including Tonelagee, Mullaghcleevaun and even as far as the Great Sugar Loaf and Mount Leinster. If it’s a clear day, consider also exploring the area away from the summit. You might want to carefully wander toward the cliff edge to peek into the glacial corries of the North Prison and South Prison. You may also want to head over to the eastern edge of the summit plateau to look down into the Fraughan Rock Glen (named after the ‘fraughans’ or bilberries found in season on the grassy slopes of the river that runs along the valley).
Check Firing Times
This route crosses the army firing range at the Glen of Imaal. If you see flashing lights or red flags up around the perimeter or at the start, do not access the area as there is scheduled firing. Do plan ahead by checking the Irish Defence Forces website for the schedule, www.military.ie/en/public-information/glen-of-imaal-walking-route-closures/ You can also call the Army Information range at the Glen of Imaal on 045-404653. Do not deviate from the approved path as there may be unexploded shells and projectiles on the ground, sometimes buried or obscured by rocks or vegetation.
About The Blogger
Adrian Hendroff is a member of the Outdoor Writers & Photographer’s Guild and a Mountaineering Ireland approved course provider. He is a fully-insured mountain guide and runs regular navigation and Mountain Skills courses. Adrian has written several Irish walking guidebooks for the Collins Press and is a regular contributor to newspaper/magazine features. He also runs outdoor photography workshops. More on Adrian see www.adrianhendroff.com or www.fabulousviewpoints.com