Still south I went and west and south again,

Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,

And far from cities, and the sights of men,

Lived with the sunshine, and the moon’s delight.

                                                              John Millington Synge

The summit of Lugnaquilla (Log na Coille, ‘hollow of the wood’), or Lug as it is commonly known, boasts all sorts of statistical accolades: it is the highest point in Leinster, and interestingly the only mountain above 900m or 3,000 feet outside of County Kerry and other than Galtymore.

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 peak. 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.

I’ve climbed Lug a countless number of times going as far back as the 1990s. It is a mountain I know well, but I must confess it is not the summit itself that excites me but rather the views from the rim of its broad plateau and the diversity of ways of approaching its towering massif.

For the hiker, there are a number of approaches to get to Lug’s summit: from Glenmalure to the east, or from the west starting from Fenton’s in the Glen of Imaal, and from Aughavannagh in the south along the Ow valley or Lybagh.

Snow-covered summit cairn and trig pillar on Lugnaquilla. Image (c) Adrian Hendroff

Summit Including Clohernagh And Arts Lough

Lugnaquilla and Arts Lough Circular – 13km

This is one of the loveliest hiking loops in the Wicklow Mountains, a great way to summit Lug and one I’d highly recommend for a grand day’s out. Save it for a clear day as the views are both varied and spectacular, and good visibility will make navigation that little bit easier, especially for the descent from Cloghernagh back to the Fraughan Rock Glen via Art’s Lough.

A steady climb out of the trees from the car park at Baravore, at the head of Glenmalure, will see you on a trail that charts its way along the beautiful Fraughan Rock Glen, under the mighty cliffs of Benleagh. This valley is named after the fraochán or bilberry, whose fruit is traditionally gathered on the last Sunday in July. You will climb out of the Rock Glen to gain the summit plateau via three hanging valleys. It’s an immensely scenic stretch, with cascades plunging down the steep valley headwall.

Once at the summit, all the hills are prominent including Tonelagee, Mullaghcleevaun and even as far as the Great Sugar Loaf and Mount Leinster (if you’re unsure, there’s an orientation plaque to indicate what’s where).  If it’s a clear day, consider also exploring the area away from the summit by wandering toward the cliff edge to peek into the glacial corries of the North Prison and South Prison.

Leaving the summit, make sure you take the right line of descent towards Cloghernagh, then from there make your way down a ramp to reach Art’s Lough, a glacial lake set in a secluded and wild area, and named after a man who died after eating an eel from its waters during the Famine.

Art’s Lough and Benleagh cliffs. Image © Adrian Hendroff

Summit From The Glen Of Imaal

Lugnaquilla Glen of Imaal – 13km

This approach from the Glen of Imaal is the most straightforward as far as the terrain is concerned and quite popular, especially at weekends. It also crosses an army firing range at the Glen of Imaal. If you see flashing lights or red flags, do not access the area as there is scheduled firing (check the Irish Defence Forces site for the firing schedule).

You’ll find a statue of rebel leader and United Irishman Michael Dwyer (1772-1825) at the start of the trail at Fenton’s pub. It eventually rises out of the leafy Glen onto the rounded, peaty shoulder of Camarahill where you can catch a breather and enjoy the fine vista back down the Glen, or across to Ballineddan Mountain and farther still to Keadeen.

From Camarahill, it’s initially a steady rise to a peaty saddle, followed by a steeper ascent up a rock-strewn slope. Once the gradient relents, it’s a comfortable walk eastward across a broad, grassy expanse known as Percy’s Table to the summit of Lug.

For a detailed route description, read our blog here.

Lugnaquilla (right) seen from slopes above Camarahill on the Glen of Imaal side. Image © Adrian Hendroff

Summit From Drumgoff And Down The Table Track

Lugnaquilla and Glenmalure Loop – 27.5km

This is long but rewarding route with a total elevation gain of 1,075m (3,525 feet), and starting/finishing at Drumgoff in Glenmalure. At the end of your hike, be sure to check out Glenmalure Lodge, a family-run pub with an open fire, cosy atmosphere and great food.

Access to the hills is via a forest track further up the Military Road at Drumgoff Recreation Area. Once out of the trees, you’ll make your way up Carraystick Mountain to Corrigasleggaun, passing the crash site of a small aircraft in 1992. At Corrigasleggaun, you will enjoy fine views down to Kelly’s Lough, a large corrie lake tucked away in the valley below.

The landscape here gives an utter sense of remoteness, you will just have the mountain breeze for company and perhaps hear the sound of the skylark or explosive wingbeats of the grouse. Drop down to a gap then pull uphill again to gain the final spur leading to Lug’s large summit cairn.

If you feel you’ve had enough, you may choose to retreat the way you came. If not, continue bravely northeast toward Cannow and Camenabologue along the eastern perimeter of the Glen of Imaal Artillery Range.

Beyond Camenabologue, the descent route (southeast) follows a trail known as the Table Track (probably due to its proximity to Table Mountain. However, this trail was also once referred to as the Black Banks Road by locals, and by J.B Malone as ‘the stony road to Imaal’). It’s an incredibly scenic stretch, especially in the autumn when the leaves of trees turn to rich golden hues, or after some rain, when the Avonbeg river is in spate.

Once you reach the large car park at Baravore, it’s a lengthy road walk back to Drumgoff. You may choose to park a second car here to avoid a plod on the tarmac, but regardless of whether you do or not, make sure you stop by at Ballinafunshoge waterfall and get a glimpse of the classic red-roofed cottage tucked under Carrawaystick waterfall.

Looking down the South Prison towards the Ow Valley and Aughavannagh from the summit slopes of Lug. Image © Adrian Hendroff

Summit From Slievenamough Including Slievemaan

Lugnaquilla Via Slievemaan – 18km

Of all the routes described, this is the least known and also least frequented. The approach is from forest tracks starting from the forest entrance at Slievenamough Plain (T 025 856; if parking here, do not block the barrier) near Aghavannagh. Located on the southern end of the Military Road, the locals describe the area as ‘the last place God made’ due to its remoteness. The Military Road was built between 1800 to 1809 by the British to provide its army access to the Wicklow Mountains during the rebel uprising.

Once out of the forest, you will emerge at a point known as The Gaps. From here make your way uphill to reach the subsidiary top known as Aghavannagh Mountain before following the broad spur to Lybagh where you’ll enjoy a fine view toward the Lugnaquilla massif to the northeast.

Beyond a shoulder, simply ascend the next slope in a northwest direction toward the broad top of Slievemaan (you’ll need to make a short out-and-back detour if you want to gain its summit). All that remains from Slievemaan is to drop down to the col to the northeast and climb the steeper slope to the summit of Lug.

Slievemaan in the winter. Image © Adrian Hendroff

About The Blogger

Adrian Hendroff is a qualified Mountain Leader 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