The Roof of The Wicklow Mountains, Lugnaquila
Lugnaquila is the highest mountain in Ireland, outside of County Kerry, standing tall at 925m above sea level. Climbing this beast can be a real challenge as it has no marked trails and the top can be shrouded in mist. On top of that, it has steep cliffs and gradients of over 40% are to be climbed if you want to reach the top. If you would like to climb this mountain, be fully prepared. The mountains itself is a plateau mountain, this means that once you reach the top the gradient decreases drastically.
Preparation for the Hike
We wanted to climb this mountain for some time already, but the weather had not been in our favour. For us, this hike was a preparation for the hike we were going to do in June, climbing El Teide (look forward to this post soon!). We packed our hiking backpack with all the necessities for a day-long hike. Lugnaquila is located all the way in the southern edge of the Wicklow Mountains National Park so the drive there took us quite a while. Coming up on the mountain, we were impressed by the size. It was going to be a long way to the top.
Starting of the Journey to Lugnaquila
We got out of the car and put on our hiking boots. There were a few other cars parked next to us, it looked like there were already some people that started the journey to the top. The temperature was good for the hike, it was around 18°C with clear skies. We started off by walking across a small bridge and took a right turn following the river. There was a couple with a cosy looking tent wild camping in a small area protected by trees. It is legal to wild camping in the Wicklow Mountains as long as you clean up after yourselves. We look forward to doing that at some point. The first part of the hike was relatively flat, but we started getting warm and sweaty already. This path is quite easy to follow until you reach the valley Fraughan Rock Glen.
The Tough Part
After we reached the valley and were walking next to the river, the tough part started. The path fades away and turns into a rocky outline that has been eroded by the people climbing Lugnaquila. The calm river turns into a small waterfall, which you have to climb next to! The gradient here can reach 46% according to Strava. You quickly ascent from 300m to 500m in less than 1km. This part is definitely the hardest as we climbed on boulders and rocks finding the way to the top at the same time. After reaching the top of this waterfall, the land flattens slightly. It became more boggy and grassy also. From here you can have to keep heading west to end up on the plateau.
When we were climbing, the weather was exceptionally good and had no problems navigating. However, if there is some fog, mist or even rain or snow, navigating here is tough. There are steep drops on the northern and southern side of the plateau so be aware! We definitely recommend having a map, downloaded on your phone or offline. Google Maps is not good enough here, a better alternative is OpenStreetMap. It is a way more detailed map that contains many features.
The Plateau, the Top and the Descent
The plateau itself is per definition relatively flat. It provided some nice views, but our opinion is that the valley below is more beautiful than the view from the top. It might have been the abundance of flies that lifted up in the air with every step we took. After some walking, we could see the top of the mountain on the right. This provided us with some much-needed motivation to keep going as the flies were bothering us. On the west side of the mountain is a military artillery range, we could hear them firing. Then we reached the top, finally! However, we were already hiking for almost 3 hours so felt the need to continue. The descent was a long but relatively easy one, the valley comes in view once you reach the zigzag path. After a total hike of 5 hours and 30 minutes, we reached the bottom of the mountain. There was a nice waterfall next to the path and we refreshed ourselves with some nice cold water. We then had to walk the last part of the walk along the road, back to the car park. At this point, it was around 5 pm and the sun was burning. It took us half an hour to get back to the car where we took off our shoes and relaxed for a bit before driving back home.
More info about hiking Lugnaquila
If you want to do this hike please be well prepared, take plenty of water and let someone know where you are going to be. Please read up before attempting any tough hikes in the Wicklow Mountains. The total hike took us 6:23 h with 5:10 h of moving time and was 16.9 km long with a total elevation of 888 m.