Peak viewing in Wicklow

 

Mullaghcleevaun towers over the Blessington lakes, giving superb views into the midlands and south Leinster, writes Sean Mac Connell

ONE OF the real treasures of the Wicklow Mountains is Mullaghcleevaun, standing out guarding the east flank of the mountain range, towering over the Blessington lakes and giving superb views down into the midlands and south Leinster.

At 849m, Mullaghcleevaun, known as “the summit of the cradle or basket”, is the second highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains and because of its location, is one of the quieter places to spend a pleasant few hours as it is hard to get at.

You can get there if you are feeling really energetic by driving to the Sally Gap and completing what I have discovered is a three-and-a-half hour walk in over Carrigvore, Gravale, Duff Hill, Mullaghcleevaun East top and on to Mullaghcleevaun.

The problem is you will have little time to explore because it will take you as long again to beat your way out over fairly tough ground and, for someone like myself who travels the mountains for pleasure not pain, you are unlikely to stumble across me on that route.

For that reason when my walking companion, harpmaker Colm na Cláirisí, said he wanted to see Mullaghcleevaun, the route I picked was the one first shown to me by seasoned old walkers many years ago.

Travelling south along the Military Road, you will find a car park on your right hand side near a spot known to the old timers as “The Oasis”, which is under the shadow of Carrigshouk mountain where a group of Scots pine trees grow along the right hand side of the road.

Park up there and, if weather permits, look eastwards where you will see a small glimpse of Lough Dan through the trees.

From the road it is ever upwards, but gentle enough and I would suggest you quarter around Carrigshouk which, at 523m, has not a lot to recommend it other than as a point of passage to better things.

Follow the paths to your left, aiming for a ridge which will lead you into fairly mucky ground between Carrigshouk and Mullaghcleevaun East, your next port of call.

When you clear the ridge there is a well defined path pointing at Mullaghcleevaun East which will take you through a broken-down barbed wire fence and onwards and upwards as more and more of Lough Dan and the ridge above it become exposed.

Near the top of the mountain the path becomes obscured by erosion, so dodge your way through the peat hags and keep climbing until you hit the top. Take a rest there for you are only about halfway.

Your target mountain is on your left, but between you and it is a wonderful piece of ground if you are walking in the summer and a bit of a nightmare if you are out in bad weather.

Again you will be ploughing through peat hags and exposed gravel, but there are paths of a kind. Make sure not to deviate too far to your right as you could walk into trouble in the form of cliffs.

As the ground dries out the path becomes more visible, and my advice is to head straight for the summit and drop down again to your right, which will take you to the real gem of the mountain, Lough Cliabhain.

This beautiful lake, created as the ice cap retreated, is 650m above sea level and acts as a perfect mirror as you stand on the cliffs above it for the beautiful views below you.

On the cliff there is a monument to a couple of young An Óige lads who lost their lives swimming there decades ago, but it is a reminder not to take beauty for granted.

We went back to our car the same way we came up, treading carefully – and just as well because we almost walked on a lizard sunning himself, oblivious to the fact there were any humans around.

There were plenty of deer to be seen too, and peregrine swooped and dived along the cliff edges, sometimes being mobbed by the growing number of ravens in the mountains.

Mullaghcleevaun, Co Wicklow

  • Start and finish“The Oasis”, 2.2km north of Glenmacnass waterfall on R115.
  • How to get thereTake the Military Road (R115) across the Dublin/Wicklow mountain following the signs for Glendalough. Seven kilometres from Sally Gap, look for car park on your right in clearfell woods. This is a circular walk, so this is also your finishing point. The Scots pine trees on the left mark the beginning of the walk.
  • DistanceNine kilometres.
  • Total ascent849m.
  • TimeAllow five hours, but it can be done in less.
  • MapOrdnance Survey Discovery Series, Sheet 56.
  • SuitabilityRoute is hard and climb starts as soon as you leave the car. Compass, map, rain gear are essential.
  • Food and accommodationRoundwood, Glendalough and Laragh.