Walk for the Weekend: Luggala, Co Wicklow

A hike to see the most beautiful little valley or ‘Fancy Mountain’ in Co Wicklow offers views across the county

Luggala overlooks Lough Tay

Luggala overlooks Lough Tay

 

For my father and me, way back, it was always “Fancy Mountain”. JB Malone’s inspirational book Walking in Wicklow (1964), which was our pioneering guide and inspiration, referred to it as “Luggala or Fancy Mountain”. JB certainly fancied this mountain, and it is entirely fitting that his memorial stone looks directly over beautiful Lough Tay onto what was probably his favourite mountain in Wicklow.

For me too there is no contest; this mountain embraces the most beautiful lake, most beautiful crags and most beautiful little valley in Wicklow – an ensemble that makes for picture-postcard perfection. Add in a perfect day, and this compact walk will enchant and enthral.

We came there on such a perfect November Sunday. Down in the valley of the Cloghoge, in just a hint of valley haze, great technicolour splashes of autumn gold and yellows and deep browns were as if ignited by the strong sunlight; and dancing streams combined reflections of sky blue with their own dark, wine purples.

A welcome lunch stop: The summit, where Wicklow’s hills can be seen
A welcome lunch stop: The summit, where Wicklow’s hills can be seen

Lovely as this walk is, the hiker is presented on such a fine Sunday by bedlam on the road close to the starting point at the Pier Gates. Plans by the OPW in the 1990s to construct an interpretive centre and extensive parking opposite the Pier Gates unfortunately came to nothing. The result is a dangerous combination of badly parked cars, milling pedestrians and hikers, and cyclists streaking down through it all from the Sally Gap. All that said, it is with the gracious permission of the Luggala Estate that access to this little wonderland is permitted at all.

The initial part of this hike is on the estate’s access road down to its outbuildings (an old RIC Barracks), although a rough shortcut on the left cuts the corner, delivering the hiker to the gate and stone stile entrance to the estate’s work area. The descent is graced all the way down by the most beautiful views of the grey granite crags above Lough Tay and the glacially tumbled, and sensitively forested valley floor. And, on the great flank of Luggala opposite, are the poignant outlines of the Famine-era “lazy beds” of a once thriving, now long-gone, farming community.

From the valley floor, a clear path eased our way up the nearly 400m to the summit and a welcome lunch stop. From there, all the hills of Wicklow from Lugnaquilla to Djouce were on display, caught between a very fine valley mist and the bluest of skies.

The prospect on the way back down the path is even better. Lough Tay, with its fine white beach and stately Luggala House, will be on show to your left, and the Cloghoge valley, with its old oak woods, stone-walled pastures and a hint of Lough Dan, will draw your eye to the right. All this will distract from the view of your tedious pull back up to your car.

Luggala or 'Fancy Mountain', Co Wicklow

Map OSI Sheet 56
Start and finish Pier Gates on R759, 5km south east of the Sally Gap
Effort 600m of climbing, 7kms, 2-3 hours
Suitability Moderate. Navigation skills required exiting summit in mist
Caution As this is private land, please treat with respect; no dogs.

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