Loving it up Lugnacoille

With sunshine all round Ireland last Sunday, I wanted to really make the most of the mountains over the weekend. So I decided to park my car at Glenmalure Lodge in South Wicklow and make my way up Lugnacoille.

Lugnacoille South Prison view from Corrigasleggaun.
Lugnacoille South Prison view from Corrigasleggaun.

At a modest 925 metres, Lugnacoille is the highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains. The mountain itself is flanked north and south by impressive cliff faces, whilst a flat expansive football-esque ground lies on top. This makes it a mountain to be careful of. Mist can often come down quickly, and what with the featureless flat top combined with sharp dramatic cliffs, it is a place where you need to be very comfortable with your map and compass.

Indeed, I had a narrow escape from Lugnacoille once as heavy freezing fog descended as I approached it from the north. It meant I had to navigate confidently off the summit using distance, time, and bearings as my hat and gloves were rapidly beginning to freeze.

On Sunday, there was none of that. There were only blue skies and clear views of Lugnacoille and all around.

What makes Lugnacoille a fun mountain is also the different sides from which it can be scaled. IMRA itself uses these routes in a range of different races. First off there’s the Lugnacoille mountain race itself, a 10 km race approaching from the West via Camarahill which skirts around the side of the Glen of Imaal Artillery Range. It’s an out and back route, with a fast boggy climb and a short steep and rocky ascent at the end.

Cormac Conroy battles it out with Bernard Fortune on the Lugnacoille descent. Photo courtesy of John Shiels.
Cormac Conroy battles it out with Bernard Fortune on the Lugnacoille descent. Photo courtesy of John Shiels.

Alternatively, the third leg of the Stone Cross to Lugnacoille Relay approaches Lugnacoille from the north coming from Camenabologue. This is also the route taken by the Wicklow Round. However, whilst the Round continues on east then south to Corrigasleggaun, the relay follows the Camarahill route home.

The last time the Circuit of Glenmalure race was staged was back in 2005. This route leads runners up Lugnacollie from the east via the Bends and Clohernagh summit. Unfortunately, this race has been replaced of recent by the Circuit of Glenmacnass, whereas previously the races would alternate each year.

On Sunday, I opted to run up and back to Lugnacoille via Carrawaystick and Corrigasleggaun. Vague walkers’ paths wind their way along this route through the bog stacks and along the grassy ridges. And on them, hill walkers themselves were also doing what I was doing: out enjoying the best that the Wicklow Mountains can offer. 

Route off Luganacoille. Map courtesy of Pat Healy.
Route off Luganacoille. Map courtesy of Pat Healy.

Whilst my ascent was slow and steady, the descent was gentle yet fun. However, a keen eye was still kept on the compass as it is easy to wander off to the side and end up on the forest roads south of Carrawaystick. That’s what infamously happened at the last Aughvannagh race, which ended up knocking some of the top runners out of the race.

View of Kelly's Lough on the descent from Lugnacoille.
View of Kelly's Lough on the descent from Lugnacoille.

Last Sunday, I ended back at Drumgoff after a leisurely three hour run. And with the sun still shining, it was great sitting out on the Glenmalure Inn picnic benches, drinking a coke and enjoying the surrounding mountain views after a lovely day up Lugnacoille.


Want to read more about mountain running around the Wicklow Mountains? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears”.

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