County Wicklow is known as the "Garden of Ireland" and part of this garden are the many mountains and hills that are used for hill walking. The Glen of Imaal on the West Side of Wicklow is surrounded by these natural features and is the base for many hillwalker’s day and sometimes night expeditions on the hills. One of the most famous being Lugnaquilla Mountain (3093’) has always held a special place in the hearts of regular hill walkers. With a personality of its own, Lug, as she is commonly known, displays a different mood every time she’s visited. This ever changing and diverse character offers a wide variety of experiences so that the tug to return again and again is infinite. Lasting relationships often require gently beginnings. The Glen of Imaal is the ideal place to start. This fine Glen provides a choice of at least three routes to the mountain summit, all of which conveniently commence near a friendly and popular rest place, Fentons Pub.
Youth Hostels situated on three sides of the mountain at Ballinclea, Aughavanagh
and Glenmalure have no doubt influenced this particular relationship over time.
This article describes some of the many alternative walking routes from each of these locations.
Surprisingly the wide number of variations offers the hill walker an initial introduction
to a complex and often un-communicative character. Some are well known while the more
familiar use others.
1. Camara Hill Route
2. Ow Valley Route
3. Carawastick Ridge Route
The breathlessness of the climb to the top of Camara Hill sometimes has the faint hearted,
but from here the well trodden track beings the walker gradually to the summit base at the
bottom of a rocky slope. The views from this section of the North Prison and
its circular coombe are inspiring and motivate the novice onwards. The top is reached
shortly after the ‘top of the rocks’ and the flat section called Percy’s Table is crossed.
On a clear day from the large summit cairn the climber is rewarded with breath taking
views of South Leinster, Wicklow and even Wales.
From the Glen of Imaal two other well used routes offer a longer walk in and provide an
opportunity to establish a better rapport with the mountain. These are the
(a) Ballinclae/Slevemann Ridge route
(b) Table Track, Camenabologue, Cannow Mt. Route
This latter walk forms the last stage of the infamous ‘ Lug Walk’ a 33-mile long distance marathon across the Wicklow Hills from Stone Cross, Bohernabreena just outside Tallaght. It crosses the Cannow Mountain Ridge that looks down on the glaciated valley below the rocky North Prison Cliffs. This scene resembles a miniature version of the famous Ben Nevis cliffs, particularly when they’re covered in snow. The remains of a light aircraft bear testimony to hazardous weather conditions. Nonetheless, the most exciting and exhilarating experience on Lug must be hound in snowy conditions, particularly when you see your won footmarks imprinted on a bed of virgin white snow. This is the world of silence and intimacy that brings you closest in communication with the mountain. Unlike the bitter winter winds that can whip and lash the exposed parts of the body, the internal feeling of stimulation makes the journey forever worthwhile. Even though snow has been seen here as late as June has, suchlike conditions are unfortunately all too rare, while the inherent dangers only entice experienced walkers outdoors.
From here it is onwards and upwards but the choice is varied. The normal route climbs
the South flank of Lug with the edge of the South Prison Cliffs on the walker’s
right hand side. An alternative is to follow the fence that winds its way along the base
of the cliffs to a steep green grassy slope called Green Street. This brings the
walker onto the summit ridge.
The centre gully on the South Prisons is an occasion to use hands as well as feet.
"The Gully" enters the heart of the mountain and is therefore only for the experienced.
The cliffs which envelop the scrambler as a wet rocky ledge is negotiated, the purpose
of which is to surmount without getting sodden.
Glenmalure is a valley steeped in history where war, destruction and famine were seen. The relics and memories of times past remain in this classical ‘U’ shaped valley. Glenmalure hostel presents an ever-disappearing impelling experience. It brings you close to nature and frequently provides an independently bright atmosphere that relies upon the visitors to create for themselves. The lack of electricity, running waters and flush toilets only add to the drama.
A timeliness and maturity emanate from the Glenmalure Valley. It’s a place that attracts the experienced and reflects a long standing and respectful affinity towards the highest mountain in Leinster. The variety of routes mirrors this image because of their difficulty and relative ruggedness.
The popular ‘Zig Zag’ route that begins through a farmyard gradually climbs back and forth
above the valley floor until it commands a view over the cold looking corrie of
Arts Lough. From Clogherrnagh a broad-backed ridge is followed to the
Summit Carin that can be seen from some distance on this approach. Arts Lough
offers another variation for the more adventurous and thrill seeking. By climbing
above the lough on its right hand side the walker clings to the long grass for balance and
the fearful remembered words of long forgotten prayers.
Directly South of the Youth Hostel, positioned between the steep slopes to Arts Lough
and the high imposing Barrabore Cliffs, lies one of the most beautiful valleys in
Wicklow - The Frocken Rock Glen. The walker here is advised to carefully
regard access into this area. This is a paradise for the geographical student. The
route winds its way southwards climbing through a series of magnificent hanging valleys.
The senses come alive at the sight and sound of a fast flowing turbulent stream that
accompanies the rambler into a circular coombe. It’s decides on time here. Both
straight and left are steep and direct, and join up with the broad Cloghernagh Ridge.
Indeed this route is even more spectacular to descend especially in early spring when
a mantle of snow can often be found on the valley rim.
When such a passionate relationship is threatened, it behaves those that follow in these
footsteps to protect and defend their own. This mantle of attention and responsibility
must be passed from person and from generation. The Tug of Lug is infinite and worthy
of boundless care.
Based on the “Tug of Lug” by Paddy Leavy