Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Arklow is known as the ‘Gateway to the Glens’ of Glenmalure and Glendalough: a 30-minute drive from Arklow will bring you to one of the best locations in Wicklow for hiking and hillwalking! The Glenmalure Valley is remote, wild, and stunningly beautiful, the glacial valley here being the longest of its kind in Ireland and Britain, carved out and shaped during the last ice age and by the gradually melting ice caps. Glenmalure is perfect location for the serious hiker, with access to Lugnaquilla, Ireland’s second highest peak, and two sections of the Wicklow Way.
Walks in Glenmalure:
Miners Path (1.6km / Strenuous): From Ballinafunshoge Carpark this short but steep path follows the same route once used by miners heading to and from the Ballinafunshoge mine, which was one of six lead mines located in the Glenmalure Valley. Enjoy gorgeous views of the nearby Glenmalure Waterfall and the wider valley as they open up over the valley, and head into the forest arounds to discover more trails.
Section of the Wicklow Way: From Glenmalure you are right at the half-way point of the famous Wicklow Way which stretches 130km from the edge of the Dublin Mountains to Clonegal in the South. There are two great options for you to do a section of the Wicklow Way from here. These are full day hikes, so go prepared with adequate clothing, food, and water supplies. Parking is available at the Glenmalure Lodge where a small charge applies, however your car will be secure.
Option 1 (Glenmalure to Iron Bridge / 14km one way / 3.5 hours each way / Strenuous): From the carpark head onto the road in front of the Lodge and turn left at the crossroads. A couple of hundred metres down this narrow road, you will see a forest entrance on your right, with brown finger signpost for the Wicklow Way. Cross over the brook and veer left. Follow the brown and yellow walking man markers South along the side of Slieve Mann before descending to the Iron Bridge over the Ow River. This is quieter section of the Wicklow Way and offers stunning views of the South Wicklow countryside.
Option 2: (Glenmalure to Glendalough / 14km one way / 4.5 hours each way / Strenuous): From the carpark head out onto the road in front of the Lodge and turn right. Climbing up the road you will soon reach a Trailhead sign for Glenmalure Forest. Follow the brown and yellow walking man markers to join the Wicklow Way. You will continue to climb steadily with panoramic views of Lugnaquilla and Fraughan Rock Glen, before heading on towards Lugduff Ridge. You may see signs for the Miners Way, which crosses over in parts.
As you begin to reach the highest point you cross a boggy saddle on a boardwalk heading towards Mullacor (657m). From the peak you will begin your trek down into Glendalough along a mixture of open mountain trail and boardwalk. The views are simply stunning and you would be unlucky not to encounter deer along this section of the trail. As you join ‘The Spinc’ trail you will enjoy amazing views from the mountain ridge down over the Glendalough Lakes and Monastic City. The final decent is via a steep zig zag trail which brings you right down pass Poulanass Waterfall and to the lake side at Glendalough.
Lugnaquilla (13km out and back / 7 hours / Strenuous): The Glenmalure Valley is the most popular start point for climbing Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains at 925m. When parked at Ballinafunshoge, you can access The Zigs Zags Route by walking back along the road towards Glenmalure. The Trailhead is close to the Carrawaystick Waterfall by a quaint white cottage with a red roof, that is a photographer’s favourite and is clearly marked with a large signpost, which states that it was originally a hunting path. The trail has been reconstructed by volunteers with permission of the landowners.
This trail as it’s a working sheep farm, so dogs are strictly not allowed. Following the trail and enjoy the stunning views of the Glenmalure Valley as you weave your way up the mountainside. The summit of Lugnaquilla is a bare undulating plateau and paths are many, so take care to note where you have ascended from or you may get lost easily trying to find your return path! Lugnaquilla is an open mountain and is prone to the changing weather conditions once you rise higher up. This strenuous hike should only be undertaken by experienced walkers, with suitable equipment, supplies and clothing, and a compass and map is recommended.