By Alicia Christofi-Walshe
Over the weekend I hit my usual haunt, the West Wicklow mountains, with some pals to run a 21k open mountain loop. This route travels through the Glen of Imaal and includes summiting both Lugnaquilla and Camenabologue. It’s a trail well worth experiencing. There is something for every runner; stunning views of the Glen of Imaal, flat stretches, both steep and steady inclines with lots of height gain and runnable downhills where you can pick up speed and take in the views.
The run begins at Fenton’s Pub where public parking is available. We carried a GPS and map and compass. This is not a waymarked route and the track is intermittent at times. We chose to begin the loop heading towards Lugnaquilla Mountain. Lugnaquilla is the highest peak in Leinster with a maximum elevation of 930 metres. It’s a popular climb and the traditional access is via Camara. Most people opt to summit and descent the same route, but a loop is a nice alternative.
The first 3k is along a gravel road that leads from the pub to the base of Camara. You’ll see signposts marked with red arrows indicating the direction to travel to summit Lugnaquilla. Markers do not continue to the summit. Camara is the first climb of the loop. If it’s a clear day it’s nice to take a break from the steep ascent to take in the panoramic views of the Glen of Imaal.
You’ll reach the cairn on the summit of Lugnaquilla after about 5k. Throughout the climb be certain to stay on the trail, especially if it’s overcast. The final climb towards the summit is rocky and you’ll see Percy’s Table on your left as you ascend. On the summit the land flattens over a large area. If it is foggy be sure to follow your GPS or take a compass reading to get to and from the cairn. There are cliffs at the North and South prison which sandwich the cairn. It’s imperative that you stay on your planned track.
As you begin to descend you’ll be running on the track that leads to Cannow. This track falls between the cliffs of the North Prison and the Green Corner. The landscape is majestic along this trail. If you pause your run to look back at Lugnaquilla you’ll be in for a treat!
The trail continues towards Camenabologue. There are some boggy areas, but it is runnable with a nice climb up to the summit. Approximately 1k from Camenabologue you’ll be on Table Mountain where you’ll descend onto Table Track (The Old Military Road). You’ll enjoy a downhill stretch on this trail as you descend towards the Glen of Imaal. Be prepared to be awed by stunning views of the surrounding glen and the mountains as you race downhill.
After Table Track, you’ll come off the mountain and cross over Oiltiagh Bridge, the path will lead you to Stranahely Forestry. As you run along the forestry road you’ll be surrounded by views of the West Wicklow Mountains that you just traversed. The forestry road will lead you back to the main road, which you follow for about 1.5k, to your start at Fenton’s Pub.
My pals and I had an epic day on the route and I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy your adventures on the West Wicklow trails and I’ll see you out there!
Distance & Climb:
- Distance – 21k
- Total ascent – 860m
- Maximum elevation – 916m
Dress appropriately as this run is almost entirely on open mountain. In elevated areas, high winds and low temperatures are to be expected.
This route travels along the border of The Glen of Imaal Military Range Lands. It’s advisable that you stay on tracks and avoid running into military land. Keep alert for signage that advises caution. Prior to your excursion ring the Glen of Imaal Ranger Information Office for notification of shooting, especially if you are running mid-week. Ranger Information Office: 045 404 653
- 52.983821, -6.552623
About the author:
Alicia is a trail runner and mother of three (9, 2, and 1 years old). She lives and trains in County Wicklow. Originally from Boston, Alicia worked as a professional dance artist and choreographer in the States and Europe for over a decade. She’s been running marathons since 2009 and she ran first ultra at Irish Mountain Running Association’s Glen of Aherlow Loop de Loop in September 2016. Her furthest distance ran to date is 50 miles as a finisher in Raw Ultra’s 50 mile in 2016. Follow Alicia’s running adventures on her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.