A Walk in the Cloghoge Valley, County Wicklow, Ireland Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

A Walk in the Cloghoge Valley, County Wicklow, Ireland

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Bring your towel!

Distance: 10.5km approx

Ascent: 220m approx, including one section of 160m

The Cloghoge1 Valley is Wicklow's most beautiful entirely private valley. The Cloghoge River flows down the valley from Lough Tay to Lough Dan, the largest natural lake in Wicklow. The valley is part of the privately owned Guinness Luggala Estate. Walkers are permitted to follow the route from the entrance as far as Lough Dan (although dogs are not allowed). The valley is a beautiful, tranquil piece of farmland and forest set in a very wild part of the mountains. It has been described as 'the largest example of a fossilised 18th/19th-Century farming landscape in Wicklow, if not the country' by archaeologist Dr Chris Corlett. You won't see many signs of modern life here; you won't even be able to get any mobile phone coverage, so it's a great place to get away from it all.

This walk starts at the entrance to the estate, which is on the R759 road from Roundwood to the Sally Gap. The gates are known as the Pier Gates due to their large, cylindrical gateposts. They are at 53.103°N 6.251°W. The route goes through the estate down to Lough Dan, crosses the Cloghoge River via stepping stones and climbs up into State Forest (which is public access). It joins the Wicklow Way, a signposted long-distance walking trail, which leads back to the start.

The Pier Gates are not on any public transport route. The only way to reach them is by car. From Roundwood, take the L1036 road towards Enniskerry. After about 2km, you reach a junction with a Stop sign. Turn left here onto the R759 towards the Sally Gap. Watch out for parking places over the next stretch. After 2.2km from the junction you reach the Pier Gates, an impressive gateway on the left, with a pedestrian gate to its left. There's no parking at the gates, but there are a number of places both before and after them where cars can park. Don't leave any valuables on display in your car as car thievery is quite common.

Note: Distances in the following instructions are given from the Pier Gates.

  1. If the gates are shut, go through the pedestrian gate to the left of the main gate. Note the sign - no dogs! From here you are in a private estate, so keep to the road.

  2. Walk down the hill. At the white cottage [0.9km], there's a gateway straight ahead, and the road swings sharply to the left. You can just see the grey waters of Lough Tay if you look through this gateway. Follow the road to the left.

  3. At the next gateway, if the gates are shut there is a stile to the right of them. If you see any signs for Lough Dan, follow them. Most of the turns to the left and right are marked with Private and No Entry signs. The road crosses the Cloghoge River [1.8km] which flows down from Lough Tay to Lough Dan, and then the smaller, faster Cloghoge Brook [2.1km].

  4. Just after this second bridge, there is an interesting piece of ancient culture - go through the gate on the right into the field and you'll find a low boulder immediately on your right. There are two circular hollows in the top of the boulder. This is a 'bullaun stone' and the hollows are bullauns. It is thought that ancient pre-Christian people put a large stone into the hollow and turned the stone while uttering a curse against someone they didn't like. The turning of the stone increased the power of the curse. Many of these stones which were near to villages were turned into holy water founts when Christianity arrived in Ireland, but isolated ones like this were just left where they were. Some of them still have the original stones sitting in the bullauns.

  5. Getting back to the route, continue by crossing the large wooden stile directly opposite the bridge. This is clearly marked with the words 'Lough Dan' in nails. The path becomes a pleasant, grass-covered road between the forest and a large field. Soon you pass the forest and the green road continues between rough stone walls. You may see stonechats, small birds that stand on the walls and shout at you with a chucking sound. You may also see a herd of deer on the left.

  6. The path eventually reaches the shores of Lough Dan [4km] where the Cloghoge River flows into the lake. There is an old cottage here.

  7. About 100m from the lake, opposite the cottage [4.1km], there is a set of stepping stones across the Cloghoge River. Cross the stepping stones if you are able - they're not the easiest to step across; they have rounded tops and some of them are rather widely spaced. If you can't manage it, best to take off your shoes, socks and possibly trousers and wade across. (You did remember your towel, didn't you?)

  8. You descended a steep hill into the valley. Now it is time to climb back up out of the valley. The next 1.5km stretch is a fairly stiff uphill climb, rising by 160m. Take your time and take plenty of rests. The path from the stepping stones wanders through a wood which is covered with bluebells in spring and bracken in the summer. The path swings left and then curves to the right uphill, passing some ruined buildings. Eventually it reaches Archer's Road [4.4km], a level, gravel-surfaced road. Turn left onto Archer's Road, and follow it for about 100m. Turn sharp right onto an ascending trail, just before the small corrugated iron hut.

  9. After another 100m, the ascending path swings sharply back on itself to the left, then leaves the wood, going past more ruined buildings. Soon after these, there's a junction of paths near a small, isolated hawthorn tree [5km]. There are some very nice views of the valley from here. Turn sharp right and continue gently uphill towards the corner of the forest. As you enter the forest [5.1km], you cross the fence marking the boundary of private land. From here on you are in State-owned forest with public access.

  10. The path continues to ascend gently through the forest. Eventually it swings around to the left and meets the corner of some ruined walls [5.3km]. Continue with the walls on your right, and go through the gap in the wall straight in front of you. The path veers left through a small group of ruined houses. These are known as Scotch Village and were occupied by Scottish farmers until the Great Famine of 1845, when all the residents emigrated to Canada. At the top of the village there is an open space on the right and the end of a forest road [5.5km].

  11. Follow the forest road until you come to a major lay-by on the left [6.5km] and a path going straight up the hill. There is a Wicklow Way marker post here, but the yellow arrows on it are on the other side of the post. There are good views to the right down to Lough Dan. Take the path on the left up the hill. You are now on the marked Wicklow Way route. This starts with another steep climb - the path rises by 50m in about 500m - but then you reach a forest road and it is fairly level for the rest of the route.

  12. Continue on the Wicklow Way for about 4km through the forest, paying attention to the yellow arrows on the posts. There are good views in various places down to the right over the Roundwood Plateau. This is high-level farming land and is a complete contrast to the wild countryside you've encountered so far. You can see the two Vartry Reservoirs and the Irish Sea in the distance. Eventually the route meets the public road [10.3km].

  13. Turn left to return to the Pier Gates, or right if you parked your car in that direction.

When you've finished the walk, if you are heading towards Dublin you might like to drive on from the Pier Gates to the Sally Gap, one of the most spectacular drives in County Wicklow. As you go, you'll get spectacular views on the left down to Lough Tay which is surrounded on three sides by cliffs. At the far end of the lake is Luggala Lodge, an 18th Century mansion. Famous visitors to this house include artists Lucian Freud and Louis le Brocquy, musician Seán Ó Riada, poet Seamus Heaney and singers Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Bob Geldof, Bono and Michael Jackson. The grounds around the house have also been used as a filming location in such films as Zardoz and the TV series Vikings. You can rent the house for a mere €20,000 a week, but that does include a chef and a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.

When you reach the crossroads at the Sally Gap, turn right towards Dublin. The road crosses the Feather Bed, a wild, boggy heath, before descending into the suburbs of Rathfarnham.

1Pronounced 'claw-hogue' or 'clock-oge'.

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