Lough Ouler has quickly become one of the most popular locations to hike to in Ireland, and with good reason! This beautiful lake is famous for its unusual heart shape, and it is one of the most unique views you’ll find in Ireland! I’ve completed this hike many times, climbing both Tonelagee mountain and the Lough Ouler loop. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to have the perfect day at this hidden gem in Wicklow!
WHICH HIKE SHOULD I DO?
- Rating: Moderate
- Duration: 3 Hours
- Distance: 4km
This is an out and back trail up Tonelagee mountain to a viewpoint of Lough Ouler. The path is well defined and fairly easy to follow. By taking the shorter (and steeper) route up Tonelagee, you’ll save some time. However, you will miss out on some great views of Lough Ouler from different perspectives.
LOUGH OULER CIRCULAR
- Rating: Hard
- Duration: 4.5 Hours
- Distance: 7.9km
As you may have guessed, this hike brings you on a loop of the heart-shaped lake. The path is not very clear, so you will need to keep the route open on alltrails. This hike is rated hard, and I wouldn’t recommend for beginners due to the duration and difficult river crossing at the start.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
The ground in Wicklow can get outrageously boggy, especially in Winter! At a minimum, I’d recommend bringing:
- A decent pair of hiking boots (these are the ones I have. I’ve had them for 2 years now and they’re perfect!)
- Lots of water
- Snacks for the top
- Waterproof jacket (and waterproof pants in the winter!)
- Phone with alltrails map loaded! (Alltrails is a free app where you can preload the route, so you know exactly where you’re going!)
CAN I VISIT LOUGH OULER USING PUBLIC TRANSPORT?
The easiest and quickest way to get to Lough Ouler is by car. If you don’t have access to a car, you can get there by taking the 181 bus from Leeson Street Lower to The Roundwood Inn. This journey will take about an hour. From here it is a 15 minute taxi journey to the Turlough hill car park, or a 20 minute taxi journey to the Glenmacnass Waterfall car park.
You can find more information about the bus from Leeson street to Roundwood here.
If you are going by taxi, I would arrange to have the taxi driver meet you at the car park when you are finished to bring you back. We had lots of phone service whilst doing the Tonelagee hike, but it was very patchy on the Lough Ouler Circular route, and you don’t want to get stuck out there!
VISITING LOUGH OULER FROM TONELAGEE
We’ll start off this guide with the easier of the two hikes! The hike from Tonelagee to Lough Ouler is fairly straight forward, and shouldn’t take more than 2.5 hours (including stops for water, food and photos!). When you get to the top of Tonelagee, you’ll want to walk a bit further down the other side of the mountain to get a view of Lough Ouler.
WHERE TO PARK TO HIKE TONELAGEE
There is plenty of free parking at Tonelagee! You can park at the Wicklow Mountains Viewing Platform Car Park, or if this is full, try the Turlough Hill Car Park just beside it. As you may have guessed, there is a lovely viewpoint here over the Wicklow mountains!
The hike starts from the Wicklow Mountains Viewing Platform Car Park (what a catchy name). It is well sign posted, so you shouldn’t miss it.
WHAT ROUTE SHOULD I FOLLOW?
If you are having any difficulty following the route, be sure to check in with this map on AllTrails. This app is a life saver when you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, and it’s a must have for every hike.
When following this map try to stick to the black lines. The red line is slightly off the worn path, and it is always best to stay on the right track if you can. As mentioned, the path is very boggy at the start, but the trail gets better as you hit higher ground.
HOW TO VISIT LOUGH OULER FROM TONELAGEE
Just keep going up! Once you reach the base of the mountain, follow the path straight up until you reach the peak at Tonelagee. You’ll know you’ve reached the peak when you see a giant cross!
From here, you will need to walk down the other side of the mountain to get the amazing viewpoint of Lough Ouler. You’ll follow a path downwards to the left. If you have any confusion about which direction to go in, just open up AllTrails or Google Maps and you’ll be able to see the outline of the lake and the direction to follow.
This is an out and back trail. Once you’ve soaked in the gorgeous views, had a bit to eat and caught your breath, you can head back down in the same direction you came from. Again, if you’re in any doubt, AllTrails is your best friend. As the descent is very steep, you’ll fly back down the mountain!
VISITING LOUGH OULER FROM THE GLENMACNASS WATERFALL
The route from Glenmacnass Waterfall, or the Lough Ouler Circular Route, is definitely a harder hike. It makes up for its difficulty with an incredible 360 degree view of this unique lake. The hike starts by walking over stones across a river, which can be both challenging and daunting. The trail is not as clear as the Tonelagee route, and it can get quite difficult in places. For this reason, and due to the difficulty being rated hard, I wouldn’t recommend this hike for beginners without a guide.
WHERE TO PARK TO FROM GLENMACNASS
There is a large carpark near the start of the hike named Glenmacnass Waterfall Car Park.
The trail starts by crossing the River Glenmacnass and heading up the mountain beside it.
As you’ve probably guessed, there is a beautiful waterfall nearby! The waterfall is only a short walk from the car park, and is a perfect example of Ireland’s untouched, natural beauty. I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you have the time!
Also handy to note that the car park at Glenmacnass waterfall is free!
WHAT ROUTE SHOULD I FOLLOW?
For the Tonelagee hike, consider AllTrails a “nice to have”. For the Lough Ouler circular route, it’s an absolute necessity.
As mentioned before, the hike is very boggy and the trail can be hard to follow in places. When hiking up the mountain, the lake will be on your right hand side.
I’d recommend opening this map on AllTrails before you leave, and checking it if you become unsure of the route.
HOW TO VISIT LOUGH OULER FROM THE LOUGH OULER CIRCULAR ROUTE
As mentioned, the hike starts with a river crossing beside the car park. From here, you’ll head up the mountain, keeping the lake on your right hand side.
After about 1.5 to 2 hours, you will reach a flat part of land with the best view of Lough Ouler. From here, it is a short but extremely steep hike to the top. Again, you’ll want to spend some time relaxing, enjoying the breathtaking views and refueling before beginning your descent.
Initially, the route back down to the car park is quite steep. Once you pass the tip of Lough Ouler, the ground becomes much flatter. The path back from the bottom of the mountain is deceptively long, and it felt like we were walking along flat ground back to the carpark for hours. Be warned.
The hike in total should take about 4 to 4.5 hours. The circular route is definitely the more beautiful of the two, but it comes with many challenges. If you’re just looking for an incredible view of Ouler, Tonelagee is probably your best bet!
AND THAT’S IT!
That should be everything you need for a perfect day out in Wicklow! I hope you’ve found this guide on how to visit lough Ouler useful. If you’ve any questions, please let me know in the comments and I’d be more than happy to help!
All the best,