Lough Ouler – officially one of our favourite hikes in Ireland.
What makes it all the more worth visiting is the fact that there is no trail leading to this unique lake. A genuine hidden gem of County Wicklow and Ireland.
We are outdoor adventurers at heart and on our 2nd wedding anniversary, we were all set to hike through the Wicklow mountains to find Ireland’s heart-shaped lake. As romantic as hikes go, Lough Ouler was set to deliver.
In this blog post we will tell you everything you need to know about Lough Ouler, the best way to find it and the best way to return.
Lough Ouler – Location and Area
Lough Ouler is located in Co. Wicklow’s National Park, below a mountain called Tonelegee (Tóin le Gaoith) which means, ‘the bottom of the hill facing the wind’. It stands true to it’s meaning as you are really exposed to the elements and the wind that never dies.
Tonelegee is the 3rd highest mountain in Wicklow and the 33rd highest in Ireland. It took us 1.5 hours to hike up and approximately 1 hour down.
This area in wicklow is less than an hour away from Dublin but so undiscovered.
Best time to climb
June – September is the most perfect time of year to be in this part of Ireland. The purple heather is in full bloom and adds an extra dimension to the striking landscape.
**Need to know before the climb:
Difficulty level: Moderate incline that can be strenuous.
Gear and outerwear: Hiking boots are a necessity.
Terrain: Muddy and soft bog lands.
Weather: Always windy (bring a windbreaker)
We started our hike from the upper carpark located beside Glenmacnass waterfall. There is a small carpark which doesn’t cost anything and is perfectly safe. This is the best place to start for a fairly direct route and direction.
We were advised to look for a trail that was located beside the forest above the waterfall but we could not find it and soon realised that hiking boots are definitely a necessity. The terrain was soft in most places.
Our furry friend and companion for the day was our Japanese Spitz, Louis, who led the way. He discovered a path that was more a sheep trail than an actual path. We followed his nose over a stream, meandering up hill all the way in the general direction where we assumed the lake was.
We met at most 8 people on our way up. The sense of isolation was sheer bliss and added to the charm of our hike. Not having any instructions or a ‘signposted path’ added a thrill to the adventure. Some trekkers attempted to find the lake but turned back. Today, however, conditions are ripe for success and we were determined to get to our destination.
How to get to Lough Ouler – Directions
R115 (Old Military Rd) – walk from Glenmacnass Waterfall carpark – 1 Hour Drive from Dublin. Cross the river and keep right alongside the edge of the woods, walking upwards.
Carry on straight ahead, leaning right. You will eventually find extremely muddy terrain that will lead you right to the lake. There is a path that is easy to spot and leads up to Tonelagee mountain.
The lake will be on the right hand side. Here you can rest and appreciate the beautiful views or trek further up to summit Tonelagee and admire the lake from above.
Tip: If you feel that you have leaned too far right, that is perfectly fine, too. You will find a river and if you follow the river bend, the lake will eventually appear right in front of you.
What we did, next
About 80 minutes into our hike, on what we thought was a “grand soft day”, we noticed ominous clouds and a slight change in the weather. Louis was sniffing the way out and we discovered the left side of the stunning Lough Ouler. Our hike was rewarded with this stunning view and we climbed a little further up to get the best vantage point.
Just as we got to the “best” spot to take photos, a real “haymaker” of a rain shower descended on us. Four seasons in one day is often the case in Ireland and ducking for cover at the side of the heathered hill was not going to keep us dry.
The best part; simply embracing the rain, pulling a cheese sandwich out our bags and soaking up the beautiful view in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.
The rain didn’t last long. We watched the clouds move away over the lake and the beautiful summer weather returned in time to dry our wet hair.
Best route to get down
The best and quickest route to get back to the car park, is to walk around the lake to the ‘tail’ of the heart and follow the stream down. Take your time and absorb the views of beautiful County Wicklow.
We would not advise coming down the way you go up, if you passed through all that mud. It’s simply just to slippery for a steep decline. Following the stream at the tip of the lake is much quicker.
Tip: Mind your step coming down. We passed a few foxes’ sets and unexpected openings in the ground.
We couldn’t get over how we didn’t learn of this natural wonder much sooner and how this attraction is not more widely promoted but alas Ireland is full of surprises.
For a video and more of this walk, have a look at our Instagram page and our Highlighted Stories.
Make my day: Visit Jonnie Foxes, Irelands Highest Pub and less than 1 hr away from Lough Ouler – highly recommended
We rate this adventure: 4.5 out of 5 Irish harps