Wicklow Mountains

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Wicklow Mountains
Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin
Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Mountains

Highest peak Lugnaquilla(925 mASL)
Location County Wicklow, County Wexford (Ireland)
Wicklow Mountains Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin (Irland)
Coordinates 53° 5′ N, 6° 20′ WCoordinates 53° 5′ N, 6° 20′ W
Rock Sandstone

The Wicklow Mountains (Irish Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin) are a mountain range in the east and southeast of Ireland. They run north-south, directly from the south of Dublin through County Wicklow into County Wexford.

Geology and flora

The Wicklow Mountains are composed mainly of granite and shale folded during the Caledonian mountain building phase. The mountains, rounded by ice-age glaciers, are extensively covered by (mostly blanket) bogs.

Under these conditions a diverse flora has developed. In the valleys and lower slopes this consists mainly of royal fern, gorse, and heather, grasses such as sedges and wild bilberry.[1] The heather in particular, when in flower in summer, contributes to a typical Wicklow Mountains appearance, covering whole hillsides in purple.

Forests are rather the exception in the Wicklow Mountains, as they were already deforested by man in early times. The extensive deforestation was also the cause for the wide spread of the moors. In the present time, however, the area is increasingly reforested again. However, these are no longer the original oak and birch forests, but fast-growing spruce species whose wood can be used for the timber industry within a few years. In some places, however, reforestation in the sense of a restoration of the original deciduous forests has been taking place for some years, e.g. in the northern slopes of the Derrybawn Mountains above the Lower Lake of Glendalough.


The Wicklow Mountains, like all Irish mountains, are not particularly high. The highest mountain is Lugnaquilla(Log na Coille) with 925 m, followed by Mullaghcleevaun(Mullach Cliabháin) with 849 m and Tonelagee(Tóin le Gaoith) with 817 m.

Other mountains (by altitude):

  • Corrigasleggaun(Carraig na Sliogán) 794 m
  • Slievemaan(Sliabh Meáin) 759 m
  • Camenabologue(Céim na mBulóg) 758 m
  • Kippure(Cipiúr) 757 m
  • Conavalla(Ceann an Bhealaigh) 734 m
  • Djouce(Dioghais) 725 m
  • Seefingan(Suí Fionnagáin) 723 m

Due to the moorland landscape, most of the mountains in the Wicklow Mountains have a rounded plateau-like top. Due to strong soil erosion, these are often covered with partly man-high soil furrows (so-called peat hags). Especially due to the popular mountain hiking, stronger erosion paths have already developed, e.g. at Mount Djouce. On the part of various organisations, above all the Wicklow Mountains National Park, frequently used footpaths (such as parts of the Spink in Glendalough) are laid out with boardwalks in order to avoid an increase in erosion caused by humans.

Rivers, lakes and use of water

The River Slaney has its source in the southwest of Mount Lugnaquilla and flows south along the western foothills for 117 km before emptying into the Irish Sea at Wexford via the St George’s Canal. The River Liffey, widely known as a significant part of Dublin’s cityscape, has its source east of Kippure and southeast of Sally Gap(Bearna Bhealach Sailearnáin). Numerous lakes, so-called loughs, also characterize the landscape. Among the most important are Lough Tay (also called Luggala Lake, Irish Loch Té), Lough Dan (LochDeán), Lough Bray (LochBré), Lough Ouler (LochIolar), Lough Nahanagan (Lochna hOnchon) as well as the Upper Lake (An Loch Uachtair) and the Lower Lake(Loch na Péiste) in Glendalough.

There are several waterfalls in the Wicklow Mountains. The largest and most famous waterfall is Powerscourt Waterfall(Eas Chúirt an Phaoraigh), also the highest waterfall in Ireland. Another larger waterfall is located at Glenmacnass just off the Military Road east of Mount Scarr(Scor). Poulanass Waterfall(Poll an Easa) in Glendalough is another well-known waterfall in the Wicklow Mountains.

Turlough Hill Power Station is the only pumped storage power station project in Ireland. It is located at the top of Turlough Hill(Cnoc an Turlaigh), just off the Old Military Road and in close proximity to the Wicklow Gap(Bearna Chill Mhantáin).

At Roundwood on the eastern foothills of the range is the Vartry Reservoir Lakes, fed by the Vartry River(Abhainn Fheartraí), which provide the drinking water supply for Dublin. On the other side at the western foot is the Blessington Lakes, which also serve as a reservoir for Dublin’s drinking water supply.

Local recreation area

The 132km Wicklow Way long distance footpath in the Wicklow Mountains

Glendalough Round Tower

The whole area is visited by many Dubliners and out-of-town tourists, especially at weekends, as the region offers many forms of recreation, such as fishing and rafting. However, the most popular is hill walking. The Lug Walk, named after Mount Lugnaquilla (see above), is held annually: the walk, which is around 50km long, mostly takes you through boggy or very uneven terrain and over 18 peaks.
In the middle of the mountain range lies Glendalough, which according to legend was founded by Saint Kevin and boasts, among other things, the ruins of six monastic churches. Glendalough advertises itself as “the spiritual centre of Ireland”.

Places of interest

In the heart of the Wicklow Mountains is Wicklow Mountain National Park with a visitor centre at Glendalough where visitors can learn about the landscape, native flora and fauna and the many well-marked walks. The car park and visitor centre are located in a valley on Lower Lake, which is joined by Upper Lake. There are several hiking trails around the two lakes, with varying degrees of difficulty and trail lengths (longest trail: 11 km; 580 vertical metres). With suitable footwear and, if necessary, rainwear, the majority of the hiking trails pose no problem even for inexperienced holiday hikers.

There are numerous vantage points overlooking the valley where the Visitor Centre and the Lower and Upper Lakes are located, as well as views of the whole Wicklow Mountains area from some points. The National Park impresses with its vegetation, but not least because of the old monastery village Glendalough located in the middle.

The Powerscourt Gardens are situated on the northern foothills of the Wicklow Mountains at the foot of the 503 m high Sugar Loaf Mountain near the village of Enniskerry just 20 km south of Dublin; they are considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens of their kind in Ireland and cover about 190,000 m².

Russborough House is an 18th century manor house. Now open to the public, it was built by Richard Cassels in the Palladian style for the first Earl of Milltown. The present interior decoration and the art collection on display there are mainly by the last occupants, Sir Alfred Lane Beit and Lady Clementine Beit.

The Wicklow Gold or the Irish Gold Rush of 1795

In 1795, a schoolmaster found gold in the Aughatinavought River(now Goldmines River, Abhainn an Mhianaigh Óir). This did not remain a secret for long and by the autumn of the same year many of his neighbours were digging gold out of the river. The biggest find was the Red Hole, located about a kilometre below Ballinagore Bridge. Within six weeks about 80 kg of gold were said to have been panned. Among these was the Wicklow Nugget, weighing about 682 grams, and the largest lump of gold yet found in the British Isles. A copy is in the Natural History Museum of London.[2] The original was melted down. It is said to have been used to make a snuff box for George III.[3]

On October 15, 1795, the British government took over the business, which was legalized by Parliament 18 months later. By 1800 over 300 kg of gold had been panned, but the yield continued to decline; in 1801 the mine was closed. Until 1803 they searched for the Urader, but could not find it.

The origin of Wicklow Gold

Despite extensive excavations in the 1800s by Thomas Weaver, the gold mine geologist, nothing was found. His numerous search trenches – it is said to have been almost 13 kilometres – can still be seen today at Croghan Kinsella(Cruachán) mountain.

Today’s attempts to trace the origin by means of isotope analysis have also been unsuccessful so far. It is now known that the site is the bed of a much older river, which flowed in the present area before the formation of the mountains. All other gold veins in the area therefore show a different isotope combination.

Today the area is part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The brief gold rush inspired Irish composer John O’Keefe to write the comic opera The Wicklow Montains.

See also

List of mountains in Ireland


  • The hunt for the Wicklow Gold. In: New Scientist, No. 2588, p. 48ff.
  • Redar/McArdke: The Wicklow Gold. In: Journal of the Mining Heritage trust of Ireland, No. 3, p. 15.

Web links

Wicklow Mountains near Enniskerry

Commons: Mountains of County Wicklow– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. Flora(Memento of 6 February 2015 in the Internet Archive)
  2. The Wicklow gold nugget(Memento of 19 August 2009 in the Internet Archive)
  3. Link/ no longer available, search web archives ) Info: Thelink was automatically marked as broken. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.