During the Christmas break we headed into the Wicklow Mountains, to the stunning Glenmalure Valley. Though less well known than it’s famous neighbour, Glendalough Valley, Glenmalure is also a beautiful valley with plenty of wonderful walks you can enjoy without the crowds!
Wild and remote, the Glenmalure Valley was carved out and shaped during the last ice age and by the gradually melting ice caps. It’s the longest glacial valley in Ireland and Britain.
To be honest, this is part of the Wicklow Mountains that I’m not very familiar with. In fact, I can’t even tell you if I’ve visited before. If I did, it was a long, long time ago. Also, if we’re going full disclosure, a big part of visiting the Glenmalure Valley was because I really wanted to go for a sauna!
Yep, in the heart of Glenmalure Valley you can experience total bliss in Bosca Beatha, a mobile sauna that is currently located on the banks of the Avonbeg River. If you get the chance, try it out. It’s really good!
It can’t be all about the pampering though. Well, it can but we also wanted to check out some of the magnificent surroundings while we were there. We also needed a little bit of a workout after the holidays. Little being the operative word, we choose just two short walks to get somewhat acquainted with the area.
The Miner’s Path
Our first stop was Ballinafunshoge carpark. This is the starting point for a short walk known as the Miner’s Path. It’s short but steep and gets the heart pumping! Just 1.6km, it takes in or around 30 mins to get up and back.
You’ll be following the same route once used by miners heading to and from the Ballinafunshoge mine, which was one of six lead mines located in the Glenmalure Valley. It’s a really pleasant walk, starting near a waterfall that can be seen as soon as you pull into the parking area. The trail takes you back and forth through Scots Pines as you climb. Higher up, spectacular views open out over the valley.
Across the valley is Lugnaquilla, Ireland’s highest peak in Leinster and the highest in Ireland outside county Kerry. You’ll also be able to make out the Carrawaystick waterfall and the aptly named Zig-Zags track, our next port of call!
There are plenty of options for longer walks from this point too as the Miners Path is an access route to the Wicklow Way and to the open mountains. There is also an extensive network of trails throughout the forest.
The Zig-Zags, Glenmalure
Once we’d finished our warmup on the Miner’s Path, we drove the short distance along the valley from Ballinafunshoge carpark to the Zig-Zags. As mentioned above, it’s pretty easy to see the track etched into the mountainside, so you’re likely to spot it as you drive along. If not, you can’t miss the waterfall and the old white cottage with a red roof that sits at it’s base.
Find a parking spot along the road and then follow the signposted path, which takes you over the Avonbeg River and towards the cottage. As you approach the cottage, you’ll see the start of the trail to the left of the cottage and Carrawaystick brook.
The route is clearly marked with a large signpost, which states that it was originally a hunting path. It was used in the 1800s by the Parnell family who resided nearby at the Avondale Estate. The trail has been reconstructed by Mountain Meitheal volunteers with permission of the landowners. Note that dogs are strictly not allowed on this trail as it’s a working sheep farm.
A wooden bridge built by the volunteers prevents you from starting the walk with soggy feet, thankfully. It also provides a great view of the waterfall as you pass. Then it’s just a matter of following the trail and taking in all the amazing views of the Glenmalure Valley as you weave your way up the mountainside. It’s times like these, I love having the camera with me. Stopping to take photos and admire the scenery is a great excuse to catch my breath!
The Zig-Zags trail is 1.5km and a sign marks its end. It also warns you to have the appropriate footwear, clothing, a map and compass if you’re going to venture further. Like the Miner’s Path, this trail is an access route to the mountains. You can continue to the summit of Cloghernagh or even tackle Lugnaquilla. That would have to be another day’s adventure though. We were starting to lose the light at this stage, so it was time make our way back and head for the sauna!
When the legs have been stretched, Glenmalure Lodge is the perfect spot to return to. Think warm food and drink, turf fire and a cosy pub atmosphere. Though we didn’t forget our reason for visiting in the first place! We totally chilled out (in more ways than one!) by dipping into the freezing waters of the Avonbeg River and relaxing in Bosca Beatha mobile sauna. When visiting Glenmalure, the sauna is conveniently located next to the riverbank, just in front of the lodge. All in all, a pretty great way to spend the day! Note the sauna is not permanent so check Bosca Beatha’s Facebook page for details.
It’s easy to get lost or confused navigating through the Wicklow Mountains. Unfortunately signposts are not as plentiful as they could be either. If you’re having trouble finding the trails, Glenmalure Lodge is a good starting point. If you’re using Google maps, download the maps so you can access them offline. The signal can be non-existent in many areas.
There’s a crossroads just beside the lodge which is signposted. Just follow the sign for Glenmalure, leading you along The Glen Road and you can’t go wrong. You’ll see the Carrawaystick waterfall to your left after about 2 kms. Continue on approximately 1km further for the Miner’s Path. You’ll see the stone-walled Ballinafunshoge carpark on your right which is the starting point.
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