Hiking to a hidden heart shaped lake

IRELAND- HIKING TO THE HEART SHAPED LAKE IN WICKLOW,

On the hottest day of the year, we decided to climb the third highest summit in the province to see a glimpse of the heart shaped lake. Let me put this into context. It is Ireland, so the temperature hit 20c for the first time this year and the entire country went a little wild. The city centre was like a ghost town while everyone escaped it to enjoy a few precious rays. (See bottom of post for route details)

Navigating the stepping stones

River-cross-Tonelagee-

River crossing point at Tonegalee on the way back

Completely unfit and mostly unprepared we parked near to the Glenmacnass waterfall to climb the 817m to the summit. The first challenge was to cross a river, that had stepping stones in place of a bridge. Picturing myself fall into the water in the first few minutes of the hike gave me slight apprehension. I waited while some more experienced lithe looking walkers easily hopped across with the grace of a gazelle. My turn. I cautiously stepped on the first stone. Then got stuck halfway. The next stone was both slippery and unstable. Gathering my nerves, I thought it best to go across as quickly as I could. Propelling myself over the stone onto the shore as clumsily as and awkwardly as an elephant on rollerskates.

Climbing up the near verticle gradient

mountain-ridge-at-Tongelee-wicklow-ireland

Mountain ridge at Tongelee Wicklow Ireland

With first hurdle accomplished. I looked up to witness a practically verticle gradient. The instructions told us to stick close to the woods on the left-hand side. Huffing and puffing instantly, I clambered up and stepped into the soggy soil one step slowly in front of the other. After a few minutes, I got to the top of the first steep gradient thinking the worst was behind me. We found and lost the path a few times and headed vaguely towards the high ridge.

Glimpse of the heart-shaped lake

toe-dangling-lough-Ouler-Wicklow

Toe Dangling over Lake Ouler

The lake looks almost too perfect with deep blue-black tones. It is quiet and calm with barely a ripple even though there is a strong breeze.  It makes you question your senses. Is this real? Could nature have created something so heart shaped?  We were mesmerised following it all the way around as we walked higher and higher towards the summit. Every now and again I would stop to catch my breath. Look around and be stunned once again by the little glacial lake.

On top of the world 

on-top-of-Tonelagee-Wicklow-Ireland

On top of Tonelagee Wicklow Ireland

There were a few jutting rocks protruding over the sheer drop. Gathering my breath a little courage I stood on one to get absorb the panorama surrounding me. It was quiet but for the wind by ears and the odd bird twittering. I felt a sense of pride looking at the route we had already managed to hike around the lake so far.

The SOTA summit

SOTA-Summit-Tongelagee-Wicklow

SOTA-Summit-Tongelagee-Wicklow

At the summit, we met a few hikers. There was one older gentleman who shared some history of the area and pointed out other summits close by. According to the knowledgeable walker, the area is steeped in history of the Irish rebellion of 1798. It was a favourite hideout for many Irish Rebels with its location being so close to Dublin. Including Michael Dwyer and Robert Emmet. The man said some even died of hyperthermia while they were hiding out in the hills.

The standing stone

Standing-Stone-Tonelagee-Wicklow

Standing-Stone-Tonelagee-Wicklow

Just past the summit, there is a ragged standing stone with a rough cross carved into it. I don’t know exactly as to the significance of the stone. However, I guess it could have been a mass rock used as a location for a Roman Catholic Mass 400 years ago. During the penal laws in Ireland this type of activity would have been illegal and if someone was caught celebrating mass the priest would likely be killed.  In many instances, a stone would be taken from a church ruin, and relocated to a rural area, with a simple cross carved on its top.

The decent

As we started to descend I assumed the worst was behind us. I thought to myself well it’s all downhill from here. Which was indeed true. However, within a few minutes, there was another steep down to the valley. My knees and thighs started to shake at this stage. Other experienced older walkers past us by effortlessly while using walking poles. Us amateurs looked on enviously at their progress.

Following the river, perfect picnic spots & getting stuck in the mud

River-and-tree-Tonelagee-Wicklow

River-and-tree-Tonelagee-Wicklow

We finally made it down to a somewhat level ground. Although with lots of gorse, boggy land and scrub underfoot. Even after a week of sunshine, it was still very wet in places and I was glad of my waterproof boots. The river shore was dotted with the most picturesque picnic spots beside babbling brooks and mini waterfalls. I will definitely be back possibly replacing the hiking boots with a picnic blanket. Being scared of falling into the river while hoping back across stepping stones. I decided to wade across at a shallow point. While Alex being much braver choose the rockier option. We were both successful. However, soon after Alex was walking ahead and suddenly he was on his knees. I could make it exactly what had happened until he leant forward, propelling his weight with his other knee to stand upright again. He took a step straight into a bog hole knee deep. His trousers were know drenched in muddy bog water and muck. We decided it might be opportune to rejoin the road at this stage for the last few minutes in case we came across another one.  Families had gathered at Glenmacnass Waterfall to BBQ and the smell of grilled meat hit our nostrils. With tired legs, hungry stomachs and thirsty mouths we got back into the car. After 4.5 hours the car seat never felt so comfortable.

Route Details:

Length 9.31km
Climbed 441 m
Summit  817m
Steps 13,664
Duration 4:31 ( a fitter human would do it in much less) normally 3-4 hours

map tongalee

CLICK ON MAP TO WATCH 3D VIDEO OF HIKE ROUTE

Resources:

www.wicklowwalks.com/tonelagee
www.mountainviews.ie/summit/33/
www.walkingroutes.ie/1349-Tonelagee.html

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  • What a beautiful heart-shaped lake. It looks like amazing hiking country, I’ve never thought about hiking in Ireland or Wicklow but I can certainly see why you loved i t!

    • It’s such a great place for hiking I would highly recommend it. Even if your not interested in hiking just going for a drive is equally scenic

  • Kavita

    I’d totally never heard of this lake but I LOVE how properly heart-shaped it is! What a wonderful quirk of nature! The hike looks beautiful too, really peaceful.

  • Daniels Beitss

    Oh wow, I never even heard of this place and I am planning my second road trip of Ireland hopefully next year. I so want to see this lake now, it looks so beautiful!

    • Let me know when you’re planning to visit Ireland. I would be happy to offer local tips or meet up for a pint!

      • Daniels Beitss

        Sure. I am up for drinkies. he he. If you want, add me on FB, better to connect there (so many bloggers have got me on there). My profile is Daniels Beitss. 🙂

  • marvi ocampo

    Kudos to you for completing the ascent and the descent 😉 Indeed the view of the heat-shaped lake was worth it! I never really heard much of this lake, but it sounds like a rewarding hike!

  • What a great looking hike – I had no idea there was a heart shaped lake in Wicklow – and in fact I really do need to explore Ireland a bit more since it’s so much on my doorstep!

  • Nicole LaBarge

    I haven’t heard of the heart shaped lake in Ireland. It looks like a great hike and something that is on the off beaten path.

  • Medha Verma Bector

    I recently visited Ireland for 2 weeks and didn’t even know about the existence of this pretty heart shaped lake!, despite doing all research. I wonder why it didn’t pop up in my reading. It looks pretty awesome and although I am not into very grueling hikes, this one seems pretty decent and I am sure I could’ve managed a nearly 10km hike to be rewarded with such fantastic views!

  • Vyjay Rao

    This was a pretty interesting hike. I was intrigued by the heart shaped lake. A couple of months back I had been on a hike at a place called Chembra Peak in Wayanad India, and there too found a similar heart shaped lake! I love the fact that the place has a fascinating history and too and this adds more charm to the hike. The views are of course spectacular and adequate compensation for the hard trek up and back.

  • Never knew such a place excited. How pretty! I’ve been meaning to try more intermediate/difficult hikes too so this would be a great one to start with if I’m ever in Ireland. Bookmarked!

  • Looks like a perfect place to hike. Scenic and not too strenuous. The heart shaped lake makes all the strain go away. And I too am curious about the lone rock standing