Hiking to a hidden heart shaped lake


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 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

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 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

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



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



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



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




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