Appreciating mountains isn’t always about standing on their summits. Sometimes it is just as uplifting to traverse their hidden glens, to follow the course of babbling brooks that meander through woods, lush meadows and bogs into loughs hemmed in by jagged cliffs; to quietly wander in their shadows savouring the chance encounter with wildlife. A truly sublime landscape experience can be had by parking at Old Bridge ( OldBge Sc (O15556 02448)
) and following the paved road NW towards Lough Dan. A green sign marks the start of a trail leading to Kanturk via a wooden gate. This rocky path weaves its way above the lough through dense bracken slopes passing rowan trees dripping with scarlet berries. Past another gate the track runs steeply downhill to the valley floor. At the bottom is a copse of trees where the wind sighs heavily in the boughs spread out over the shattered shells of stone cottages, a serene but lonely place.
Beyond, the Inchavore River snakes its way past grassy meadows to deposit a perfect crescent of sand on the lough’s north shore (E (O14349 04439)
). A rough track leads towards this golden sandy beach shaded by oak trees; a small boat bobbing about on the shoreline made it feel like a tropical island. The warm sunlight dancing on the deep blue surface of the lake and the mesmeric lapping of tiny waves on the shore made it hard to leave this little piece of paradise in Wicklow.
We doubled back across the meadows to cross the Inchavore River via some stones at F (O13768 04620)
and then traversed the north shore of the lough enjoying entrancing views of the river and tree shaded beach beyond. The path weaves through bracken and some gorse between giant granite boulders flung down the slopes of Knocknacloghoge above and is boggy in places. It then swings NE up the Cloghoge Valley past a deserted whitewashed cottage partially shaded by a Tolkienesque sycamore just above the Cloghoge River. Running between rustic dry stone walls, an old cart track then traverses the edge of a sweeping expanse of meadow fringed by broad leaf trees, above which tower the slopes of Sleamaine bedecked in vibrant purple heather. Against this idyllic backdrop were herds of grazing deer.
Past the bridge crossing the Cloghoge Brook, a footpath on the left leads up the steep lower slopes of Luggala. Fine views now ravish the eye: the Cloghoge Valley, Lough Dan beyond and below, the circular deep blue Lough Tay steadily creeping into view in its heathery amphitheatre with precipitous granite cliffs. There is no cairn on Luggala, but an impressive expanse of heath undulates towards the distinctive peaks of Djouce, Kippure, Mullaghcleevaun and Tonelagee. We then bore NW descending gently over periodically boggy ground towards the R115 where we had parked a second car in a layby ( TayNW (O13735 08752)
). Although we only climbed one summit, this memorable 13.5 km 6 hour walk took us through mountain scenery that would utterly enrapture a poet. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/286/comment/6070/