Enjoy interactive panoramic views from some of the summits of our favourite walks in Leinster
If you’re planning a hike in the east coast this summer, get a hint of what sights are in store on some of our favourite viewpoints. We’ve also included information on some nearby walking trails and visible landmarks to help you identify exactly what you can see on the horizon.
Browse the views from the summits from the comfort of your own home using your mobile device, computer or VR headset. For the best quality viewing, click the settings symbol on the YouTube video and adjust the quality to 1080p or higher.
Heavenly Views at The Hell Fire Club
In the Dublin Mountains, on Montpellier Hill, there was once a Neolithic passage tomb dating back to between 4,500 – 2000 BC. Thousands of years later, on the same spot a distinct hunting lodge was erected on the same ground by Speaker William Conolly, an Irish politician of significant standing in Irish society. The grand lodge which consisted of multiple rooms, would soon lose its roof. The whispers were that Speaker Conolly’s lodge had been built with the materials from the stone of the ancient tomb and the devil had taken retribution on the property.
The speaker would pass away four short years later and the building would not see its spirit raised until 1735. This was the year, it is said, that the Hell Fire Club established by Richard Parsons, the first Earl of Rosse, chose the lodge as their HQ. The mysterious club was surrounded by an aura of rumoured debauchery and excessive drinking. Many a myth, exaggerated tale or perhaps historical fact (who knows) have been gleefully told at length in pubs around the capital. Some of the most creative have been curated at AbandonedIreland.com. OK, twist our arm we’ll tell one.
“A man enters the club on a stormy night, seeking both shelter and opportunity. He joins a card game with a well-dressed player in the club and starts to try his luck. Mid way through the round he accidently drops his card on the floor and apologises to the man as he leans down and reaches towards his shoe to retrieve it. Alas, the man has no shoe, nor a foot but instead, a cloven hoof. In shock, our opportunist returns to his seat and with a smile and a puff of smoke, the well-dressed gentleman vanishes.”
Between Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, Quirke and more being shot on location in Ireland it’s amazing that we haven’t seen a Hell Fire series yet filmed in the now burnt out ruins of Montpellier Hill. Here’s hoping!
Believe these tales or not, they are great fun to tell your walking buddies as you make your way around the Montpellier Loop walk. If you need a break from the ghost stories while on the trail, pick out Phoenix Park in the distance. One of the largest recreational spaces in a European Capital, the park was originally built as a deer hunting reserve by James Butler, Duke of Ormond, on behalf of King Charles II. Centuries later it’s enjoyed daily by thousands of people and a few lions, tigers and snow leopards.
On a clear day, you can also make out the blue waters of Dublin Bay in the east. The hustle and the bustle of the busy port seems so far removed from the peacefulness of Montpellier Hill, when in actual fact there’s only 22 km between them.
With any luck, this hidden gem in the capital will be enjoyed by generations to come.
Should we have the route title here instead? Like you have below – ‘Great Sugar Loaf Loop Walk’
Montpellier Loop Walk
Distance: 2.5 km
Duration: 45 mins
Start location: Timbertrove Café Kilakee House, Kilakee Road, Dublin 16
End location: Timbertrove Café Kilakee House, Kilakee Road, Dublin 16
Parking: Timbertrove Café Kilakee House, Kilakee Road, Dublin 16
Co-ordinates: 53.253790 -6.321440
Follow the road up the hill from Rathfarnham Golf Club until you reach the Timbertrove Café. Once parked, walk up the road, heading south for 200 metres and then take the first right, joining the trail into the woods.
Follow the well-trodden path as it curves back into the clearing. Follow this for 500 metres and then follow the zig-zagging trail for another 600 metres.
As you approach a gathering of trees, continue straight on the path, ignoring both the left and right turns at the intersection of paths.
After another 500 metres take a right turn and head east. After 250 metres you will encounter the Hellfire Club building. Continue on east for another 550 metres and you will have reached your start point.
Sweet Sites from the Sugar Loaf
Nestled between, Delgany and Kilmacanogue, the Great Sugar Loaf sits high and mighty, surveying both Dublin and Wicklow. The short, steep hike up the hill can be completed in a couple of hours and offers a crow’s nest view of the capital and highlights of the Co. Wicklow landscape. During days with clear skies and sunshine it’s not unusual to see hang gliders dot the sky between the Sugar Loaf and Kippure.
The grey and brown makeup of the Wicklow Mountains, will no doubt catch your eye as you take in a panoramic view from the Sugar Loaf’s summit. The colouring is the product of the mountain’s composition, granite and quartzite rocks. The highest peak in the range that dominates the centre of the county is Lugnaquilla. The 925-metre peak is not one for inexperienced walkers, so if you’re out for a Sunday stroll and not an adventurous trek, enjoy the ‘mountain with a mean streak’ from the comfortable distance of the Sugar Loaf.
The short climb time of the Sugarloaf gives you the opportunity to drive and ramble around some of the other attractions that Wicklow has to offer, like Powerscourt waterfall. A trip to Powerscourt doesn’t just offer access to Ireland’s highest waterfall but also the renowned walled gardens and the restored Powerscourt House which was renovated to its full glory in the 1990s.
Sometimes we wonder if Wicklow should be called ‘Picklow’ with the amount of top quality picnic locations dotted around the county. If the picnic basket isn’t in your car, why not stop by the village of Greystones, the foodie capital of Wicklow. The Happy Pear, Three Qs and Las Tapas do well with the locals and if you fancy a walk with your ice-cream afterwards, you can walk barefoot along on one of Ireland’s premier Blue Flag beaches.
Great Sugar Loaf Loop Walk
Difficulty: Moderate to hard
Type: Up and back
Distance: 2.70 km
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins
Start location: Sugar Loaf Car Park
End location: Same as start point
Parking: Sugar Loaf Car Park off the L1031
Co-ordinates: 53.144701 – 6.154530
Starting at the purpose-built car park, located just off the L1031 at the foot of the mountain, the trek to the summit starts as a relatively straight forward walk with a distance of 1.4 km
It’s near the top however, that some balancing with the hands and feet is needed to scale the turn just before the summit. Some less experienced climbers may need to turn back before they reach the top.
Take your time on the descent as the lack of twists and turns could turn a tumble into a snowball if you lost your footing.
How’s Howth Looking Today?
Frequent visitors to Howth will already be aware of the culinary delights that the seaside village has to offer, between the food market opposite the DART station and the many restaurants along the pier.
A magnificent lighthouse sits on the edge of the main pier of the harbour, one which has an unusual history. The story goes that Howth was to be the main ferry port for crossings from the UK, but there were logistical problems facilitating the deep keels of the ships. Although we all know that Dun Laoghaire would go on and take up this mantle, plans for the lighthouse had already been approved.
The lighthouse was constructed, but would not have light for years later. The North County Dublin inlet was also the setting for revolutionary arms smuggling in pre-Republic Ireland. Learn more about the fascinating history of the Howth Harbour here.
If visiting Howth in the spring and summer, be sure to make the crossing to Ireland’s Eye, the small island that sits just 1 km from the harbour. As well as offering visitors a beach that’s ‘away from it all’, the island boasts a rich history that includes, monks, mystery and some say…a murder. A cohort of monks wrote the Garland of Howth on the island, a gospel text written in Latin more than a 1000 years ago on the island. Fragments of the book are now in Trinity College.
Centuries later in 1852, William Burke Kirwan became one of Howth’s most famous citizens when a daytrip he made to the island with his wife Maria ended in tragedy. The story goes that Mr Kirwan met the boatman for his return journey alone, explaining that he needed help locating his missing wife. The two men found her body on the rocks hours later. As an Irish Times article highlighted in recent years, Kirwan was arrested for allegedly causing her death and was only arrested after some interesting motives were unearthed. Keep an eye out for murder mystery nights that run on the island on Groupon.
If you’re enjoying a bag of chips or a 99 cone along the pier, you can always burn off some calories on the cliff walk that runs north to south from the pier to the hidden Baily Lighthouse on the cliffside that’s hidden from the view of the harbour.
Howth Cliff Walk
Distance: 4.4 km
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins
Start location: Top of Balscadden Road, 1.2 km from Howth Pier
End location: The Summit Pub
Parking: Howth Pier
Co-ordinates: 728302.637 739401.294
Standing on the pier and facing up the Balscadden Road, follow the road to its conclusion up the hill and you will come across the entrance to the cliff walk. From here the trail goes from north to south for 2.5 km before it reaches the path to the Baily Lighthouse. Make your way down the left turn for a photo or two and make your way back up to the trail.
Depending on where you are parked, you have the option of going back the way you came or exiting the trail near The Summit Pub. To choose the latter option, take the left trail going up the hill, 600 metres from the turn off on the way back to the start of the trail.
If you’re not stopping for a quick pint, walk up the Baileygreen road, taking a right at the end and heading back down through the village of Howth.
Glendalough Glistens in the Sun
Glendalough has it all. Monastic ruins, a legendary former inhabitant, a series of challenging walks and unique natural beauty.
The valley of two lakes was founded by St Kevin, a man of noble origins who in the 6th century lived as a hermit in the undeveloped picturesque surroundings of the lake. On a tour of the valley a guide would likely point out St Kevin’s Bed, a cave formation in the hillside where Kevin is said to have dwelled in times when he required solitude away from his followers.
The best perspective of the two lakes that give the area its name is from the higher ridges of the Spinc loop walk which we’ve detailed below.
Although Glendalough is visited by thousands of tourists each year, the location’s tranquillity remains intact and as the Lonely Planet Guide correctly points out, it’s easy to see “why those solitude-seeking monks came here in the first place”.
From the view point of the Spinc walk, you can make out the Round Tower of Glendalough popping out from the trees. Standing at 33 metres with an age of almost 1000 years, it is believed that this tower played an important defensive role for the monastery during Viking raids. The four-storey building with narrow windows offered a great vantage point without leaving the occupants too exposed.
The east shore of the Upper Lake is perhaps the most photogenic spot (bar the Spinc walk viewing point) in the whole valley. You’ve no doubt seen the combination of the water and the hills used as a backdrop to many a ‘jump and pose’ photo on social media. We strongly urge you to give it a try.
The Spinc Walk Difficulty: Hard
Start location: Glendalough Lower Lake Car Park
End Location: Glendalough Lower Lake Car Park
Parking: Glendalough Upper Lake Car Park
Co-ordinates: 53.012625 -6.329883
The first 1.5km of your journey heads west from the Glendalough Visitor’s Centre, with the lower lake passing by on your right-hand side. Next comes a 600 metre trail south which brings you up the hill to the same heights as our view point.
Now that you’ve reached new heights, follow the trail west for 1.6 km to reach the best view spot of the whole valley.
The trail continues up high, overlooking the lake and curving to the east for another 2 km until you are facing Glendalough’s Upper Lake head on.
Take the path that heads towards the lake and descends into the valley. You will soon pass the ruins of the old Miner’s Village, before reaching the banks of the lake 1.3 km later.
From here the path veers north of the water and brings you back to the start of the trail. The view from the east shore of the lake with the water and mountain backdrop should not be missed.
Below are some of our paper map products that cover the areas shown in this post.
Do you know of any walks or hiking trails that you’d like to see featured in 360 degrees? We could feature them in a future extended blog post on the subject. Let us know on our Facebook Page.
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