Hikes & Walks / Leinster / Wicklow

Lough Ouler – Ireland’s Heart-Shaped Lake

I had no idea that this beautiful heart-shaped lake even existed until I saw a photo on Instagram. Then I just had to go check it out and kindly dragged José and my parents along for the ride too!

The lake, called Lough Ouler, is tucked away at the side of Tonelagee mountain. Tonelagee is a translation of the Irish Tóin le Gaoith, which means to “Arse to the Wind”. Very poetic I’m sure you’ll agree! A loop walk up and around the mountain will give you stunning views not only of the lake but the Wicklow Mountains and even as far as Snowdonia on a clear day.

We set out with directions from the ever helpful As stated, the track was not very clear and there seem to be quite a few different trails around the place but once you figure out the general direction you need to be headed, you can work out the best way to get there!

From the carpark of Glenmacnass Waterfall you need to cross this river to climb to Lough Ouler.

Cross the river and head past the trees to start your ascent.

Crossing the stepping stones to begin the climb to Lough Ouler

As per the directions, we crossed the river from the Glenmacnass Waterfall carpark, using the stepping stones and then headed to the right (if you’re standing facing the woods from the carpark) until we cleared the woods. Then we headed up a rather steep section but we found a good enough trail to follow so it wasn’t too bad. Once you get past that initial section of about 100m, it’s a slow and gradual climb up to the lake, which will be on your right if you follow the clockwise direction we went – see our trail on the map below.

Having found a trail we just kept climbing

Onwards and upwards

It’s a relatively challenging walk but we did see a family with two young kids (maybe about 5 and 7 years old) tackling it quite happily.  The ground is very uneven though and can be very muddy. That along with the fact there is not a clear trail all the way, could make it very difficult for some walkers.

My mam commented that she had to spend more time looking at her feet than at the views, which lessened the enjoyment a little for her. It’s ok, she gets to chose the next walk!

The walk is quite tough and the ground very uneven getting to Lough Ouler

Slow and steady climb all the way!

After about 45 mins to an hour of climbing you should start to get a peek of Lough Ouler and it’s distinctive heart-shape. It’s pretty impressive from that initial angle but best viewed from further up as you start the ascent of Tonelagee. There you get the full-on heart shape and fantastic views of the surrounds too. The perfect spot for a romantic picnic or a proposal!

First glimpse of Lough Ouler on our hike.

First glimpse of the lake.

Getting up higher to view Lough Ouler from above.

José at the top of Lough Ouler, the best angle to view it's distinctive heart shape.

I’m pretty sure José was proclaiming his love for me here!

Of course you don’t have to do the full loop and can just get to the lake and return if that is all you want to see. Just know that if you do complete the loop up and over Tonelagee, you’ll have climbed Ireland’s thirty-three and a third highest mountain – ok, just the 33rd highest but that’s still pretty cool! The full loop took us over four hours but that was with plenty of photo stops and a little break for lunch.

Descending from Tonelagee

So much beautiful heather on the Lough Ouler hike

The views are really beautiful along the way and the colours of the heather and wild flowers were stunning at the time we did it. Will definitely have to head back during autumn or winter and photograph it again with different colours or maybe even a sprinkling of snow! We also need to check out the Glenmacnass Waterfall next time as we had run out of time and needed to get back home.


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