The granite cliffs of Luggala are located on the eastern side of the Wicklow mountain massif. The cliffs rise imposingly above the western shores of Lough Tay in the valley of the Cloghoge River. There is a fine view of the crag from the Sally Gap road (R759) across the lake. The nearest urban centre is Roundwood, about 6 km away to the southeast.
Luggala is nearer to Dublin than Glendalough, about a 30 - 40 minute drive south of the city. Probably the quickest approach from Dublin is via the Military Road (R115) southward to Sally Gap. There is a regular bus service (St. Kevin's Bus) to Roundwood which is also served by Wicklow Local Link 183 Wicklow to Glendalough route. Camping is not permitted in the vicinity of the crag which is located on a privately owned estate. There is a camp-site in Roundwood and the climbing huts in Glendalough are within easy reach for those with cars. The nearest youth hostels are in Knockree to the north and Glendalough to the south.
There are two possible approaches to the crag from the roads.
The shortest and most direct approach crosses the moorland plateau from the Military Road to the northwest of the crag. Cars may be parked at Bearnabeg at a layby (O 138 088) on the right (west) side of the road, 2.5 km south of Sally Gap. Cross the road to an eroded walking path. From this point Fancy Mountain (595m)is visible 2 km to the southeast. In the same general direction a low rounded hill can be clearly seen about 1 km away, in front of and somewhat to the left of Fancy.
Follow the path in an southeast direction to the top of this low hill. Continue along the path for another 300 - 400m before bearing off left in an ESE direction, contouring along the hill for over 500m until the top of H Buttress is reached. From here easy gullies lead down either side of the Buttress or alternatively an obvious path leads off leftwards to the top of North Gully and North Buttress about 200m away. Alternatively you can spurn the "shortcut" to the left and follow the main track to the top of Fancy and then left around the top of the cliffs. This is longer and gains more height than the "shortcut" but involves much less hard work.
This approach to the crag takes about 35-40 minutes and traverses flat to gently sloping terrain. Deep heather may make the going tedious in places and during broken weather the ground becomes wet underfoot. A map and compass should be carried on this upland approach as it is not unusual for low cloud to descend, making route-finding difficult on the return journey over largely featureless terrain. Despite these potential problems this is now the recommended approach as it passes through open uninhabited moorland rather than the fenced land crossed in the next approach with its possible attendant difficulties of access.
The above description was written in 1993 when that guidebook was being published. Since then walkers have created a major trackway from Barnabeg to a newly created muck field at the top of Fancy Mountain where you can join the track around the crest of the cliffs. As a result it is now easier and quicker to continue on this track than to undertake the tedious traverse left 300m - 400m after the first low hill. The same applies on the return journey.
The approach from the east is from the Roundwood - Sally Gap road at the Luggala Gate Piers (O 172 065). Follow the private road downhill (vehicles not allowed) for about 1 km to a hairpin bend and gate-lodge. From here it was previously possible to cross a fence and follow a grassy track to a river crossing at the southern outlet from Lough Tay. This short cut is now strictly prohibited and instead one must follow the road down to just beyond the bridge on the Cloghoge River. Leave the road at the stile and contour back northwards along the lower flanks of the hill until the south end of the lake is reached. A track winds along near the lake shore to the boulder field below the cliffs. This approach is circuitous and it also involves an uphill slog on the return journey at the end of the day. As a reward for this it gives very impressive views of the cliffs and makes it easy for the first time visitor to form an impression of their layout. It takes about 1 hour.
See overlapping pictures which illustrate what is described below at G Buttress, H Buttress, Main cliff left, Main cliff central, main cliff right
The cliffs of Luggala are complex, being broken by large gullies and broad grassy terraces. They are in fact divided into a number of distinct crags which are best described from south to north. To the south of the main cliffs there is a large circular basin rimmed high up by a series of generally small buttresses named A to G from south to north or from left to right as one faces them. So far only G Buttress, the largest of these, has yielded climbs and these mostly in recent times. About 200m to the north of G Buttress and somewhat tucked away above the main cliffs is the more substantial H Buttress(Creag Eidhnean). It has two faces, one facing roughly south and the other west. There are easy descent gullies on each side of the Buttress and these merge into a scree and boulder covered slope known as South Gully. Adjoining each of these upper gullies are minor buttresses which have a number of short climbs.
Since G and H Buttress are located at the head of the basin and higher up than the main cliffs they are readily accessible from the plateau route from the Military Road. They offer generally short routes good for an evening visit or a short climbing day.
Directly below H Buttress and to the right or north of South Gully is the imposing Woody Wall. At the lower end of Woody Wall is Terrace Corner, so called because it is the point of access to the long grassy break known as Conifer Terrace. Above the Terrace and to the north or right of Woody Wall is the mainly slabby Conifer Buttress/Creag Cónaiséareach. The scree slopes of South Gully continue down from Terrace Corner for a short distance adjoining the left-hand end of South Buttress/Creag Fásra which lies below the level of Conifer Terrace.
To the right or north of Conifer Buttress/Creag Cónaiséareach and South Buttress/Creag Fásra is the Main Face, the centre piece of the whole crag, a most impressive feature with its steep exposed rock and great overhangs. Below the Main Face there are somewhat vegetated slabs, mostly easy angled. These are the Main Face Slabs, separated from the Main Face above by a grassy rake.
Further right beyond the Main Face and separated from it by the deep gash of North Gully (Great Gully) is Creag Thuaidh or North Buttress. This consists essentially of three tiers of rock separated by grassy terraces.
The climbs at Luggala require a wide variety of techniques ranging from delicate footwork on slabs to strenuous arm-pulling on vertical walls and overhangs. The rock is somewhat coarser in texture than that of Glendalough and where it is free from lichen or moss the frictional qualities are excellent. The routes tend to be much less direct than those at Glendalough, not usually following obvious crack lines. A twisting series of grooves, ramps, corners, short walls and overhangs are what one can expect to encounter. The zig-zag nature of many routes means that double ropes and skill in using them are necessary to counter the problem of frictional drag. Route finding also calls for a careful, studied approach. The climbing is typically not too sustained with welcome rest points alternating with frantic bursts of activity. Protection varies, frequently adequate or even good but one also regularly encounters climbs where the protection is sparse or marginal. Friends, especially the small or medium sizes, help a lot as does the cunning use of whatever protection elements are available.
While it is true that some of the routes are marred by vegetation, this is mostly true of the earlier easier climbs which often follow gully lines where seepage may also be an additional problem. The more modern routes are much less affected in this way. The cliffs are widely affected by seepage in winter and some routes may become wet for a time during spells of poor weather in the summer climbing season; these routes do, however, dry out quite quickly after a rainy spell in marked contrast to climbs on the Upper Cliffs at Glendalough which may require a few weeks of settled weather to come into condition.
Links to Route descriptions
- Luggala G & H Buttresses
- Luggala Woody Wall & Conifer Buttress (Creag Conaisreach)
- Luggala South Buttress (Creag Fasra)
- Luggala Main Face
- Luggala North Buttress (Creag Thuaidh)
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