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Lough Ouler Hike Guide: Getting To The Heart Shaped Lake In Wicklow (AKA Tonlegee Hike)

Lough Ouler Hike Guide: Getting To The Heart Shaped Lake In Wicklow (AKA Tonlegee Hike)

The hikes up Tonelagee to see Lough Ouler – Ireland’s heart shaped lake – are by no means easy.

There are two main trails that take you up to see Lough Ouler and each comes with its pros and cons.

The Lough Ouler loop begins from the Glenmacnass side and takes 4-4.5 hours (it also comes with several warnings).

The much more straightforward Lough Ouler hike from the Turlough Hill side takes 2-2.5 hours. Dive on in!

Some quick need-to-knows about the Lough Ouler Hike in Wicklow

Unlike the nearby Djouce Mountain walk and the many Glendalough walks, the Lough Ouler hike isn’t overly straightforward, if you don’t know what to look out for. Here’s some handy info:

1. Location

You’ll find Lough Ouler in the Wicklow Mountains, at the side of Tonelagee Mountain, the 33rd highest mountain in Ireland and the 3rd highest peak in the Wicklow Mountains (Luqnaquilla is the highest).

2. Home to the heart shaped lake in Wicklow

Yes, it’s on the Tonelagee hike that you’ll be treated to a view of the now-iconic heart shaped lake in Wicklow. On a clear day, there are few views in Ireland’s ‘Garden County’ that compare.

3. How long the hike takes

The linear Tonelagee hike takes 2-2.5 hours while the Lough Ouler Loop takes 4-4.5 hours to complete.

4. Lough Ouler car park

There are two Lough Ouler car parks – the one you choose will depend on which version of the hike you do. If you’re doing the linear hike up Tonlegee Mountain, park here. If you’re doing the looped walk you’ll want the Glenmacnass Lough Ouler car park (here on maps).

5. Safety warnings

The trails for the Lough Ouler hike are non-existent in places. Combine this with the fact that the summit of Tonlegee Mountain is regularly covered in thick mist and you have a potential safety hazard. Only attempt the Lough Ouler hikes if you have the ability to navigate.

Tonlegee Hike Route 1: From Turlough Hill

the tonelagee hike

Photos from when I did the trail last June

The first Lough Ouler hike we’ll go through is the liner trail from the Turlough Hill side. This is the best route up Tonlegee Mountain, in my opinion.

This trail is roughly 4.5km in length and takes between 2-2.5 hours to complete.


The Lough Ouler car park near Turlough hill (here’s the location on Google Maps) is the starting point for this trail.

It’s a big car park and it’s rarely busy, but keep in mind that it’s secluded so leave no valuables on show.

Finding the start of the trail

Finding the start of this Lough Ouler walk used to be straightforward, but the trail is no longer clear.

In the photos above you’ll see a little sign – it’s directly across from the car park. Cross the ditch beside it and start the ‘trail’ here.

Starting the climb

The path to the top of Tonlegee Mountain from here, as you’ll see in the photo above, is clear in places and non-existent in others.

You’ll often need to play it by ear. This is fine on a good day, but less so when visibility is poor, so make sure you can navigate.

Reaching the summit and seeing Lough Ouler

The final stretch of the Tonelagee hike will get the blood flowing, as there’s a fairly solid incline that you’ll need to tackle.

When I did this last, it took around an hour to reach the summit. When you reach level ground at the top of Tonlegee Mountain, whip out Google Maps.

If you zoom in on your location, you’ll be able to see the shape of Lough Ouler very clearly. Make your way towards it but be careful as it’s steep and there’s plenty of sheer drops.

Views and the return journey

Take some time to soak up the jewel in the crown of Tonlegee Mountain. On a clear day it’s hard to bate.

When you’ve finished soaking up the views, you need to return the same way (prefer looped trails? See our guide to the best walks in Wicklow).

Lough Ouler Hike Route 2: The loop from Glenmacnass

The second Tonlegee hike route that takes you up to see the heart shaped lake in Wicklow starts from just past Glenmacnass Waterfall (or just before it, if you’re approaching from the Lough Tay side).

Personally, I’d never recommend doing this Lough Ouler loop. The reason for this is that there’s 1, no clear trail 2, the beginning of the trail is dangerous and 3, the ground is extremely boggy in places.

However, if you fancy tackling the Lough Ouler hike from this side, here’s some need-to-knows.


Your Lough Ouler car park for this route is located right next to Glenmacnass here. This car park is isolated – leave nothing of value visible in the car.

The route to the lake

After leaving your car, head towards the trees and the river. You’ll see stepping stones that you can use to cross the river – be VERY careful here, as the stones are often VERY slippy.

Walk along the bank to the right and you’ll quickly reach the edge of the woods. Once you reach the edge, you may (emphasis on ‘may’) be able to find a path.

It can be difficult/impossible to spot. When you find the path, start to climb. Keep going and you’ll see Tonelagee Mountain in the distance once you reach the top of the woods.

Some words of advice

Apparently, there’s an old road that runs along the top of the woods, but we didn’t see it when we were there a few years back.

If you find it, follow it to the right and you’ll find a path that’ll lead you up to Tonelagee Mountain. Take your time and enjoy the views out over Lough Ouler that you’ll be treated to on the way.

Making your way back down

When you finish up taking in the views of the lake, it’s time to make the return journey. From the summit of Tonelagee, follow the path north towards the Stoney Top (you’ll need to keep the lake on your right).

After a little while, you’ll see a standing stone with a cross on it. Take a right at the stone and make your way down from here. The lake will stay on your right.

FAQs about the Lough Ouler Walk

heart shaped lake wicklow

Photos via Shutterstock

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long the Lough Ouler walk takes to where’s best to park.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.


How long does the Lough Ouler hike take?

The linear Tonelagee hike takes 2-2.5 hours while the Lough Ouler Loop takes 4-4.5 hours to complete.

Where is the Lough Ouler car park?

You can park your car at the top of Glenmacnass Waterfall. If you’ve driven the Sally Gap and are driving towards Glenmacnass, you’ll see the car park to the right before you reach the waterfall.

Where do you start the Lough Ouler hike?

You can start the Tonlegee Hike from two places: The car park that’s right next to Glenmacnass Waterfall or the Turlough Hill car park (the other side of the mountain).

How do I get to Tonlegee Mountain without a car?

When we camped at Lough Ouler, we left the car at home and grabbed a taxi from the village of Roundwood. The taxi dropped us at Turlough Hill car park. We then followed a clear path to the top. From here, we worked our way down until the heart-shaped lake came into view.

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Saturday 3rd of September 2022

This is an fabulous hike very slippery in wet weather would recommend it for the views though! Hiking boots essential! Enjoy


Sunday 31st of July 2022

Thanks so much for the perfect detailed information! We just made it today and found some more people that were following this blog tips ❤️


Wednesday 16th of September 2020

Hello :),

Do you need walking sticks for this hike or is it perfectly do-able without?

Thanks in advance


Sunday 31st of July 2022

@Jan, it is dosble without it… I just comleted it today with my 9yearsold son.


Thursday 30th of July 2020

If I take the route from Turlough Hill car park, do I descend the same way?

Keith O'Hara

Friday 31st of July 2020

Hi Laura,

If you've left the car in the car park there you can descend that way (basing this on a recent visit). If you have someone to collect you, you can continue to the Glenmacnass side, just be careful as it can be very slippy and boggy here.



Joe Hunt

Sunday 19th of July 2020

Hi. Based on a previous article by you I headed out to the Turlough Hill car park just over a week ago. I could not see a clear trail anywhere up the mountain. Coincidentally while I was there 2 more cars arrived both again travelled based on your previous article. Nobody could see the trail. I eventually ended up doing the marked miners trail further down. Could you provide a photo taken from the car park showing the trail perhaps or maybe more specific directions. Thanks.

Keith O'Hara

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

Sorry Joe - missed this comment! The shrubbery must have grown over the trail since we were there, as it was nice and clear from the car park when we visited in May. I'll make a note of this now and try to get back up in the coming months!

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