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Hiking the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain From Dublin, Ireland

by Roberto
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Most visitors to Dublin don’t even realize that there are so many great hikes just a stones throw away! These hikes don’t take you up to the extreme altitudes you’ll experience in places like the Colorado Rockies or the Swiss Alps, but you will experience some of the most spectacular views of Dublin City and the bay below. The Great Sugar Loaf Mountain is no exception. The Great Sugar Loaf is 500 meters tall, or 1640 feet, but has the BEST views of Dublin.

This is a hike I had heard about during one of my first weekends in Dublin while I was doing the Bray to Greystones walk along the coast with some new friends. As we were walking, the girls were telling me all about the Wicklow Mountains that to the south of Dublin and all the amazing hikes available on our Dublin doorstep. One of these mountains, which you can see from the Bray to Greystones path, is the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain in County Wicklow!

At the start of this year, two of my goals were to 1) explore more of Ireland and 2) create opportunities to get creatively active (I just freaking hate the gym). After 4 years in Ireland, I HAD to add the Great Sugar Loaf hike to my list of things to accomplish this year!

How long does it take?

Hiking the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain can be done from two starting points: a longer leisurely stroll towards the summit, or a quicker, well weathered path from the parking lot.

The first, longer trail, begins from the GAA club in Kilmacanogue. It follows a road for a short time until you walk through a few farm gates. Then, you’ll walk along a small dirt path, next to Irish stone walls and beautiful wild flower bushes. Throughout the walk, you’ll have amazing views of Bray and Dublin Bay below as you move higher to the summit. It is a fairly quiet trail and you won’t run into many others (except for the odd sheep or horse). This whole trail will take around 2-3 hours round trip (allow more if you pack a picnic for the top of the mountain).

The start of the trail to Sugar Loaf Mountain
The view towards the beginning of the long trail.

The shorter, more popular trail begins from the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain. Its a short walk up, getting more steep as you reach the top. It then connects with the end of the longer trail, and the climb to the top (and the amazing views) is shared by the two trails. This part of the trail is VERY busy. Since it is shorter and has easy car access, this is a very popular spot for families to start their hike. This part will take about an hour round trip, but be very careful coming down! There are a lot of loose rocks, and it pretty steep, so take it slowwww.

The summit of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain.
The summit of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain.

How to get there

One of the reasons I didn’t do this hike sooner, was because I thought I HAD to have a car, but you really don’t! You just need to know the right buses to take to get you where you need to be.

Short Trail

If you plan on doing the short trail to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, its obviously easiest to take a car and park in the parking lot at the bottom. The drive will take shortly over an hour to get there from the Dublin City Center. The other option (according to Google) is Bus 181, which is actually run by a private company, St. Kevin’s Bus Services (timetable here). While this route gets you close to the parking lot, the route only picks up from Dublin once a day and has one return later in the day. If you miss either, then you are out of luck for that service for the day.

Long Trail

You can also drive to this trail head and park at the Kilmacanogue GAA club.

If you don’t have a car, you can also take a bus. Some documentation you will see online about how to take public transport to this hike from the Dublin City Center will recommend Dublin Bus 145. Well, learning from experience, DON’T DO IT! It get’s you fairly close, but then you end up adding a 20 minute walk on a highway to get to Kilmacanogue. Trust me! ?

Walking on the highway looking for the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain trail
We took the 145 bus, which doesn’t actually drop you off where you need it.

Instead, I HIGHLY recommend using the Bus Eirann route 133. It picks up in multiple, very central spots around Dublin City (like St Stephens Green, Leeson Street, and Custom House Quay), and only takes an hour to get to Kilmacanogue! Much faster than the Dublin Bus AND taking a car!

The bus drops off near a Circle K and a pub called Pluck’s. Walk towards the mountain by Pluck’s to get to the trail head.

the street by Plucks

When you get to the intersection, you’ll start seeing signs for Sugar loaf.

Sign directing you to Sugarloaf Way hike

Cross the street in the direction of this sign to get to this fork in the road. To the left, you will get to the GAA club, but to the right you will head straight to the start of the trail.

Fork in the road. Left to the GAA club and right to the trail.

What to Wear

In typical Irish fashion (no pun intended), you really should wear LAYERS on LAYERS that can be added or removed. Weather in Ireland can change in a second from sun to rain to wind… especially in the Wicklow mountains.

Here is my recommendation on what to wear:

  • Hiking Boots or Gym Shoes
  • Long pants
  • Short sleeved shirt
  • Light sweater/long sleeves
  • Waterproof windbreaker
  • Wooly Hat
  • Gloves if you tend to get cold hands

What to Pack

On any day hike you go on you should always take a backpack with necessary items for safety. The items you need will vary depending on how long of a hike you are on, how strenuous it is, how far away you are from help, etc. For this Sugar Loaf hike, these are some items you might want to make sure to have, but REI has a really great, in-depth checklist for things you might need:

  • Water
  • Small First Aid Kit (the rocks on the summit are very lose. It’s easy to slip and fall.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Flashlight (In case your cell phone dies and you spend too much time enjoying the view at the top before sundown)
  • Whistle (especially if you are going alone. You may not have cell service in parts of the mountain. If you have an emergency, you’ll need a way for people to find you)
  • Hand Sanitizer (you will need your hands to climb parts of the summit, so bring this so you can have clean hands for your lunch with a view)
  • Cash/Leap Card if taking the bus
  • Lunch

I highly recommend planning a packed lunch picnic at the top of the mountain. You can find a (un)comfortable rock, unpack your lunch, and enjoy some of the best views of Dublin!

A packed lunch feast.
A packed lunch feast!

If you liked this day trip from Dublin, check out some of my other favorite, easy day trips from Dublin.

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