A constant challenge that rewards with splendid views
Map: OSI Discovery Series, Sheet 56
First published in the Evening Herald on September 8, 1966
This is a mountain, almost unique in Wicklow for its sharp and shapely form, a mountain which could hold its own in any company, even alongside Ben Bulben or among the jagged peaks of Kerry.
The Sugar Loaf stands as a constant challenge to walkers and motorised travellers alike, and in any sort of clear weather those who make for the airy crest will be rewarded by a splendid view.
The easiest, but not perhaps the most interesting way to tackle the Big Sugar Loaf, is from the Red Lane, at the top of the Long Hill road, T61, reached by St Kevin's Bus.
The Red Lane is the turn left, leading east from the bus road immediately alongside the filling station and shop at the top of the hill.
From here you just walk east, keeping the summit of Sugar Loaf on your left, until after about half-a-mile, a green road is seen winding uphill, away from the tarmac you have been following.
This green road winds about considerably, but brings you up and over the shoulder of Sugar Loaf, rising to near 1,300 feet.
I have heard, but have never seen it done, that motor-bikes have driven over the entire track here, across to Kilmacanoge, but the ultimate summit remains reserved to men on foot, a short sharp climb over shaley scree and tumbled rock, to the little flat platform at the apex of Sugar Loaf's cone, from the highest point of the trail (which hereabouts ceases to be a grassy green road, and becomes a rutted stony track).
The summit view shows you every detail of Glencree, of the woods around Enniskerry and Powerscourt, with a fair slice of Dublin beyond, and the Mournes beyond all again, in clear weather, Bray Head and Little Sugar Loaf guard the sea, with the wooded Glen of the Downs as prominent as the Vartry Lakes, beyond Calary, while Djouce and a whole jumble of mountains appear south-west, before you turn to Kippure with its TV mast, above Glencree once more.
On descending from the summit back to the main track there are two options, turn left to return to the Red Lane or turn right and walk northward down along the main track to Kilmacanogue.
The main track, having swung right, curves left again, always descending, and after a stretch that is scarcely more than a deep gullied mass of stones, more pleasant going on grass slopes is met, and you find the trail curving right to bring you along Rocky Valley, with impressive views down steep slopes, to the winding road.
Eventually the path broadens to a boreen, and bears left to join tarmac, where a right turn brings you to Kilmacanoge, less than half-a-mile away. Reminder to ramblers - everyone passing near any State forest must take extra care at present to prevent any fire risk.
It is illegal to light picnic fires within one mile of any plantation, and all fires, anywhere, likewise matches and cigarette ends are out before you move on. In this way, you help to keep Ireland green.
This article has been edited and updated by Frank Tracy