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Trail Running Guide to Church Mountain Co. Wicklow

Updated: Sep 27

When most people think of ancient religious sites in Wicklow the first thing that springs to mind is Glendalough, an ancient monastic city that was a centre of learning deep in the mountain. Despite the many ruins of Ireland, not many people have heard about Church Mountain. This 7 km trail run has 300m of elevation gain and offers panoramic views of west Wicklow. Known as Leinster's Holy Mountain, this is the most westerly peak in the Wicklow Mountains. At the summit of Church Mountain lies the ruins of an ancient cairn, which is believed to be the remains of a prehistoric passage tomb. In 430 AD St. Palladius built a church inside these ruins.

The start point of this trail is just over 5 minutes to the south of Hollywood village at these coordinates 53°03'38.1"N 6°36'39.6"W. The car park is pretty small but I’ve never had an issue get a spot, a lot of the time there’s no one else there. Once parked up, you’ll head east through the gate to start.

The first part of the run is on a continuous climbing gravel track. It’s very easy to run on aside from the fact you’re climbing for about 2.5km! This is not technically demanding or incredibly steep. I found I enjoyed it for the most part but it was a bit of a slog. Be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife throughout this part, I've seen birds of prey and deer while on this trail.

After 2km you’ll have to stay left on the trail, it’s hard to miss. A couple hundred meters later you'll be on a very narrow path that will lead you between the woods and a fence line.

Continue on the small trail and make a right turn to climb up the mountain. This part is incredibly steep so take your time, it can be easy to slip on. You’ll have one fence to hop over and then you’ll also have to go through a gate. Keep following this trail all the way to the top of the mountain, it’s as easy as that!

Be careful running down this part, it’s quite unsteady
You’re nearly there!

When you finally summit church mountain be sure to take in the view. You can see the Blessington lakes off to the north. To the east is the rest of the Wicklow Mountains and to the west are the plains of Kildare.

This is an excellent trail run to do in the evening after work if you’re looking for something a bit shorter over a weekend. It’s 7km in total with just over 300m of elevation gain. The whole thing took me just under an hour and was absolutely worth every minute of it.

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