Wicklow Gap (W) (5.5km, 221m, 3.9%)

Map and Elevation Profile of Wicklow Gap West


The western approach to Wicklow Gap is undeniably the less attractive option. It lacks any clear starting point: arguably the R756 starts to rise eleven kilometres away, at the bridge across the King’s River below the Hollywood hills, but only when you’re halfway to the Gap does the gradient become visible. You’re definitely already climbing by the time you reach the Quintagh turn-off, but it offers one of the few obvious landmarks on a long, wide road.

For all that road is wide, the lower reaches of the climb are closed in by trees and hillside, and there’s no view to speak of until you’re close to the top, the ground falling away to your right revealing the line of pylons leading up to the ESB station. By then the hardest parts of the climb are behind you, and you can pick up speed as you approach the summit.

For all that, it’s a good climb for early in the year. By whatever quirk of local climate, conditions around Wicklow Gap are generally more forgiving than Sally Gap — you’re less exposed to the gales which in any case funnel up the valley, pushing you up the road. As the main east-west route across the mountains, the road is well-maintained and gets enough sun that frost clears quickly. The gradient is never severe, maxing out at 8–9%, and it’s long enough an effort to build endurance when you’re laying down your base miles.

But the reward really comes with the descent to Laragh on the other side: a wide-open road that swings smoothly around the mountainside, offering clear visibility of any approaching traffic. It’s largely free of potholes and gravel, and confident descenders will take it like a luge run.

A wide road rising and swing left over a mountain pass under scattered cloud
The final metres…the barely visible signposts mark the top

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?