Glen of Imaal

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Lugnaquilla forms the eastern boundary of the Glen of Imaal

The Glen of Imaal (/ˈɪmɑːl/ or /ˈmɑːl/; Irish: Gleann Uí Mháil) is a remote glen in the western Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. It is ringed by the Lugnaquilla massif and its foothills, including Table Mountain and Keadeen. Much of the glen is used by the Irish Army as an artillery firing range, and hill walkers who use the glen are advised to observe the times of firing practice and to refrain from picking up strange objects.

The Glen of Imaal is the subject of an eponymously titled Irish folk song,[1] and also the place of origin of the eponymous dog breed, the Glen of Imaal Terrier.[2]


Early history[edit]

Michael Dwyer

The Glen of Imaal is named from the Uí Máil, who dominated the kingship of Leinster in the 7th century.[3] They were ousted by the Uí Dúnlainge from the lowlands of what would be County Kildare, and from that time until the early 13th century were located along the western foothills of the Wicklow mountains. The valley appears to have been a center of their power. By the 14th century, O'Tuathail (O'Toole) (of the Uí Dunlainge) had taken the lordship of the Uí Máil, having in their turn been expelled from south Kildare by Norman incomers.[citation needed]

Derrynamuck in the Glen Of Imaal is a cottage dedicated to the memory of Michael Dwyer, a celebrated 1798 leader. It is now known as the Dwyer-McAllister cottage, for it was there that a group of Irish rebels led by Michael Dwyer were hiding when they were surrounded by British troops. Samuel McAllister died when he drew enemy fire to allow Dwyer to escape.[citation needed]

Warning sign close to the military range

Military use[edit]

Since 1900, much of the Glen of Imaal (5,948 acres) has been used as an army artillery range. Because of this, caution is advised when attempting to use areas within the army range,[4] and notices are posted as to when the army are on field exercises.[5][6]

1941 disaster[edit]

On 16 September 1941, the Glen of Imaal was the site of the worst single incident involving loss of life in the history of the Irish Defence Forces.[7][8][9] This incident, known as the Glen of Imaal Disaster,[10] occurred during a training exercise involving 27 officers and men from the army's anti-aircraft battalion, artillery school, and corps of engineers.[11] Sixteen soldiers were killed when an antitank mine unexpectedly exploded (15 dying immediately and 1 later succumbing to his wounds).[12] Other injured soldiers were rushed to the Curragh military hospital where several received surgery.[11] Three men were fully blinded in the accident, two more partially. One survivor later murdered two men in Dublin in 1947 but was found "guilty but insane".[11] A memorial to the disaster was raised near Seskin Bridge in 1986.[8][13]

1979 incident[edit]

On 15 April 1979, a fatal accident occurred in the Glen when a group of teenagers engaging in an orienteering activity triggered an explosive which subsequently detonated, killing three and seriously injuring others.[14] The group originated from Lucan. The resultant inquiry found that the explosive was an unexploded shell which had been left in the region by the military during one of their exercises. The Minister for Defence of the 21st Dáil, Bobby Molloy, issued a statement in the chamber expressing his "personal regret" about the incident, and encouraged members of the public to avoid replicating the "tragic occurrences" by avoiding the area entirely to not encounter the shells.[15] The deceased were buried in Esker Cemetery, and are commemorated annually at mass services in Lucan.[16]

Firing range[edit]

Detonation of explosives in the Glen of Imaal by the Irish Army Corps of Engineers

The Glen of Imaal firing range is used throughout the year by the Irish Army as a training area. It is the only range in the country capable of accommodating field artillery such as the 105mm Light Gun. The range area is also used for firing anti-tank weapons, mortars and heavy machine guns, as well as the vehicle mounted weapons of the Cavalry Corps. Military training in the area is not limited to the firing of heavy weapons.[17] Tactical exercises also take place there, sometimes involving MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carriers and Irish Air Corps helicopters.[18] Exercises in peacekeeping operations are also undertaken in the Glen.[19]

Care is advised while driving on local roads due to the presence of heavy military traffic,[citation needed] and there have been some questions on the impacts of military exercises on residents and the safety of other road users in the area.[6][20]

Units using the Glen area are sometimes billeted in the nearby Coolmoney Camp. The Glen of Imaal is accessible to the Curragh Camp in County Kildare by the Dunlavin-Old Killcullen Road.[citation needed]

Mountain climbing[edit]

The highest mountain in Wicklow and one of the highest mountains in Ireland, Lugnaquilla, is on the southeastern end of the Glen. Fenton's Pub is a common starting point.[citation needed] The Glen of Imaal Red Cross Mountain Rescue Team was formed in 1983, and serves the area in partnership with Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music Reviews - Trinití". RTÉ. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Native Breeds of Ireland - Glen of Imaal Terrier". Irish Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  3. ^ Daibhi O Croinin (2013). Early Medieval Ireland, 400-1200. p. 53. ISBN 9781317901761.
  4. ^ "Glen of Imaal - Military Range Lands". Department of Defence. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Notification of Shooting Glen of Imaal - February 2018". Mountaineering Ireland. 16 January 2018. Archived from the original on 6 August 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Written answers - Wednesday, 23 May 2018 - Department of Defence - Defence Forces Training". Oireachtas Debate Record. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  7. ^ "On This Day - September 16". History Ireland. Retrieved 5 March 2019. worst disaster in the history of the Irish defence forces
  8. ^ a b "RTÉ Archives - Remembering Glen of Imaal Victims - 1986". RTÉ. Retrieved 5 March 2019. [voiceover] it was the worst single incident involving loss of life for the army since the foundation of the state
  9. ^ "75th Anniversary Glen Explosion 16 Sep 16". The Artillery Club. Retrieved 5 March 2019. The 1941 accident remains the single tragedy with the greatest casualties in the history of Óglaigh na Éireann
  10. ^ "Dáil Éireann debate - Thursday, 4 Feb 1943 - Oral Answers - The Glen of Imaal Disaster". Government of Ireland. 4 February 1914. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  11. ^ a b c "The Glen of Imaal disaster, 1941". Vol. 27 no. 2. History Ireland. March 2019. p. 44. The [60 man] group then divided, 27 men surrounding McLoughlin and the remainder gathered 50 yards away
  12. ^ "Medals 16/09/1941". Irish Medals. Retrieved 5 March 2019. On the 16th of September 1941 16 Irish Soldiers were killed when a mine they were training with exploded in the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow. Fifteen Soldiers died instantly and another died later from wounds received
  13. ^ "Glen Imaal Memorial - Inventory No. 355" (PDF). Irish War Memorials. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  14. ^ "1979 The Year That Was". Irish Times. 30 December 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Dáil Éireann debate - Thursday, 3 May 1979 - Oral Answers - Glen of Imaal Tragedy". Government of Ireland. 3 May 1979. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Anniversaries and remembrances" (PDF). Lucan Newsletter. 12 April 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Defence Forces International Marksmanship Skills challenge takes place in Glen of Imaal". Irish Times. 1 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Army training at the Glen of Imaa". Irish Examiner. 7 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Irish soldiers face deployment inside war-torn Syria". Irish Examiner. 22 April 2018. Defence Forces on a mission readiness exercise in the Glen of Imaal prior to their deployment to the Golan Heights
  20. ^ "Locals unhappy with Defence Forces' treatment of area Army under fire from Glen of Imaal residents". Independent News & Media. 27 September 2002.
  21. ^ "About Us". Glen Of Imaal, Wicklow Mountain Rescue. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  22. ^ "Mountain Rescue Team Responded to 80 Call Outs in Wicklow". Red Cross Ireland. 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2019.

Coordinates: 53°0′32″N 6°27′55″W / 53.00889°N 6.46528°W / 53.00889; -6.46528