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Hell Fire Club and Massey Woods

A half day exploring one of the spookier parts of the Dublin Mountains.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.717 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  The ruins of the Hell Fire Club on the summit of Montpelier Hill in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains are a well known landmark in... more »

Tips:  The start of the trail is at the Hell Fire Club car park which is located on the R115 road at Killakee between Rathfarnham and... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Start - Hell Fire Club Car Park

The trail starts at the Hell Fire Club car park.

2. The Massy Woods

The trip starts with an exploration of the Massy Woods. The entrance to the woods is reached by walking north from the Hell Fire Club car park on the R115 road for around 100 meters.

The lands in this area were originally granted to Walter de Ridleford after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169 and later given to Sir Thomas Luttrell in the... More

3. Lots of trees

Following the eviction of Hugh Hamon Massy in 1924, the lands were eventually acquired by the State. The Forestry Department laid out the area as an urban forest, planting a wide variety of European, American and Asian tree species. Many of these survive to the present day and the wood is home to a broad mixture of species including beech, oak,... More

4. Path to the wedge tomb

One of the less well-known points of interest in the woods, located off the marked nature trail, is the remains of a Bronze Age wedge tomb. To reach the tomb, leave the trail by turning right at this junction to follow the track uphill into the trees. As the trail begins to peter out it passes a small dell to the left. Just after this dell and... More

5. Killakee wedge tomb

Hidden among the trees are the remains of a Bronze Age wedge tomb, discovered in 1978 by the archaeologist and local historian Patrick Healy.

Wedge tombs are so called because the burial chamber narrows at one end. They generally consist of two or more chambers surrounded by a double-walled gallery and covered with a cairn of stones.

Only the... More

6. Icehouse

The remains of an icehouse, used by people in the locality to store lamb.

7. The ruined gardens

Colonel Samuel White, son of Luke White who bought the estate from the Conolly family, laid out two formal gardens in the estate, the ruins of one of which can be explored.

White engaged the services of Sir Ninian Niven, director of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin, to lay out the gardens. The gardens included several glasshouses which were designed... More

8. The Old Military Road

The Military Road (now the R115 road) was built in the wake of the 1798 Rebellion to enable British forces to travel easily into the Wicklow Mountains, which had long served as a base for rebels opposed to foreign rule.

The Military Road originally ran through the Massy estate and this section of the trail is part of the original route, still... More

9. Site of Killakee House

A small plaque in the woods denotes the former location of Killakee House. This was the house built by Luke White in the early nineteenth century after he acquired the lands from the Conolly family. It was a thirty-six roomed two-storey stucco-faced house with a Tuscan-columned entrance.

Following the eviction of Hugh Hamon Massy in 1924, the... More

10. The Steward's House

Immediately opposite as you exit the Massy Woods is The Steward's House, also known as Killakee House (not to be confused with the demolished Killakee House built by Luke White). It was built around 1765 by the Conolly family as a hunting lodge and has also served as a dower house and residence for the manager of the estate. The belfry at the rear... More

11. Montpelier Loop

Returning to the Hell Fire Club, the next stage of the trip follows the Montpelier Loop Trail, marked with green waymarkers.

12. Piperstown Gap

The trail runs through the forest before emerging into a clearing overlooking the Piperstown Gap and across at the mountains to the south west of Montpelier Hill.

In the distance, crowned by the television mast on its summit, is Kippure, the highest mountain in Dublin. The nearest hill is Piperstown Hill which blocks the view over the Glenasmole ... More

13. Carthy's Castle

As the trail turns back to face Dublin, on the slopes below can be seen the ruin known as Carthy's Castle. This is all that remains of Dolly Mount, a hunting residence built by Henry Loftus, Earl of Ely. It was originally a substantial two-storied building with an arched gate on either side from which extended various ancillary buildings ending in... More

14. Dublin City and Bay

As the trail turns and begins the climb up towards the Hell Fire Club, a complete view across Dublin City and Dublin Bay can be seen. Certain landmarks such as Howth, Bull Island and Poolbeg can be easily made out, weather permitting. On a particularly clear day, it is possible to see the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. With the aid of... More

15. The Hell Fire Club

At the summit of Montpelier Hill is the ruined building, "Mount Pelier", that gives the hill its name but is better known to generations of Dubliners as the Hell Fire Club. It was built around 1725 for use as a hunting lodge by William Conolly, who was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.

The building was of a Palladian design with a hall and ... More

16. Montpelier Passage Tomb

To the rear of the Hell Fire Club building is a circular mound with a dip in the centre. This is all that remains of the Neolithic passage tomb that once stood at the summit of the hill. A few surviving kerbstones can be seen around the base of the mound.

Local legend has it that the stones from the tomb were used to build the Hell Fire Club.... More

17. Finish

The trail follows a short downhill track to return to the car park.