Granitoid plutons account for much of the continental crust and are critical in the generation of several economic resources. Despite over a century of research, the fundamental process by which large felsic bodies intrude remains controversial. Two contrasting models persist: (1) mass ascent and subsequent cooling of magma (diapirism); (2) sheet ascent and subsequent emplacement (laccoliths). The latter hypothesis is different from the former as distinct ascent and emplacement processes must occur and be identifiable; traditional field methods rarely allow this important distinction to be made. We present field, petrographic and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility data from the Roundstone Pluton, Connemara, western Ireland, which was previously considered a diapiric intrusion. The new data reveal anomalous subvertical magmatic lineations in the core of this circular intrusion as well as a suite of magmatic and submagmatic fabrics that parallel NNW–SSE country rock faults and coeval G2 sheets within the pluton. We deduce that these structures reflect a distinct centralized ascent process along a NNW–SSE conduit. Lateral emplacement and pluton inflation followed, ultimately forming a punched laccolith. We conclude that the combined application of the above techniques provides a unique insight into pluton architecture that removes ambiguity between contrasting diapiric and inflated pluton models.