Getting out into the wild and being surrounded by birds, trees and all living things is the best remedy for body and soul. It’s our sanctuary and happy place all in one.
We believe that every wild and beautiful place we visit lets us experience living in the moment, mould us into who we are and allow us to expand our horizons beyond the familiar settings.
Going long periods without outdoor activities, makes our bones ache and that’s where County Wicklow, legendary known as the Garden of Ireland, and Wicklow Mountains National Park comes in.
Before Ericeira was born, we practically lived in the area and enjoyed quality time together by hiking across the hills, up to the mountains, and through the bogged wilderness.
Wicklow is the ideal venue for families, couples, landscape photographers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Established in 1991, Wicklow National Park is the largest of all the parks on the island of Ireland with 20.000 hectares of incredibly appealing scenery. Several locations around the Park have provided a perfect backdrop for famous movies, including Veronica Guerin, PS. I Love You, King Arthur and Reign of Fire.
Lugnaquilla is the highest mountain in the Park (925m), and this is where you’ll also find Powerscourt waterfall, situated just 6 kilometres from the beautiful Powerscourt Estate.
Your Ultimate Guide To The Beautiful Wicklow National Park
Wicklow National Park is a land of real beauty filled with lakes, forests, medieval churches and wildlife, located just 1 hour south of Dublin.
If you are new to Dublin, we highly recommend visiting the park. In this blog post, you’ll find some ideas on how to spend a few days in Wicklow National Park and the surrounding area.
How to get to Wicklow National Park
The best way to get to the Wicklow National park is to have your own set of wheels. From Dublin to Glendalough take the M50/N11 south to Kilmacanogue Village and then follow the R755 to Laragh Village and then go all the way to Glendalough Valley. The driving distance from the city centre is just over an hour, more if you make stops along the way.
You can also join one of the organised tour companies with award-winning Irish guides to take you on a day trip. Prices for a trip are around EUR 35 and in addition to Glendalough and Wicklow Gap, you’ll be able to visit historic Kilkenny town and various filming locations.
There is no direct public bus service to Wicklow Mountains National Park, but Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann stop at several large towns nearby, like Wicklow, Arklow to the east and Enniskerry to the North.
Another option is the St.Kevins bus service from Dublin (departing from Dawson Street twice a day). A single ticket costs 13 EUR and a return one 20 EUR.
Although you don’t need specific clothing and footwear while visiting gardens and little towns, to get the best experience in the great outdoors, you still must prepare. Everyone knows that the weather in Ireland is unreliable and it rains a lot.
- Layers of clothes, rain jacket or windbreaker with a hood | If you are planning on hiking. Even if you are visiting during the summer month, you can never know when storm clouds can roll in. It is necessary to check the weather predictions before you depart.
- Sturdy walking shoes | For longer hikes bring proper walking shoes with a good grip. Make sure you break them in before venturing out into the wild, there is nothing worse than getting blisters halfway up the mountain.
- Camera and tripod | With incredible scenery around every single corner, you’ll want your camera and a backup battery to capture wildlife and mountains.
- Lunch and drink | Staying hydrated is essential while being on the move, especially out in nature. And don’t forget to bring your lunch or snacks to recharge your energy levels after a day outdoors.
The top thing to see and do in Wicklow National Park
Whether you would love to go for a stroll through beautiful countryside dotted with yellow gorse in the spring or purple heather in autumn, challenge yourself with long-distance hiking or learn about ancient history, there’s something for everyone.
# 1. Historical Glendalough Valley
The most visited location in Wicklow National Park is ancient Glendalough Valley, home to the Round Tower, St.Kevins Church, the massive extension of hiking trails, a UNESCO-recognised monastic site, and fantastic scenery.
Glendalough, meaning, the valley of the two lakes has been home to the Christian monastic settlement since the 6th century.
The best thing about Glendalough Valley is, that both lakes and all the monuments are accessible all year round. Entrance to the park and the valley is free of charge. However, car parks are not (Upper Lake car park charges 4 EUR).
If this is your first visit, leave your car at the Visitors Centre and take a walk to the Upper Lake. It is only 2 kilometres each way with a flat surface. This walk makes an excellent introduction to the park; you’ll find beautiful oak trees lining the path and lovely scenery along the way.
#2. Powerscourt Estate and Gardens
Located near beautiful Enniskerry village and only 30 minutes from Dublin City Centre, this 18th-century mansion has been named one of the most beautiful gardens and houses in the World by Lonely Planet and National Geographic.
Given its proximity to Dublin and easy access by public transport and by car, Powerscourt Estate makes a perfect day trip from Irelands Capital.
The best time to visit Powerscourt Gardens and to appreciate the efforts of the gardeners is during the summer month when flowers are in full bloom. Spread throughout 47 acres this place is a beautiful bundle of Italian Garden, Japanese Gardens and Walled Gardens.
You can also visit Pets Cemetry, climb to the top of the Pepperpot Tower, admire The Dolphin Pond, have lunch at Avoca cafe and more.
#3. Take a photo of the beautiful Lough Tay
The best views of Lough Tay, also commonly known as Guinness Lake are from the Old Military Road. Green forest covers the southeastern part, and white sand on the northern part of the lake is imported by the Guinness family who owns the Luggala House and the 5,000 acres estate. Luggala House was built in 1717 and was recently up for sale for 28 million.
#4. Go on a hiking adventure
In total there are nine hiking trails (maps are on sale at the Visitors Centre) and four nature walks. They all vary in distance and difficulty, so pick an appropriate one for your fitness level.
The best hike, and likely most popular, is The Spink and Glenealo Valley route. Market with white arrows, this 9 kilometres loop walk offers the best views of the valley. The boardwalk along the Spinc was closed in certain places at the beginning of the year due to the upgrade, so it’s a good idea to check the park’s official website for recent updates.
If you are adventurous and have a week to spear, then Wicklow Way is a trail for you. Stretching a total of 129 km it’s a very challenging, self-guided, long-distance trail. The trail starts at Marley Park and goes all the way to the Clonegal village situated in County Carlow.
There are plenty of hiking trips still fresh in my memory from previous years when instead of the usual routes, we took the paths less travelled, and it always paid off. There were no fellow hikers(it can get very crowded at the weekends, we spotted big herds of deer and other animals, we watched sunrises and were swept away by starry skies.
If you wish to try a new route, why not venture on the Camaderry Mountain loop walk which is around 12km in length. Set out from the Visitors Center and follow Miner’s Road along Upper Lake until you reach the Education Center. From there it’s a very steep yet rewarding hike all the way up to the summit.
#5. Explore Wicklow on the bike
One of the reasons why we love Wicklow National Park-there is many ways to explore it and see it. One of the options to explore County Wicklow and have a great time is to hop on a bike and let the country roads take you from one pretty village to another one.
If you crave adventure, rent a mountain bike in Ballinastoe, Wicklow and check out their Mountain Bike Trail system. This 14 – kilometres long track delivers an opportunity to speed through the way-marked forest roads while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
#6. Go for a scenic drive
If hiking and biking don’t appeal to you, go for a ride. Three beautifully winding roads cross The Wicklow Mountains; therefore, you can still take in the views while going for a scenic drive.
Two places to look out for are Sally Gap, situated between the Djouce Mountain and Kippure Mountains as well as the Wicklow Gap, which connects East and West Wicklow.
The Old Military Road (R115) that links Rathfarnham and Aghavannagh was initially drafted by the English to extinguish the Irish rebels. This beautiful stretch of road, covered on both sides in peat bogs and purple heather, offers uninterrupted views and plenty of twists and turns.
Where to stay in Wicklow National Park
Given the size of the park and the variety of attractions, one day is not nearly enough to see all the sites. Extend your time in Wicklow, pick a cosy guesthouse, stay for a night or two and slowly explore the surrounding area.
There are no large hotel chains, only family-run farmhouses, hostels, retreat centres, and camping grounds, pretty much something to accommodate all tastes and budgets.
The Glendalough Hotel offers comfortable rooms and is located very conveniently right in the middle of the Valley next to the Monastic Site and both lakes.
Glendalough International Hostel, situated in the park, features a self-catering kitchen, laundry facilities and a perfect location with affordable prices.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Wicklow National Park? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Wicklow National Park and have travel-related questions!