Your Ultimate Guide to the Beautiful Wicklow National Park in Ireland

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.

Wicklow National Park is perfect for outdoor lovers and hikers.

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.

Read More: 10 Essential Items to Pack for an Unforgettable Trip to the Emerald Isle

Native Scot’s pine and deciduous oak are growing in the National Park.

Packing essentials

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.
Wicklow National Park is on our doorstep, p and over the years we have seen it in all seasons.

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.

Read More: 58 Incredibly Useful tips for Visiting Beautiful Dublin, Ireland

J.B.Malone memorial to one of the greatest trailblazers of Irish hillwalking.

#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.

Powerscourt Waterfall, Wicklow National Park

#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.

Lough Tay, Wicklow National Park

#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.

One of many pretty trails in the park

#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.

Glendalough Lake, Wicklow National Park

#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.

One of many small and twisty roads within the park

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.

Glendalough Spink Walk.

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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!

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69 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Guide to the Beautiful Wicklow National Park in Ireland

    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 I don’t think I would have lasted in Dublin for ten years if it wasn’t for Wicklow National Park. Spending every other weekend at the park was like going on a mini-vacation! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  1. I can see why you’ve spent a lot of time in Wicklow National Park. The scenery looks incredible, especially those views of Lough Tay. I’m a big fan of parks that create a seperate trail system for hikers and mountain bikers. I’ll make sure to add this to the list for when we visit Ireland. Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well. Linda

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    1. Imagine open spaces, fresh air, and beautiful views. Enjoy a feeling of perpetual peace where the silence is only broken by the sounds of nature, birds chirping and birds springing by to get some great nectar off some fresh bee balm flowers nearby. It has been a real joy to explore the park and many of its wonderful trails throughout the years, especially knowing that we don’t have to look over our shoulders for fast approaching mountain bikers. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 There is plenty to do here. Hiking is a popular pastime with several trails to explore. There are lakes and streams for residents to go fishing. When you leave the park, you will step into the quintessential small town. Here you can get a variety of good, quality food. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Francisco! There are many things we used to do every day to escape the Insanity of Dublin City and escaping to Wicklow National Park was one of them. No matter how long I’ve called cities my home, the urban din still induces anxiety in me. It’s a claustrophobic reminder that I’m surrounded on all sides by concrete, cars, and buildings. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  2. So, that is what it looks like when the rain stops. The views are stunning Aiva. We tried twice in 2019 to get some views, on our way to and back from Wexford but had little luck. At points, we could hardly see the road in front of our car. We did enjoy Powerscourt Gardens and waterfall in between the showers. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week. Allan

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    1. Thanks so much, Allan. We lived in Dublin for ten years and used every opportunity to escape the city life, rain or shine. Learning how to connect to nature while living and working in a dense urban area worked wonders on my mental health and having Wicklow National Park an hour’s drive away was all we ever needed to be happy and content. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thank you, Maggie 🙂 There are many amazing places to see within the park and we were really lucky to have it so close by. Beyond the trails, there are a limited number of seasonal activities, including paddling, swimming and scuba diving (with a permit) in the Upper Lake, canoeing and boating on the rivers, and fishing in select areas. Yet it is still an amazing place to explore 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thank you! Wicklow National Park is a natural wonderland, the topography of the park includes craggy hills, wild boglands, glacial valleys, and a windswept heath. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

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    1. Hi Marion! You would love to visit Powerscourt Gardens during the summer month when all the flowers are in full bloom. One of its unique features includes the Japanese garden which offers a maze of walkways and hidden grottos and the largest Pet Cemetery in Ireland. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! the most stunning landscape is found within the protected park boundaries, including the scenic Glendalough Valley. Here, you can hike in the mountains, swim, paddleboard, or canoe one of the lakes, rock climb the crags, or fish for brown trout on one of the many waterways. Have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Diana! It really is a lovely place to explore and photograph! The raw natural beauty of this park provides a perfect outing for those in need of stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of nearby Dublin. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  3. Gosh, is there any part of Ireland that isn’t pretty? With each article you post, I fall in love with Ireland just a little bit more, and I regret not having done as much travel in the country as I would’ve liked. But that gives me all the more reason to return and explore more, including Wicklow National Park! Your photos are so high-quality that they almost look like paintings; I can’t imagine how even more stunning the scenery is in person!

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    1. When the sun is shining, pretty much every part of Ireland is a picture-perfect postcard, but it is a different story when it’s raining or snowing! Not only the Wicklow Mountains is a perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts, but it has also provided a backdrop for some of the most widely watched film sets in Ireland, including P.S. I Love You and the television series Vikings. Although I am not that keen on romantic movies, I might have to rewatch P.S. I love you just to see if I can recognise filming locations! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  4. I can see why Wicklow National Park has been used as the backdrop for some Hollywood movies. The landscape looks breathtaking, at the same time mysterious, if you know what I mean. And the fact that this is located not too far from Dublin only makes it even more appealing. When I get the chance to see Ireland’s capital in person one day, I’ll make sure I have enough time to pay this beautiful national park a visit. Thanks for sharing this with us, Aiva.

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    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 One of the things that I personally love about Wicklow National Park – it is primarily a wilderness area so there are limited facilities. You can find parking lots at the visitor centre and Upper Lake in Glendalough. Otherwise, parking inside of the National Park consists of small turnoffs near the main roads. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  5. What a beautiful place! This post is so detailed and helpful! My boyfriend and I are toying with the idea of a visit to Ireland this summer and Wicklow will be on our to-do list! Thank you Aiva!

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    1. I hope you get to come to Ireland one day, Casey! Ireland is a place to visit not only for its beauty and history but because of its lively atmosphere. The Irish are known worldwide for their festive celebration and the country hosts many events and festivals throughout the year. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Easter 🙂 Aiva xx

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  6. Living in south County Dublin I’m lucky to have this as my ‘back yard’ so to speak! I grew up with Sunday afternoon drives to Glendalough in particular. Now here I am – many decades later – and still making the same trip as often as possible.
    A lovely blog Aiva – it captures the area beautifully.

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    1. I was very lucky to have Wicklow National Park so close to where we used to live, too, Marie. We could easily go for a drive or a hike every other week and never get tired of the unfolding scenery. I loved exploring it in winter for a chance to hike in the snow. We created a lifetime of memories in the Park and I’ll cherish them forever 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely evening 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 Wicklow Mountains National Park is the largest of six national parks in Ireland, and also one of the most popular as it is located south of Dublin. It is a wonderful place to explore throughout the year to see it in different seasons. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely Easter 🙂 Aiva xx

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  7. Wonderful views! Glendalough and Lough Tay are spectacular, would love to visit the area some day. How lucky you are to have such a place on your doorstep and to have experienced it in all different seasons. I couldn’t agree more with you on the topic of getting out and being in nature immersed in magnificent landscapes and surrounded by trees and animals. Thanks for sharing, Aiva.

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    1. Thank you, Leighton! As an outdoorsy person, I couldn’t ask for more to live in such close vicinity to the park. One of the main reasons Wicklow Mountains National Park is so popular is due to its proximity to Ireland’s capital, Dublin. Wicklow Mountains National Park is located around 30 km south of the city, making it a popular hiking destination for Dubliners, as well as holidaymakers looking to experience the Irish countryside without straying too far from the capital. But if you are willing to get up early, you can beat the crowds! Thanks for stopping by and Happy Easter to you and your family 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I am glad to hear that, Bernie 🙂 One of the significant reasons people visit this park is to explore the Wicklow Mountains. There are 51 named peaks in the Wicklow Mountains, many of which offer challenging hikes that will test even the most experienced climbers. The Wicklow Mountains are composed mainly of granite and are part of Europe’s largest granite mass, which stretches from Dun Laoghaire in County Dublin down to New Ross in County Wexford. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Easter to you and your family 🙂 Aiva xx

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  8. Oh my goodness, what a stunning place this is! Your photos are beautiful; I feel like I can smell the crisp, forest-y air just by looking at them. Biking through the national park would certainly be my favourite way to experience it!

    Hope you are doing well, Aiva! Have a lovely day 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Arshia! I hope all is well with you! 🙂

      We only have six National Parks in Ireland, therefore we cherish every single of them. One of the most visited and scenic areas in Wicklow Mountains National Park is Glendalough Valley. Roughly translated as “the valley of two lakes,” Glendalough is often considered one of Ireland’s most attractive natural environments, with two serene loughs surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque mountains. Glendalough is also home to plenty of history and contains the ruins of a 6th-century monastery founded by St Kevin. I was fortunate to live close by and thus was a very frequent visitor. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. I am glad to hear you’ve been to Powerscourt Gardens! Set against the backdrop of the great Sugarloaf Mountain, Powerscourt is stunning in every season. From the ornate Italian Gardens to the formal walks of the Rose and Kitchen Gardens, there are many hidden treasures to explore. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely Easer 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Situated on a hill near Enniskerry in Co Wicklow, Powerscourt House has a fascinating history, as do the impressive gardens which surround it. Happy Easter to you and your family, Malin! xx

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    1. That’s so true! Beyond stunning landscapes and boundless opportunities for outdoor adventure, these areas serve as important environmental, economic and cultural purposes too! As Wallace Stegner, the late American novelist and environmentalist, once said: “National Parks are the best idea we ever had.” Thanks for stopping by and Happy Easter to you and your family 🙂 Aiva

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  9. Ireland is very famous for its spectacular vistas, and this park is not disappointing! It looks like our favourite type of places we like to go hiking to, and Glendalough Lake looks fairy-like🙂 Lovely!!
    Christie, xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Christie. As we only have six National Parks in Ireland, we cherish every single one! Nature has certainly supported my well-being during the countless lockdowns and the ongoing pandemic crisis. Thanks for stopping by and I hope all is well with you and your family 🙂 Aiva xx

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  10. Wicklow looks incredible. So much beautiful Nature and outdoors. It’s like looking at paintings, just perfectly created by the Heavens. It’s a hikers delight, all that views and landscapes. Thank you for a fun escape and adventure.

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    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 Personally, for me, time spent in green spaces, especially through the pandemic, has helped me to improve my mental and physical well-being. Our increasing reliance on technology, combined with a global trend toward urban living, means many of us are spending even less time outdoors which is a real shame as spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Kerry 🙂 Wicklow National Park is a wonderful place to explore through the different seasons, and while the water looks inviting, swimming in Ireland, even during the summer months isn’t for the faint-hearted as water temperatures only reach only 14’C. It’s certainly too cold for me 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much. We only have six National Parks in Ireland, therefore we cherish each of them very much. The Wicklow Mountains may not be the highest in the country, but they are certainly one of the most scenic ones. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aivaxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Glenys. Taking a journey through the Wicklow National Park and visiting the monastic sites of St. Kevin and Glendalough make for a very memorable experience. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  11. Looks like a fantastic place to be surrounded by nature and admire it! I love that there are many possibilities to explore the National Park and even though I am not so much into hiking, I think I would love to try a “long loop” like the 129km one you describe here, just to experience some magical moments in nature! Thank you for sharing and reminding us of how important it is to leave the big cities from time to time and admire what our beautiful planet has to offer 😊

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    1. Thanks so much, Juliette. As we lived nearby, I loved exploring Wicklow National Park thought the season to admire County Wicklow’s rolling hills, rugged mountains, and glacial valleys. It is actually one of the most famous full-day trips for visitors to Dublin as there are plenty of local tours and guides offering perfectly planned itineraries with comfortable transportation and a true insider coop. As we live on Ireland’s West coast now, I haven’t been to the park for a very long time and in a way I miss it. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely month of May 🙂 Aiva xx

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  12. These are beautiful images that remind me of weekend outings. A trip to the Wicklow was the most obvious day trip from Dublin, repeated over the years for every visitor. It’s amazing that so close to a large, sprawling city like Dublin, this area has managed to remain so wild.

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    1. Thanks so much. Dublin is bustling, vibrant, loud and exciting. It’s a city determined to inspire and invigorate you. But sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. Whenever I needed a break from the thrumming music and heaving streets, Wicklow National Park was my place to relax and unwind. Given how much there was to see and do, I never got tired of exploring it, especially during the winter months – it was a prime spot for seeing some snow. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  13. Like you, we also love the outdoors. At least once a month we need to get out to nature (and if it’s wild, even better) 😉. Wicklow National Park looks like a beautiful place to visit – love the view of the lake, as well as from the hiking trail and road. I can see why you love going there!

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    1. Thanks so much, Corna. Wicklow National Park is one of my favourite places to explore and photograph. Being only an hour from Dublin, it was one of the most heavily visited tourist destinations in Ireland, yet we always managed to find quiet corners where to relax, unwind and soak up the scenic landscape. Thanks for stopping b and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 Wicklow National Park is a beautiful park most well known for its two lakes and ruins; one of the most popular being the Monastic city which contains a round tower, several small churches, and an old graveyard. It is a wonderful place to explore and photograph at any season. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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