Hiking in Ireland: Wicklow Mountains National Park

You haven’t been to Ireland unless you’ve hiked in the rain,” said John as we wound our way up the rocky hillside looking over the Glenealo Valley.

We were determined to see as much of the Wicklow Mountains National Park as we could in one day. It had rained the day before as well and this was our last day in Ireland before we had to return the car.

View of the Upper Lake along the Miner’s Road Walk.

Several years ago we lived in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia named Glendalough. I was delighted that a popular attraction of the same name was on our list of places to visit. Ireland’s Glendalough is a glacial valley with two picturesque lakes lying side by side. The park around them is one of only six national parks in the country. We were attracted by the nine well-marked hiking trails within.

spinc and glenealo valley walk steps

The Spinc and Glenealo Valley hillwalk begins with 600 steps. We actually did it in reverse and climbed up a rocky hillside first. Worth the views, though!

Our journey took us along the Miner’s Road Walk, Spinc and Glenealo Valley circuit and parts of the Spinc and the Wicklow Way walk and Derrybawn Woodland Trail. Along the way we saw deer, goats and sheep. Birds like Ravens, Merlins and Kestrels may also be seen in the area. Our path went right along the top of the cliffs overlooking the Upper Lake. The trail map, The Walking Trails of Glendalough is available from the visitor’s centre for €0.50 and parking is free.

uper lake glendalough

A view of the Upper Lake from the clifftop trail

One of the park’s most popular attractions is the sixth century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. The cemetery on the grounds is particularly interesting, with many of the old tombstones leaning eerily onto each other.

glenealo valley

View of the Glenealo Valley from the top of the hillside

Rock climbing is also popular in the park and there are a few guided walk options for those who are interested in learning more about the area than what’s on the surface. For more information, visit the Wicklow Mountains National Park website.

Glendalough graveyard

The leaning headstones at the monastic settlement graveyard

st. kevins monastery graveyard Glendalough

Getting there: From Dublin, the park is about an hour by car. Take the N11 south to Kilmacanogue village and follow the signs to Glendalough. From the N11 follow the R755 to Laragh village. The main road through Laragh becomes the R756 to Glendalough village. We recommend staying in Wicklow (or just outside it) instead of Laragh if you’re interested in having a range of things to do in the evenings as Laragh is very tiny. The Wicklow Heather has delicious meals just near the entrance to the park and is located in Laragh.

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