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Glendalough, located in County Wicklow, is an iconic valley that, for good reason, has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. With a rich history and epic outdoor activities, Glendalough is a must-visit for domestic and international visitors.
Glendalough is home to a wide variety of walking trails that are perfect for all experience levels of hikers. The most popular trail is the Spinc and Glenealo Valley trail, which offers breathtaking views of the valley and its surrounding mountains. The trail is 9.5 kilometres long and takes approximately 3-4 hours to complete. Other trails worth exploring include the Derrybawn Woodland Trail, the Poulanass Waterfall Trail, and
The Monastic City
Aside from hiking, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the valley. One of the most popular things to do is to explore the Monastic City, which was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. The ruins of the city include several churches, a round tower, and a cathedral. Visitors can also take a guided tour to learn about the history of the Monastic City.
Another must-visit attraction is the Glendalough Visitor Centre, which offers an exhibition on the history and wildlife of the area. The centre also provides information about the walking trails and other activities in the valley.
You are permitted to cycle on a few of the walking trails in Glendalough but cyclists must always give way to pedestrians. The following trails are suitable for cyclists:
The Green Route – around the Lower Lake.
The Purple Route – down the Miners’ Road, as far as the Miners’ Village, and back the same way.
The Orange Route – around the Derrybawn Woodland Trail.
While boating and kayaking are not allowed in any of the lakes in the Wicklow Mountains National Park you are allowed wild swim. As with any wild swimming we would advise that you proceed with caution. These are not controlled swimming environments and because of this can be quite unpredictable. The upper lake in Glendalough has a sharp drop-off and is quite deep. If you are comfortable in the water, however, there is nothing quite like swimming surrounded by mountains. Contrary to popular belief you are now allowed to swim in Glendalough upper lake, as stated on the national parks website.
There are a number of races and outdoor events that take place around Glendalough every year here are some of our favourites:
Getting to Glendalough is relatively easy, with several transport options available. The most convenient way to get there is by car.
You can park at Glendalough itself but this costs €4 and can get very busy during holidays.
Laragh Car Park is the best place to park your vehicle. It is free and is a 20-minute walk from the lakes. Perfect if you are planning a hike anyway!
Saint Kevin’s Bus goes from Dublin City all the way to Glendalough. It costs €15 for a return ticket. Just make sure that you know the timetable well as it is quite infrequent.
Find Out More
Glendalough has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the 6th century when St. Kevin founded the Monastic City. The city flourished for several centuries, with monks living and working there until the 12th century. Today, the ruins of the Monastic City provide a glimpse into the past. Visitors can learn about the daily life of the monks through guided tours or just walking around themselves. There is lots of information at the visitor’s disposal on information boards around the area.
The weather in Glendalough can be unpredictable, so it is important to be prepared for all conditions. The best time to visit is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is milder and the days are longer. However, even in the summer, it is a good idea to bring warm clothing and waterproof gear, as rain is common. Make sure to check the weather thoroughly before embarking on your adventure in the Wicklow Mountains.
One of the most striking features of the flora in Glendalough is the iconic ferns, which thrive in the damp, shaded areas of the valley. The valley is also home to a range of wildflowers such as orchids, bluebells, and foxgloves, which carpet the forest floor and add a splash of vibrant colour to the green landscape.
If you are lucky you will also get to see some of the rare and endangered animal species in the valley. The native red squirrel can be spotted darting through the trees, while the elusive pine marten, one of Ireland’s rarest mammals, can occasionally be seen foraging for food. Bird watchers will delight in the sight of the peregrine falcon, the kestrel, and the sparrowhawk soaring high above the valley. On the ground, you will find species such as the Sika Deer, Irish hare, common badger, and fox. In the wetlands between the lakes, the common frog and the smooth newt can be found, along with the rare and protected Natterjack toad.
After a day of hiking and exploring, you will no doubt be hungry and thirsty. Fortunately, there are several great food and drink options near Glendalough. The Wicklow Heather Restaurant is a popular choice, offering traditional Irish cuisine in a relaxed pub-style environment. For those looking for a more casual option, the Glendalough Green Food Truck serves tasty snacks and drinks. If you’re not hanging around and are heading back north to Dublin we would highly recommend stopping at the Roundwood stores. This is a favourite spots of ours and always serves excellent lunch food.
Wicklow Mountains National Park: Weekend Wander
Wicklow 200 Everything You Need To Know
By Matthew McConnell
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