The Wicklow Mountains National Park is the country’s largest National Park. The Wicklow National Park spans from Glencullen in the north of Wicklow to Aughavannagh in the south of Wicklow. It covers an area of 230km² and offers some of the most magnificent outdoor spaces in the country. With iconic valleys, steep mountains and epic history Wicklow has it all!  

Wicklow Mountains: The Best Hikes & Walks

It is an almost impossible task to decide on our top 5 hikes and walks in the Wicklow Mountains National Park as there are so many to choose from. Having said that the ones we have chosen are epic!

1. Glendalough Lugduff, Lough Firib, Turlough, Camaderry.

Distance: 22km

Elevation: 860m

Time: 7-8 hours

This route is definitely not one for the faint of heart. This is a full-day hike where some navigation skills will be required. Hiking boots are essential for this route due to the nature of the terrain underfoot. We believe this to be one of the best long hikes you can do from Glendalough as you will take in a lot of the same views as the more popular routes with vastly fewer people.

The Route

2. Tonelagee, Brockagh, Saint Kevin’s Way

Distance: 16km

Elevation: 780m

Time: 6 hours

From the Wicklow Gap road, this route climbs directly up to Tonelagee. From the summit of Tonelagee you stay high and head towards Brockagh before descending down onto Saint Kevin’s way and making your way back along the base of the valley. This is a challenging yet achievable hike. Hiking boots are essential as well as a good level of fitness. The climb at the start is definitely the most challenging part of this route so don’t be put off. If the weather is really really poor we would advise staying low and hiking along Saint Kevin’s Way as the ridge is quite exposed.

The Route

3. Prince Williams Seat Loop from Cloon

Distance: 10km

Elevation: 380m

Time: 4 hours

We are very reluctant to share this route as it is one of our own personal favourites! From Cloon Wood head up the fire road until it peters out. Follow the trail along before looping back up onto Knocknagun. This is a challenging but stunning climb. The views will get better and better the more you climb. Head along the ridge towards Prince William’s Seat before descending back down to Cloon. This trail is usually quite wet underfoot even after warm weather so be prepared with waterproof shoes. Or a change of socks in the car for afterwards!

The Route

4. Kippure via Access Road

Distance: 7km

Elevation: 250m

Time: 2-3 hours

If you want to feel the mountain air without getting stuck in the mud we would advise climbing Kippure via the access road. Kippure is the tallest mountain in Dublin standing at 757 m above sea level. There is an access road that goes the entire way up the mountain from the Military Road. The top offer some spectacular views over the Dublin Mountains to the north and the Wicklow Mountains National Park to the south.

The Route

5. Green Road Loop Glendalough

Distance: 3km

Elevation: 50m

Time: 1 hour

For a more family-friendly stroll, why not take on the Green Road loop in Glendalough? This trail is a short 3km loop that will bring you along some beautiful winding trails and boardwalk. This is also a good option for a poor weather day.

The Route

Wicklow Mountains: Best Activities

Aside from walking and hiking, there are so many weekends worth of activities to do in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Here are some of our favourites!

Immerse yourself in history

There is some truly incredible history to be found in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. From the ancient monastic settlement at Glendalough to a military road built in the 18th century that traverses the blanket bog from Dublin to Aughavanagh.

If you are heading by car to Glendalough from Dublin. Consider taking the Military Road that goes from Rathfarnham to Laragh over the Wicklow Mountains. At the border into Wicklow, you will pass a road that leads towards Kippure, Dublin’s Highest Mountain. Road was constructed during The Emergency, (what World War I was known as in Ireland) so that turf could be easily and effectively harvested to provide energy to Dublin. You can still to this day see the cut marks as you drive past. A few kilometres later you will arrive at the iconic Sally Gap crossroads, contrary to popular belief the Sally Gap does not get its name from somebody named Sally. It is widely accepted that the Sally Gap in fact gets its name from an English translation of the original Irish name, mixed with the word “saddle” which is a topographical feature similar to a mountain pass.

Upon arriving at Glendalough you will be able to explore this incredible ancient city. In the 6th century, Saint Kevin established this monastic settlement. To this day the majority of this still stands.

Enjoy some on and off-road cycling

A long drive doesn’t appeal to you when you want something that will get your heart pumping why not explore the Wicklow Mountains National Park on two wheels. The roads in the National Park and surrounding area offer some of the best cycling in the country. Rolling roads, sweeping descents and epic views! You can also take your tooth feels off-road if you wish. 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.

If you’re looking for something a little bit more technical or challenging we would advise checking out some of the nearby Coillte Mountain Bike trail centres.

Weekend Wander: Ticknock Mountain Biking

Weekend Wander: Ballinastoe Mountain Biking

Take a Dip: Swimming in The Wicklow Mountains National Park

While boating and kayaking are not allowed 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 lakes in the National Park all have sharp drop offs and are quite deep. If you are comfortable in the water however, there is nothing quite like swimming surrounded by mountains.

Glendalough Lake 

Contrary to popular belief you are now allowed to swim in Glendalough upper lake, as stated on the national parks website.

Lough Tay

Underneath the incredible Eagles Crag and quite close to the Military Road car park you can get in to Lough Tay upper for a dip. From experience, this is a cold one!

Lough Ouler

Many people marvel at the beauty of Wicklow’s heart-shaped leak from above. Why not get in instead? We would definitely only advise doing this on quite a warm day as it is quite a walk back to the car afterwards. Make sure you have warm clothing.

Rock Climbing in the Wicklow Mountains National Park

There is some top-class rock climbing on offer in the Wicklow Mountains National Park too. The crags along the Miners’ Road at Glendalough and in Glenmalure are favourite spots for rock climbing, while bouldering is popular in the granite scree at the Miners’ Village, Glendalough.

Guides: Hike And Climb

Wicklow Mountains: Weather

As with most parts of Ireland, the Wicklow Mountains National Park can have unpredictable weather regardless of the season. It doesn’t have to impact your weekend wander at all just make sure that you have appropriate clothing and footwear for the activity you intend on doing that day. It is also worth knowing at the top of the mountain is always colder than the bottom. You can expect an on average 5° difference between the temperature in the car park and the temperature on the summit of a mountain in the Wicklow Mountains. Additionally, windchill can make it seem a lot colder again. All this to say a windproof waterproof jacket is essential depending on the weather if that day. Make sure to check the weather thoroughly before embarking on your adventure in the Wicklow Mountains.

Met Eirinn

Mountain Forecast

Wicklow Mountains: Getting there

The Old Military Road in Wicklow
The Old Military Road in Wicklow

By Car:

You are definitely the most flexible if you have a car to explore the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The National Park is quite fast so to cover it all in a weekend having a car would be advantageous. You can drive from Dublin city to the heart of the Wicklow Mountains in an hour, while some of the more northern parts of the National Park like Glenncullen are accessible in less than 45 minutes.

By Public Transport:

You can quite easily have a carless adventure in the Wicklow Mountains.

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.

Dublin Bus 44 goes from Dublin City University in the north of Dublin all the way to the village of Enniskerry in North Wicklow. Enniskerry is a great base for a hike around the northern Wicklow Mountains.

Dublin Bus 44b serves Glencullen from Dundrum Luas stop. The 44B terminates on the Wicklow Way. You could quite easily walk to Enniskerry and get the 44 home from here a lovely hike in its own right.

TFI Bus 185 from Bray Dart station you can catch the 185 bus up the hill to Enniskerry Golf Club. This is about 2 km from Cloon Wood which is the start of one of our hikes mentioned above.

Wicklow Mountains: Best Places to Eat & Drink

Just Eat Fit Food
Where to eat in Wicklow

Roundwood Stores is a rustic café, located in the town of Roundwood. It offers exceptional food and delicious coffee. It is an Outsider favourite for sure.

Glenmalure Lodge; a favourite of hillwalkers the Glenmalure Lodge has an excellent lunch menu that will definitely fill you up after your adventures. They also sell a mean pint of Guinness.

Sugar Mountain is our go-to if we are in need of a feed! We have never left Sugar Mountain still hungry. They serve big portions of hearty food perfect for after a morning is adventuring.

Turquoise Café is very easy to drive past! Located between Kilmacanogue and Roundwood this café is a must-visit for its delicious coffee and locally sourced food. They even have a farmer’s market in the courtyard on weekends here.

Wicklow Heather is located close to Glendalough and is a lovely place to head for dinner with a family. This cosy restaurant serves is a great range of dishes so there’s something for everyone.

The Armoury Café is located in a historic building at the top of the Glencree Valley. They regularly have art and history exhibitions on in the upstairs space so that you can enjoy what are you decided what yummy treat to have with your coffee.

Wicklow Mountains: Where to stay

Wicklow Accomodation

In order to get the full Wicklow Mountains National Park experience we would advise staying in Wicklow as opposed to commuting from Dublin. Here are some ideas:

Wild Camping is allowed in the park as long as you abide by the Wild Camping Guidelines.

Campsites are very popular in Wicklow. There are a number of camping and glamping sites that you can avail of.

AirBnBs there is a huge range of Airbnb is on offer in Wicklow as well. From epic rare finds to full houses which make for perfect family getaways there is something for everyone.

Hotels: There is also a huge range of hotels to choose from in the Wicklow Mountains if you are after a bit more luxury this weekend.

By Matthew McConnell

  1. Robert Grandon
    May 5, 2023

    That people are discovering and exploring Ireland,s uplands especially on the last few years is good to see.
    People may see the mountains as rugged and not fully understand how fragile and vulnerable they are due to human impact over generations.
    Now with climate change and it’s impact on us due to weather events, the mountains and uplands are very much under stress.
    Unfortunately our recreation activities in the uplands are also having an impact ,which can be quite negative in effect infortunately, no more so than in the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains, which you feature in your article.
    The onus is on us all to reflect on our impact on this vulnerable ecosystem and if possible protect it from human impact and activities.
    We can give back.
    Maybe adopt the one in six philosophy, ie, for every six days we enjoy the benefits and wonder of the mountains, that we use the next day, the seventh to give back to the mountains.
    There are a number of voluntary bodies and community organisations dedicating their time to the wellbeing of the uplands who are always welcoming of new volunteers to “give back”to the mountains.

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