A visit to Dublin is almost always accompanied by a visit to nature. In the city there are plenty of green areas, but within a stone’s throw of the city you will find the enchanting Wicklow Mountains. The mountains are a must see if you visit Dublin and surrounding areas or when you’re roadtripping through Ireland. Ireland is known for its beautiful green nature and Glendalough is one of the most beautiful areas of Wicklow Mountains.
Glendalough refers to an Irish Valley in the Wicklow Mountains, about 40 km south of Dublin. The name Glendalough is derived from the Irish: Gleann Dá Locha: “Valley of the two lakes”, referring to the lakes in the Valley called Lower Lough and Upper Lough. Glendalough is one of the stage places of the Wicklow Way, a long-distance walking trail through the Wicklow Mountains. Source: Wikipedia.
Hiking in Glendalough
Glendalough has great hiking possibilities and when you have time, it’s definitely worth hiking one of the marked trails. We chose the Derrybawn woodland Trail, also known as the Orange route. This is a 8 km hike, which first takes you through a beautifully flat path along the well-known Monastic Site and Lower Lake. A bit further is Upper Lake, sandwiched between the green mountainsides.
From here follows a short but steep climb to the graceful Poulanass Waterfall, interrupted by several pools and surrounded by different kinds of trees and bushes. The sun is filtered beautifully through the canopy and the moderate light makes this place almost look magical.
Then starts a gradual climb on a gravel road. The more we continue the climb, the more the tree line comes closer. On this part of the trail, we seem to be almost hiking on the mountain ridge. Soon follows a vantage point which provides scenic views of Upper Lake and the mountains surrounding the lake. This is probably one of the most beautiful viewpoints of Wicklow Mountains. On this sunny day the mountains of Glendalough look extremely peaceful. The curves of the mountains and the green blanket that covers the mountain walls give this landscape a soft look. Nevertheless, the cliffs at the back of the lake also give these mountains a rugged side. From this point it’s clearly visible how green Wicklow Mountains are. Literally a hundred shades of green are hiding in this sublime landscape. This is the perfect place to recharge our batteries before we continue the hike. From this point the trail follows a mixed forest, where wild flowers often appear along the sides of the trail. This part combines small ascents and descents towards the village of Laragh, then follows a descent towards the valley and finally a flat trail back to the Visitor Centre. It took us over 2 hours to hike this trail including photo stops. It’s really worth hiking here. The mountains of Glendalough are insanely beautiful. Just look!
- How to get there? There are several ways to get to Glendalough. The easiest way is to rent your own car so you can explore the mountains at your own pace. There is hardly any public transport in Wicklow Mountains, but it’s possible to take the bus to Glendalough. Bus 181 runs twice a day from the Centre of Dublin to Glendalough (20 euros return). This means departure at 11:30 and return at 4:30. This will give you 3,5 hours on-the-spot (on Sunday the bus leaves an hour later from Glendalough so it will give you 4,5 hours in Glendalough). I chose this option and this way I’ve had enough time to hike one of the trails. In addition, the bus drives along beautiful villages and nature so there’s plenty to see when you’re sitting in the bus. All information about bus transportation to and from Glendalough can be found here. Of course there are enough tour buses that take you to different places, including Glendalough. The only disadvantage of such organized tours is that you often only get to spend half an hour – one and a half hours on spot. That’s fine if you’re just walking to Lower and Upper Lake, but it’s not enough if you want to hike through the mountains and explore the surrounding area.
- There are several beautiful hiking trails in Glendalough. You can buy a map for small fee at the Visitor Centre.
- The hike that I describe is labeled as average. There are no technical difficulties, but you will be climbing and descending during two hours or a bit more, including some (photo) stops.
- There are toilets and a hotel next to the Visitor Centre, where you can enjoy a snack or drink.