I have spent many great days out at Glendalough and walking in the surrounding hills. Glendalough is about one hour by bus or car from Dublin. There are a couple of different routes to get here – see the Glendalough tours page for directions.
Glendalough has become famous in part to St Kevin, however it would not be visited so much without the beauty and charm of the valley, the two lakes, and the walking trails that lead into the Wicklow Hills from here.
On your first visit to Glendalough the visitors centre is the best place to start, unless you are only here for the hill walking. You can buy various information on the centre and area here – additionally they have walking maps. (only 50c last time I checked)
The visitors centre is located at the start of the valley, behind the centre are the monuments, graveyard, and the trails into the hills. There are two car parks, one at the visitors centre, the other just past the centre.
We have pages on the history of Glendalough, two pages on the monuments that still remain. Monument that you can easily visit and walk through. The most famous of these of course being the round tower.
The Glendalough walking routes that we have listed from here are all way marked and graded easy. They range from the short few kilometers to about 14km. None are across boggy land where you walk in the peat, always a problem in the Wicklow mountains. All the routes where they do cross any bog or peat have boardwalks to walk along.
If you are going walking on your own make sure you know where you are going and you have some experience of hill walking. As I have said the routes are all easy however on the spink at the top fog can make the route somewhat dangerous – though due to the wind in Ireland, (an almost constant feature), the fog is rare.
Take your camera. For a place so close to a capital city the scenery is tremendous, and like most visitors you will likely have some great photos to take home with you. I have listed about three hundred photos taken at various times over the last ten years.
Please leave Glendalough as you find it. Take you rubbish back to either of the main car parks where there are many bins.
For me this is the best part of going to Glendalough. Much of the hill walking in the Wicklow Mountains is over boggy land which is often very muddy, not something I am a fan of. This is rarely the case at Glendalough due to the paths and the board walks that have been built over the peat bogs.
Therefore boots are not always necessary, especially if the weather has been dry for some time. There are no places on any of the walks out of Glendalough to get water or buy food. Food and water can be bought at the visitors centre and in the last car park at the upper lake, where there are also toilets.
Maps can be bought at the main visitors centre or at a second centre at the main car park, last time I bought one it was 50c, so fairly cheap. The map lists 9 way marked walks from only a few km’s to the longest at 11km and an estimate of 4hrs for the longest.
I have two favorite walks and they are also the most popular. If you are lucky you will see some wild deer and goats which roam free in the Wicklow National Park.
Spinc and Glenealo Valley
This is by far the most popular walk at Glendalough, it is about 9km and should take about 3 and 1/2 hours. It is a circular walk however there is a good way to do it and a not so good way.
Facing the upper lake you can take the path to the right which leads down the miners road. This part is fairly flat and is a good warm up before climbing up the side of a small stream into Glenealo Valley. At the top the track crosses the stream and continues on a boardwalk up to the Spinc, (pointed hill). All the way there are great views to the surrounding hills and from the top on a clear day Sugar Loaf stands majestic before the sea. The path leads back down by the way of 600 stairs to Poulanass Waterfall and then back to the car park. The route can be started by way of the stairs, the choice is your own, I have done both and prefer coming down down the stairs to having 600 stairs right at the start of a walk.
Spinc and the Wicklow Way
This is the longest of the walks out of Glendalough and the quietest, so on busy weekends if you want so peace it is the one to chose. Facing the upper lake the path starts up to the left past Poulanass Waterfall. It is well marked and follows the Wicklow way for half the route. There is more chance of seeing wild long hair goats on this route as it is much quieter. The Wicklow Way will eventually turn off to the left and this route continues right, up to Prezen Rock and again affording spectaculars view over the surrounding countryside and out to the Irish Sea on clear days. From the Rock the path winds back downhill to the spinc and joins the boardwalk to return to the valley floor by way of the stairs once again.
There are many shorter walks if time does not permit either of the two above, the most beautiful being the walk down the miners road which is easy and suitable for any age group. The path leads the length of the upper lake and and is straight out and back again through a lovely tree lined path.
Glendalough by Car:
Take the N11 which is the main road south out of Dublin. Just passed the exit for Bray there is a junction for the R755 which will be sign posted for Roundwood. Stay on this road for about 20 – 30 minutes until you reach Laragh. Going through the centre of Laragh take the R756 which is sign posted to Glendalough. From Laragh it is only about ten minutes to Glendalough.
At Glendalough there are three main car parks, one on your left which is first this is the visitors centre. The next is just a little further into the village behind the hotel and the last is at the end of the road a few minutes further on – the last one is best if you only intend to go walking. I have found all the car parks safe, though I never leave anything in view, everything goes into the boot of the car.
There are more interesting routes to and from Glendalough, for example over Sally Gap, my favorite, or the Wicklow Gap – however I would suggest buying a map, (Ordnance Survey Discovery Series 56). Traveling back by the Sally Gap affords great views over the top of Dublin from the Wicklow Mountains and is worth the drive.
Glendalough by Bus:
St Kevins Bus Service
The main bus service to Glendalough from Dublin is the St Kevins Bus Service. Their web site is here They collect in Dublin at 11.30am on Dawson Street opposite the Mansion House, two minutes or less from Stephens Green. Winter they return to Dublin at 16.30 with exceptions for weekends and bank holidays. In summer they leave Glendalough a little later. I recommend checking their web site for current time table. The current fare is €18 return for an adult from Dublin to Glendalough. I have never used this service therefore I cannot comment on times and service. One small problem, from my view point is that there may not be a lot of time to walk the beautiful main route round the lake – but if you do not have a car that’s life.
Coach Tours of Ireland
This is more a coach tour of Wicklow rather than just a bus to Glendalough. Check their web site here. Current cost is €24 and the tour takes in many worth seeing sights in County Wicklow, leaves Dublin from various locations from 9.00am onwards.
Over the Top Tours
Another coach tour of the Wicklow mountains area. Web site here.