Glendalough Walk: best route, distance, when to visit, and more

Wicklow is home to some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery, and there’s no finer way to immerse yourself in its beauty than by enjoying a Glendalough Walk.

Not far from Dublin lies Wicklow – ‘the garden of Ireland’ – a natural oasis neighbouring the capital city. So, if you are near the city, why not enjoy a Glendalough hike?

Home to a wealth of heritage sites that shine a light on Ireland’s ancient past, a Glendalough Walk is ideal for budding historians, as well as day-trippers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Basic info – all you need to know

Route: Spinc and Glenealo Valley (White Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 9.5 km (5.9 mi)

Duration: 3 hr 15 min

Start and Endpoint: National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake

History – an Early Medieval Christian monastic settlement

The history of the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow famous for its 6th-century Early Medieval Christian monastic settlement. First established by St. Kevin, the Celtic city remains well preserved today.

Onsite visitors can explore its enduring ruins, which include St. Peter and St. Pauls’ Cathedral, a round tower and a number of churches: St. Kevin’s, St. Ciarán’s, and Trinity Church, to name but a few.

In 1398, English forces would obliterate Glendalough from a religious and cultural perspective.

Between 1825 to 1957, the valley became host to lead mining, although today Glendalough is primarily a natural attraction and heritage site. With a wealth of history woven into its ancient tapestry, a visit to the area offers more than just a scenic sight.

When to visit – according to weather and crowds

A route map of the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: irelandbeforeyoudie.com

Given Glendalough’s proximity to Dublin city, it is a favourite of travellers and tour groups. Summer sees the highest footfall, so if you intend on visiting this impressive part of ancient Ireland in peace, avoid doing a Glendalough hike at this time of the year.

Autumn or spring offer an excellent opportunity to see this majestic Medieval city with fewer crowds to reckon with.

However, if you’re lucky enough to catch Glendalough in the winter snow, rest assured it will be a sight not soon forgotten.

What to see – incredible views

What to see.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Along the Spinc and Glenealo Valley Glendalough walk you will see the Poulanass Waterfall, the Upper Lake, impressive cliffs, and rolling hills, bogs, valleys, and even, perhaps, a herd of wild deer.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife but do not disturb those you do come across. Always keep a safe distance from animals and do not feed the fauna.

Directions – how to get there

How to get to the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Begin your Glendalough walk from the National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake.

This is an easily-followed loop trail that begins and ends at this point. Follow the white trail signage, first heading in the Poulanass waterfall direction to begin your hike.

Where to park – free parking

There is a car park at the entrance.
Credit: geograph.ie / Oliver Dixon

There is a free car park on entering Glendalough. Facilities such as an information centre and public toilets will also be available nearby.

What to bring – come prepared

What to bring on the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: snappygoat.com

Make sure to wear durable, preferably waterproof, walking shoes.

Expect the worst when it comes to weather – a rain jacket, gloves, and a hat are all highly recommended when exploring Ireland’s great outdoors.

During summer, remember to bring sunscreen and a hat. Water is advisable, as there will be no facilities along the route.

Where to eat – fuel your walk

Wicklow Heather is a great place to eat.
Credit: Facebook / @TheWicklowHeather

Wicklow Heather is a fantastic nearby restaurant for those who have just tackled the Glendalough trails.

Its traditional dining room atmosphere is complete with eclectic period paintings and candlelight. Add on a healthy dose of hearty Irish fare, and it’s plain to see why this is such a popular spot.

Where to stay – comfy accommodation

Brooklodge Hotel is a great place to stay.
Credit: Facebook / @BrookLodge

Young travellers looking to connect with likeminded individuals should check out the nearby Glendalough International Hostel.

Alternatively, Trooperstown Wood Lodge is a rustic guesthouse offering endless Irish character and a warm welcome from its hosts.

If you have a car and are happy to enjoy a scenic drive from your accommodation to Glendalough, we suggest you stay at the stunning BrookLodge & Macreddin Village.

With the four-star BrookLodge Hotel at its core, this storybook village setting is only 30 minutes drive from the Glendalough hike.

Things to know – useful information

Incredible views from the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

The Spinc and Glenealo Valley is just one of nine Glendalough hikes you can enjoy. All begin from the National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake. Routes are as follows:

Route: Miners’ Road Walk (Purple Route)

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 5 km (3.1 mi)

Duration: 1 hr 10 mins

Route: Poulanass and St. Kevin’s Cell (Bronze Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 1 km (0.62 mi)

Duration: 30 mins

Route: Green Road Walk (Green Route)

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 3 km (1.86 mi)

Duration: 50 mins

Route: Derrybawn Woodland Trail (Orange Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 8 km (4.97 mi)

Duration: 2 hours

Amazing views from the Glendalough Walk.
Credit: Instagram / @tombularbells

Route: Poulanass (Pink Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 1.6 km (0.99 mi)

Duration: 40 mins

Route: Woodland Road (Silver Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 4 km (2.48 mi)

Duration: 1 hr 15 mins

Route: Spinc and the Wicklow Way (Red Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 11.5 km (7.14 mi)

Duration: 4 hr 15 mins

Route: Spinc short route (Blue Route)

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 5.5 km (3.41 mi)

Duration: 2 hr 15 mins

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