The beautiful County Wicklow is home to some outstanding natural beauty. Explore some of the most awe-inspiring sights in Ireland on these top five most scenic walks in Glendalough.
World-renowned for its greenery, the Emerald Isle has no shortage of wonderful nature walks.
The beautiful County Wicklow is home to the Wicklow Mountains National Park – a 205-square-kilometre (79-square-mile) area of stunning natural beauty.
Among the most beautiful parts of the park is Glendalough, from the Irish ‘Gleann Dá Loch’ (Valley of Two Lakes).
Home to the likes of Glendalough’s monastic site, Varty Reservoir, and Lake Dan, there is so much beauty to absorb when walking in Glendalough.
Our list of the most scenic walks in Glendalough follows the order of difficulty, as we firmly believe that the effort makes the reward all the sweeter.
Top tips for walking in Glendalough:
- Good walking shoes are essential.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks when walking through Glendalough.
- Weather in Ireland is unpredictable. Check the forecast before your trip, and always pack a raincoat.
- Think about visiting Glendalough early in the morning to avoid crowds.
5. Poulanass and St. Kevin’s Cell Walk – the bronze route
The Poulanass and St. Kevin’s Cell walk is one of the shorter walks in Glendalough at a little over 1 km (0.6 miles).
As such, it is rated moderate by the Glendalough map guide. However, it becomes quite steep as it rises alongside the stunning Poulanass Waterfall.
After this steep incline, it descends towards St. Kevin’s Cell and the remains of the 11th-century Reefert Church. St. Kevin’s Cell is home to St. Kevin’s Bed.
This partially man-made cave housed St. Kevin during his hermitage and has inspired many facets of contemporary Irish culture – from The Dubliners’ song ‘The Glendalough Saint’ to references in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
St. Kevin’s Cell offers breathtaking views of Glendalough’s upper lake. On top of scenic views of the lake, this is also a popular spot for bird-watching.
4. The Green Road Walk – the green route
The Green Road Walk is one of the park’s most manageable walks. It consists of mostly flat terrain, and much of the route runs along a boardwalk.
This path goes through oak woodlands and the boggy terrain of the lower lake wetlands. Sightings of the animals that make up the Glendalough ecosystem are common, and indeed, this is a breeding hotspot for the frogs that call the valley home.
The Green Road Walk takes hikers up to the beautiful ruins of one of Ireland’s most important monastic sites – the Glendalough Monastery.
The aforementioned St. Kevin founded the monastery in the sixth century, although the remaining ruins aren’t quite as old.
The Normans destroyed the monastery in the 13th century, which led to the amalgamation of the Glendalough and Dublin dioceses. There is a nearby visitor centre with audio-visual and interactive tours available.
3. The Miners Road Walk – the purple route
The Miners Road Walk starts just past the car park by Glendalough’s upper lake. From the offset, lucky hikers meet with spectacular lake and valley views.
Along the way, you will walk through the towering trees in the Scots Pine woodland. Keep an eye out for Glendalough’s abundant wildlife, including the native red squirrel, as you pass through.
This route eventually reaches the miners’ village, which gives the walk its name. Luganure mineral vein – a source of lead and traces of silver – was mined in Glendalough’s Camaderry Mountain during three phases.
The most recent of these was 1948-1957. Much like the monastic city, only ruins remain. But detailed information can be found around the site, making for a fascinating and educational walk to add to the stunning views.
2. The Derrybawn Woodland Trail – the orange route
The Derrybawn Woodland Trail is undoubtedly one of the best walks in Glendalough. The map guide suggests that this route should take two hours, but the captivating scenery will surely add to your time.
Like the bronze route, this trail rises alongside the Poulanass Waterfall, allowing you to view it in all its splendour. Rather than descending, however, the orange route continues up into Derrybawn Mountain.
From atop Derrybawn, hikers will enjoy a stunning bird’s-eye view of the Glendalough Valley in its entirety, including both lakes and the monastic settlement.
The walk passes through the beautiful foliage of pine trees and larches. These trees shelter red squirrels and treecreepers, so keep your eyes peeled.
1. Spinc and Glenealo Valley Walk – the white route
At a distance of over 9 km(5.5 miles), this loop trail is one of the most arduous walks in Glendalough. But as we said, that makes it all the more rewarding.
This route encompasses many of the routes and stops that previously mentioned routes entail. It, too, passes the beautiful waterfall before a boardwalk with more than 600 steps leads you through the woods to the Spinc viewpoint.
The apex stands at 500 metres, and the wooded area is home to herds of red deer. So, one way or another, you’re in for some memorable sights.
Hikers contend with much rockier terrain on the way back, so hiking boots are advised. This rocky terrain leads to the miner’s village before finishing up at the valley’s upper lake.
READ MORE: our guide to the best Wicklow walks
Other notable mentions
Spinc and the Wicklow Way: This route is similar to the white route above. However, it heads in the direction of Lugduff Mountain before joining the Wicklow Way Trail and returning to the Glendalough Visitor Centre.
Scarr and Kanturk Loop: This challenging route offers excellent views on a clear day. It is a very popular area for hiking, camping, and bird-watching. Try Scarr Loop for a shorter alternative with equally spectacular views.
Lough Ouler and Tonelagee Loop: This mystical path has incredible views of one of the best hidden gems in Wicklow. However, this is a very challenging path and should only be attempted by experienced and competent hikers.
Glendalough Wood Road (Silver Route): This secluded Woodland Road walk takes around two hours to complete. This is one of the gentler walking trails that requires a reasonable level of fitness to see you through the Glendasan Valley.
Your questions answered about scenic walks in Glendalough
If you still have questions, we have you covered! In this section, we’ve compiled some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions and popular questions that have been asked online about this topic.
What are the best walks in Glendalough?
Any of the walks and hikes mentioned above make for fantastic walks in Glendalough and walks in Wicklow in general. For our money, the most rewarding in terms of both effort and views is the Spinc and Glenealo Valley Walk.
What is the longest trail in Glendalough?
The longest trail in Glendalough is the Scarr, Kanturk, and Knocknacloghoge Loop. At a whopping 38.3 km (23.8 miles), this route trail takes over 11 hours to complete.
Do you need hiking boots for Glendalough?
While some of the trails may be manageable in trainers, we recommend that hiking boots be worn when possible. This is particularly pertinent when completing Glendalough’s more challenging walks.