Glendalough Hotel top 10 things to do in Wicklow as recommended by our team in summer 2023.
1 Glendalough Valley
We couldn’t start this list without mentioning our own valley with its stunning landscapes and variety of walks. This unique and serene valley has been favoured by hikers, walkers, photographers, geography fans, bikers, (both motorised and non-motorised), and those looking to connect with nature in a spiritual setting for literally Centuries. St Kevin first set up his retreat here in the late 6th or early 7th Century and you will see why when you visit. We recommend taking time to walk from the hotel down to the Upper Lake via the Monastic City, It’s an easy walk taking a lot in and you can grab a coffee by the lake and plan the rest of your visit surrounded by the Mountains.
For more information visit https://glendalough.ie/
Visit Wicklow also has a Wicklow Passport that offers great suggestions on places to visit https://visitwicklow.ie/passport/
2 The Monastic City
Steps away from the Glendalough Hotel is one of the most important Monastic Sites in Ireland. Founded in the 6th Century by St Kevin this settlement developed and the buildings you now see have survived from the 10th – 12th centuries. The arch that leads into the site is one of the oldest medieval arches in Europe and leads you into the site with its 7 churches and the magnificent tower that stretches 33 meters into the sky. We get to see this site every day and the skyline that frames it makes it look different every time. You may see Sike deer, introduced to Ireland in the 18th Century grazing in the graveyard that surrounds the ancient buildings or a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. Vikings did attack many times over the years but this school of learning remained until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214AD. The visitor centre across the Glendasan River from the hotel has a model of the site and an audio-visual guide. The staff there are very knowledgeable and will be happy to answer any questions.
Learn more here http://monastic.ie/history/glendalough/
3 Upper Lake
The upper lake is where St. Kevin first spent years as a hermit living in a cave at the side of the lake. This lake was originally carved out by glaciers and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. There are ancient ruins behind the lake where it is thought cattle were kept and many walks that loop around it or pass by such as the Spinc or the Miners walk. If you follow the path to the Miners village you may be able to spot the cave where he lived across the lake. There is a beach near the car park and you can paddle close to the shore in the peaty water. On a blustery day the lake is very atmospheric with the wind blowing down the valley from the Wicklow hills.
Find out more here https://visitwicklow.ie/listing/glendalough-upper-lake/
4 The Miners’ Village in Glendalough, Wicklow, Ireland
The Miners village in Glendalough was established in the late 18th century when lead was discovered in the area. The village was home to a small community of miners and their families who worked in the nearby mines. Today, the village is a popular tourist attraction and visitors can explore the ruins of the old mining buildings, including the miners’ cottages, the mine manager’s house, and the mine itself. The village is located in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It is also close to the famous Glendalough monastic site, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. This year a lot of work has been done to help protect and preserve these ruins, you can see the old and the new work on the houses when you visit. The views down into the valley are beautiful, especially in the morning when the sun is coming up from the valley.
Find our more about walks in Wicklow here https://www.nationalparks.ie/wicklow/things-to-do/
5 Avondale House and Beyond the Trees.
One of the team recently visited Avondale House and Beyond the Trees in Wicklow, this famous house was formerly the home to Charles Stewart Parnell. The full walk is 4km but there are 3 routes to choose from, all different distances. The tower is where you will find the 90m spiral slide, (the highest in Ireland), this is great fun for the more adventurous, our team member’s top tip is that it’s a good idea to go early if you want to slide as it can get busy.
The views are stunning and offer a completely different perspective of the landscape, the boardwalk offers lots of places to sit and take in the views with information points telling you about what you are looking at. This is highly recommended.
Learn more here: https://www.beyondthetreesavondale.com/
6 Wicklow Gaol
Located in the middle of Wicklow town, Wicklow Gaol tells the stories of the prisoners held mainly during the 1800’s here. There are stories of prisoners who were hanged and then dumped out at sea, children who were imprisoned, French prisoners, the traveling hangman, the Gaolers who were cruel and those who drove reform. There are also tales of prisoners who may never have left in the Spooky paranormal tours but for those how like the facts, historical tours are available. Visitors can see firsthand the cramped cells where prisoners slept on straw mats and learn about the harsh punishments that were inflicted upon them for even minor offenses. This is an atmospheric tour and a great place to do it perhaps we have a rainy day in Ireland.
Find out more here: https://www.wicklowshistoricgaol.com/
7 Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall
Powerscourt Gardens was once voted top 3 by a National Geographic Top 10 Gardens of the World poll and you will see why when you visit. With 46 acres of grounds with formal gardens and terraces to explore this could easily be a full day trip by itself when you combine a visit to the house. The house was listed as one of the top mansions to visit in the world.
The waterfall is the highest in Ireland at 121m high and is located around 5km from the House. There is a car park close to the waterfall so you can decide to visit both on the same or different days, there is a separate ticket for both. For best value buy a family ticket. There is a 3km trail that takes in the waterfall with views from different vantage points but we recommend that you leave time to wander off the trails and enjoy the scenes along the Dargle river. Driving from the Gatelodge to the Waterfalls car park you will see some of the trees here that date back 200 years including Californian redwoods planted in the 18th century. There is lots of wildlife to see, Sika Deer, Red Squirrels, and birdwatching enthusiasts can look out for some of the locals, the chaffinch, cuckoo, raven, and willow warbler.
Find out more: https://powerscourt.com/
8 Russborough House
This Palladian mansion and 18th-century estate offer a really different type of tour to the usual Mansion house with stories that span the modern-day lives of the families who have owned Russborough. With great artwork throughout including paintings by Gainsborough, Singer Sargent, and van Ostade. With some really interesting exhibitions of modern innovations in their early stages like photography and film as explored by family members, there is really something for everyone in this beautiful house. The House itself overlooks the Blessington Lakes and surrounding mountains and there are walks around the grounds that include visits to the walled gardens. There is a fabulous Maze with 2000 meters of Beech hedge which will keep your family entertained for quite some time.
Learn more here: https://www.russborough.ie/
9 The Botanical Gardens
First begun in 1712 and then expanded during the 19th century there are 52 acres of gardens that include rare trees and shrubs. This is the home to one of the most important collections of plants in Ireland. The arboretum is being replanted by the National Botanic Gardens and the ruins of a Queen Anne-style house can be seen when visiting. There are free guided tours and parking on site.
Visit their website to find out more: https://www.botanicgardens.ie/kilmacurragh/
10 Bray Head walk
Starting along the promenade, (you will see the hill at the end) in Bray or from the car park at the beginning of the path this is a lovely way to get out into the wild and soak up some beautiful coastal views without having to exert yourself too much. The loop is around 9km and takes around an hour and a half, (allow longer for stops, you’ll love the views). There are two walks, the Bray Head Walk and Bray to Greystones cliff walk. To take the Bray Head Walk stick to the path straight on from the car park. There are some stairs to climb on the Bray Head walk which will help you identify the one you want. There is a path at the top of the stairs that is well-worn. The top of the path is a little rocky so take care on the final climb to the top. There is cross the top and views across North East Wicklow and Dublin Bay, with views of Little and Great Sugarloaf, and Carrickgollogan mountain.
There are plenty of places to eat in the town at the beginning or end of this walk. There are two walks, the Bray Head Walk and Bray to Greystones cliff walk. To take the Bray Head Walk stick to the path straight on from the car park. There are some stairs to climb on the Bray Head walk which will help you identify the one you want. There is a path at the top of the stairs that is well-worn. The top of the path is a little rocky so take care on the final climb to the top.
To learn a bit more about this walk visit: https://bray.ie/brayheadwalk