Hiking in Glendalough: An Adventure in the Heart of Ireland

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Glendalough, located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, is one of Ireland’s most picturesque and popular tourist destinations. The stunning landscapes, rich history, and numerous hiking trails make it an ideal place for a day trip or a weekend getaway. In this article, we will take a closer look at hiking in Glendalough and explore some of the best hiking trails, attractions, and tips for a memorable hiking experience.

Glendalough: A Brief History

Glendalough, meaning “Valley of Two Lakes,” is a glacial valley located in the Wicklow Mountains. The area is home to an early Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. The monastery thrived for over 600 years until it was destroyed by English forces in the 16th century. Today, the ruins of the monastic city are a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.

Getting to Glendalough

Glendalough is located about 40 kilometers south of Dublin, making it an easy day trip or a weekend getaway. The most convenient way to get there is by car or public transport. There are regular bus services from Dublin to Glendalough, and the journey takes about 90 minutes. If you prefer to drive, there is ample parking available at the visitor center.

Best Time to Visit Glendalough

The best time to visit Glendalough is between April and September when the weather is mild, and the trails are in good condition. The area can get crowded during peak season, especially on weekends and public holidays. If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, consider visiting during the off-season.

Hiking in Glendalough: Tips and Safety Measures

Hiking in Glendalough can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s essential to take some precautions to ensure your safety and enjoyment. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes with good traction.
  • Dress in layers and bring waterproof clothing, as the weather can be unpredictable.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.
  • Carry a map, a compass, and a charged phone with you.
  • Stick to the marked trails and avoid shortcuts or off-trail hiking.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace principles and pack out all your trash.

Best Hiking Trails in Glendalough

Glendalough offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to all levels of experience and fitness levels. Here are some of the best hiking trails to explore:

Spinc and Glenealo Valley Loop

This is a moderate to strenuous 9-kilometer loop trail that offers stunning views of the Glendalough Valley and the surrounding mountains. The trail starts at the visitor center and climbs up to the Spinc Ridge, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Wicklow Mountains. The trail then descends to the Glenealo Valley, where you can see the Upper Lake and the Monastic City.

Derrybawn Mountain Loop

This is a challenging 10-kilometer loop trail that takes you to the summit of Derrybawn Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the area. The trail starts at the Upper Lake and climbs up through the forest to the summit, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The trail then descends to the Glenealo Valley and back to the Upper Lake.

Wicklow Way Trail

The Wicklow Way is a long-distance hiking trail that runs for 130 kilometers from Dublin to Clonegal. The trail passes through Glendalough and offers some of the best hiking experiences in the area. You can choose to hike a shorter section of the trail, such as the 14-kilometer stretch from Glendalough to Glenmalure, or embark on a multi-day adventure and explore the entire trail.

Other Attractions in Glendalough

In addition to hiking, Glendalough offers many other attractions and activities to enjoy, such as:

The Monastic City

The Monastic City is a collection of ruins dating back to the 6th century. The site includes a round tower, several churches, and a cemetery. The site is well-preserved and offers a glimpse into the life and culture of early Christian Ireland.

The Upper Lake

The Upper Lake is a natural lake that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. You can take a leisurely walk around the lake and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful scenery.

The Round Tower

The Round Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in Glendalough. The tower is over 30 meters tall and was used as a bell tower and a place of refuge during times of attack. The tower is well-preserved and offers a unique glimpse into Ireland’s architectural heritage.

Where to Stay in Glendalough

Glendalough offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. You can choose to stay in a hotel, a bed and breakfast, a hostel, or a campsite. Some popular options include the Glendalough Hotel, the Glendalough International Youth Hostel, and the Upperchurch House B&B.


Hiking in Glendalough is an unforgettable experience that combines breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and cultural heritage. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, Glendalough offers something for everyone. With its numerous hiking trails, historic landmarks, and stunning scenery, Glendalough is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to experience the best of Ireland.

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