Hiking Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains
Hiking Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains: An Outdoorsy City Break from Dublin
We had been traveling all over Europe for nearly three weeks by the time our flight arrived at midnight in Dublin. To kick off the last leg of our honeymoon, we had booked a night’s stay at the Oliver St. John Gogarty Hostel in Temple Bar. Now this would be an exciting place to stay if you planned to sip Guinness until the sun came up, but not so much when the exhaustion of long-term travel is setting in and you’re probably getting a little too old for the hostel scene anyway.
By no fault of Dublin’s, the excitement of exploring city life had faded by week #3. Both my husband and I had been to Dublin previously on separate trips, and we were really only in town to attend a wedding for an old friend of mine. But while the city wasn’t new to us, a new realization came to light, a breaking point…we craved the outdoors!
Back home in the States, we recently located to Atlanta, Georgia, which is surrounded by trails to hike, paths to bike, and lakes to kayak. All of the sudden, it seemed silly that we were filling our days with an endless string of museums, cafés, landmarks, and monuments just because we were in another country. I felt uninspired, indifferent and fatigued…all emotions I never thought I would experience while traveling. Nature is what brought us together in the first place, and it was nature we needed if we were going to truly enjoy our time in Ireland.
Now was the time to trade in crowds and lines for trees and trails.
While riding a city bus, we consulted Google Maps (the buses have free Wi-Fi!) and looked for the largest green space near Dublin. Wicklow Mountains National Park sounded like a winning choice, so we quickly scrapped our plans for the following day and started making a new one.
Getting to the Wicklow Mountains
However, the process of getting to the national park was far more challenging (without a car) that I’d ever imagined. If we’d had a car, it would have only been a 1.5 hour journey to reach the park, but we were at the mercy of public transportation instead.
Public transportation in the mountains is very limited, and we quickly learned how infrequent the buses run. The best option for us was the St. Kevin’s Bus, which ran twice daily from St. Stephen’s Green. The ride took about 1.5 hours and was beautifully scenic with rolling hills and sheep dotting the landscape. Check out the Glendalough bus schedule for the most up-to-date times and pick-up locations.
If only we had planned ahead a little better, we could have squeezed onto a full day (eight hour) guided tour to the mountains and back for just $29 USD per person. Get Your Guide offers a highly-rated tour that can actually be combined with horseback riding and cycling.
Glendalough Trail Recommendations
Unlike most national parks in the U.S., there was no admission fee to enter through the Wicklow Mountains visitor center. Pop inside and spend a Euro to buy “The Walking Trails of Glendalough,” a handy reference guide with all the trail information you need to know.
The national park covers part of a mountain range that extends across most of County Wicklow and is marked by rounded peaks, heath, bog, forestry plantations, fast-flowing streams, and wooded valleys.
These are the trails you have to choose from when you visit:
- Miner’s Road Walk: 5km, 1 hr. 10 min.
- Poulanass and St. Kevin’s Cell: 1 km, 30 min.
- Spinc and Gleealo Valley: 9 km, 3 hr.
- Green Road Walk: 3 km, 50 min.
- Derrybawn Woodland Trail: 8 km, 2 hrs.
- Spinc and the Wicklow Way: 11 km, 4 hrs.
- Poulanass: 1.6 km, 40 min.
- Woodland Road: 4 km, 1 hr. 15 min.
- Spinc: 5 km, 2 hrs.
We chose this last route, Spinc, for our hike, which is labeled with blue trail markings. It’s a moderately-strenuous hill walk that passes the Poulanass Waterfall and meanders through the Lugduff Valley.
There’s a steep climb up a set of stairs that leads to the boardwalk, which offers amazing views of the vast landscape and the river down below.
From up here, you can see the fascinating ruins of an old mining town and a monastery with its adjacent cemetery. In some parts, the trail is flat and wide-open, while others are hilly and wooded, but it’s well-marked throughout and pretty much impossible to get lost.
Heather House Bed & Breakfast
But what made our trip to the Wicklow Mountains even more special was our stay at the Heather House Bed & Breakfast. We were able to hike from the national park to the B&B, and also to and from the bus stop with no hassles.
My favorite parts of the B&B were the reading room with lots of local books (and complimentary tea and biscuits!) and the back patio with a lovely view of the Irish countryside.
The Wicklow Heather Restaurant serves a delicious leg of lamb entrée, eggplant & goat cheese appetizer, and Irish coffee to warm up after a chilly day on the trails. There’s a tiny convenience store across the street where you can pick up snacks and a bottle of wine to enjoy a little peace and quiet on the patio before calling it a day.
Budget-Friendly Tips for Ireland
It’s important to remember that traveling in Ireland isn’t necessary a cheap endeavor! We love to travel, and the only way we can afford to hit the road so often is by closely watching our budget. These are my top budget-friendly tips your next visit to the Emerald Isle!
- Visit in the spring or fall for the best rates…just dress in layers!
- Check rates for B&Bs in the countryside…they’re often more affordable than you’d expect!
- Look for student and military travel deals before making reservations…bring your ID!
- Shop for food at local grocery stores rather than eating at restaurants for every meal
- Stay at places that serve complimentary breakfast and tea
- Take public buses if you aren’t in a rush instead of renting a car
About the Author:
Alyssa is a writer and outdoor enthusiast whose work has been featured on various travel, health, and creative writing sites. Armed with a passion for nature, you can often find her hiking, climbing, kayaking, and setting up camp alongside her trusty blue Jeep. Keep up with Alyssa’s adventures at http://www.alyssavnature.com.