The Perfect Wicklow Mountains Day Trip from Dublin

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by Olivia Ellis

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Planning a Wicklow day trip from Dublin is one of the best ways to escape the crowds of the busy city. The Wicklow Mountains are a vast and stunning mountain range located just south of the city and are home to lush green trails, crystal clear glacial lakes, as well as stunning country homes, and impressive views of the Irish Sea. 

Whether you are traveling throughout Ireland or just visiting Dublin and want to enjoy the lush landscape of the Emerald Isle, the Wicklow Mountains is an ideal destination to experience the natural beauty of Ireland.

Getting from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains

By Organised Tour 

Perhaps you’re keen to take a day trip to Wicklow but would like to bypass the planning involved with taking the trip to the Wicklow Mountains. In this case, there are plenty of organised Wicklow Mountains tours involving pick up and drop off from Dublin, transportation throughout the region, and a local guide to enhance the experience and give you a great tour of Wicklow. 

This half-day tour or this half-day tour from Dublin is a wonderful option for those not able to commit a full day but would still like to get into the picturesque Irish countryside.

Spend time in the national park at Lough Tay before spending a few hours in the Glendalough Monastic City, a stunning and iconic location brought to fame by the movie, Braveheart.

Another option for an organised day trip from Dublin is this full-day tour or this guided day tour to the Wicklow Mountains. You’ll spend time in the idyllic Wicklow countryside, the ancient site of Glendalough, and the medieval city of Kilkenny before heading back to Dublin.

If you would like to incorporate some horseback riding into your day trip, then this full-day tour also includes 1.5 hours of riding as well as visiting Wicklow and Glendalough.

Finally, if you would like a private tour guide for your day, then this private day tour from Dublin is an excellent option.

Wicklow Mountains
Wicklow Mountains

By Bus

The Wicklow Mountains are easily accessible, although limited from Dublin by bus.

Bus Éireann and​​ the St. Kevin’s Bus offer services directly from Dublin into the Wicklow Mountains with arrival points at various towns within the national park.

If you’re hoping to visit the Glendalough monastic site, St. Kevin’s Bus is the best option as it brings you directly to the site in around an hour and 20 minutes with daily services from Dublin.

Otherwise, the Bus Éireann is a wonderful option if you’re interested in visiting towns within the area such as Enniskerry, Wicklow, and Baltinglass.

If you hope to take the Bus Éireann, make sure to check schedules in advance as costs and times vary depending on your departure and arrival points. Schedules can be checked here

By Car

The best and most convenient mode of transportation is to travel by car. 

The distance from Dublin city to the boundaries of the Wicklow Mountains is around 50 km, offering a short, scenic and pleasant drive through the stunning Irish scenery and countryside. If you need to rent a car for your trip, you can browse which compares prices across major companies.

When it comes to parking, there are several parking lots available in the Wicklow Mountains area. The most popular ones are the Upper Lake Car Park, the Lower Lake Car Park, and the Glendalough Visitor Centre Car Park.

However, parking can be limited during peak season, so it’s advisable to arrive early. Costs for parking vary depending on the parking lot.

As for traffic, the Wicklow Mountains are busy tourist areas, so routes get busy on weekends and during the summer months, especially in extremely popular areas such as Lakes of Glendalough and the monastic site. Fortunately, there are no tolls on the route from Dublin. 

Upper Lake in Glendalough
Upper Lake in Glendalough

Wicklow Mountains Day Trip Itinerary

Wicklow Mountains National Park

The National Park should undoubtedly be your first stop on a day trip from Dublin to Wicklow. Here, you can fully appreciate the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you, and the national park is perfect for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying the fresh Irish air.

The park boasts an array of awe-inspiring landscapes, including soaring mountains, dense forests, and crystalline lakes. A true haven for outdoor enthusiasts, the park offers an array of activities, from hiking and cycling to fishing and horse riding.

As you explore the park’s winding trails, you’ll encounter an abundance of wildlife, including red deer, foxes, and a variety of bird species. While in the park, you could also opt to walk a bit of the Wicklow Way, a 131-kilometre train that winds through Wicklow Mountains National Park or take in one of the peaks on the Sugarloaf Loop Trail.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, the park is a must-visit destination. With its rugged beauty, fascinating history, and endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation, the park is truly a natural gem of Ireland. 

If you’re driving during your visit to Wicklow Mountains National Park, make sure to drive through Sally Gap, a mountain pass located between the peaks of Djouce and Kippure, offering outstanding panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s a popular spot for cycling, hiking, and driving, with several walking trails and cycle routes leading through the rugged terrain.

Another spot worth visiting is Lough Tay, also known as the “Guinness Lake”. Lough Tay is a beautiful and tranquil lake sitting at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains.

The lake’s crystal clear blue waters are surrounded by mountains, creating a truly special atmosphere. There are several walking trails around the lake, offering visitors the chance to take in the stunning views and soak up the peaceful ambience.

Lough Tay Lake
Lough Tay

Lunch in Wicklow Town

Before heading further into the Wicklow Mountains to explore the stunning national park, a great way to get to know the local culture is to spend time in the town of Wicklow itself.

Located just a short distance from Lough Tay, Wicklow is a charming town situated on the coast of Ireland, offering stunning views of the Irish Sea. With local shops, cafes, and restaurants, Wicklow is a pleasant town with friendly locals happy to introduce you to their hometown.

Live traditional Irish music is also a well-known feature of the local pubs in Wicklow Town, so heading to a pub with live music is the best way to immerse yourself in the local culture of Wicklow.

Phil Healy’s is a great option for a pub as you’ll find warm, local specialities with live traditional music just about every day of the week.

Glendalough Monastic Site

Following a visit to the breathtaking mountains, I highly recommend a trip to the Glendalough Valley. This picturesque valley in the Wicklow Mountains boasts stunning natural beauty, tranquil surroundings, and a rich history, with its early Christian monastic settlement dating back to the 6th century. It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking a peaceful and awe-inspiring experience.

One of the most important spots to visit while in Glendalough, whether you’re religious or not, is the Glendalough Monastic City. The site is one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in Ireland and dates back to the 6th century when St. Kevin founded the monastery.

Nestled in a picturesque valley in County Wicklow, the site is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, including two glacial lakes that add to its charm.

When visiting Glendalough, you can explore the well-preserved ruins of the settlement, which include several churches and other noteworthy spots. The most impressive of these is the round tower, which stands over 30 meters tall and served as a bell tower, a place of refuge during times of attack, and a symbol of the monastery’s power and influence.

Visiting this site is a must-do experience for anyone visiting Ireland and with good reason. With its rich history, spiritual significance, and stunning natural beauty, this attraction offers something for everyone and is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit it.

Like entry to the national park itself, visits to the Glendalough Monastic Sites are also free for visitors.

Round tower in Glendalough
Round tower in Glendalough

Upper and Lower Lakes

After spending time exploring Ireland’s past at the monastic site, I highly recommend making your way to Glendalough’s Upper and Lower Lakes to take in the gorgeous natural beauty of the Glendalough Valley. 

The Upper Lake, which is the larger of the two lakes, is surrounded by steep cliffs and forested hillsides, creating a truly breathtaking backdrop. There are several hiking trails that lead around the lake, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

If you’re looking to get extra adventurous during your time visiting the Upper Lake, you have the opportunity to explore the area by kayak or rowboat with rental options nearby.

The Lower Lake is smaller than the Upper Lake, but still an incredibly beautiful spot to visit. The lake is situated in the southern part of Glendalough Valley, surrounded by wooded hillsides and offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy cities.

There are several walking trails that wind through the valley and offer visitors the chance to explore the lake’s surroundings and take in the stunning natural beauty.

Forest near Glendalough Upper lake
Forest near Glendalough Upper Lake

Powerscourt House & Gardens

To round out your day trip, make your way to Powerscourt to visit the Powerscourt House & Gardens before heading back to Dublin. 

The Powerscourt Estate and Gardens is a historic estate and garden located in the national park, just a short drive away from Dublin. The estate covers over 1,000 acres and features a stunning 18th-century house, beautifully landscaped gardens, and breathtaking views of the Wicklow Mountains.

The house was originally built in the 1730s and has since been home to several prominent families throughout Irish history. The house features intricate architecture and stunning views of the gardens and surrounding countryside.

While visiting the estate, you can also take a guided tour of the house to learn about its fascinating history and the famous families that have called it home over the years. 

The gardens cover over 47 acres and are divided into a series of themed areas. County Wicklow is actually referred to as the “Garden of Ireland” due to how many beautiful, lush gardens to visit in this area.

One of the most popular is the Italian garden, featuring a large ornamental lake, a fountain, and a range of sculptures and flowers. The Japanese garden is also worth visiting, with its peaceful water features, winding paths, and abundant collection of plants and trees.

A destination not to be missed for lovers of nature, architecture, and history, Powerscourt Gardens boasts exquisite beauty, a serene atmosphere, and a rich cultural heritage, making it one of the most renowned gardens globally.

Powerscourt Waterfall

Next, make your way about 6 km away to the tallest waterfall in Ireland, Powerscourt Waterfall. 

A must-visit destination in Ireland, the waterfall is located on the grounds of the Powerscourt Estate. It showcases stunning natural beauty, offering those that visit the chance to witness the sublime cascading waters and explore the dense forest trails.

A visit to the waterfall is a perfect opportunity to experience the peace and tranquillity of the surrounding areas, making it an ideal place to stop before heading back to Dublin after a wonderful day in the Wicklow Mountains.

Powerscourt Waterfall
Powerscourt Waterfall

Where to Stay in Dublin

Hotel 7 – This hotel is perfect for those looking for a cool and chic place to stay in the centre of Dublin. Situated within a stone’s throw of all of the Irish capital’s top sites, they have a range of comfortable rooms available and breakfast available in the morning.

Kilronan House – This cosy B&B is a great option if you’re looking for a convivial stay while in Dublin. Located in the Georgian Quarter, they have a number of clean and plush rooms on offer, a great location for exploring the city and breakfast available each morning.

Jacob’s Inn – Budget and solo travelers will love this hip hostel in central Dublin. Perfectly located for both exploring the city and heading out on day trips they have both dorms and private rooms along with good common areas to enjoy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Dublin

Whether you’ve had your eyes set on the lush, green beauty of the Wicklow Mountains already or you’re just looking for a peaceful retreat away from Dublin, a Wicklow Mountains day trip is the perfect way to experience the famously beautiful countryside of the Emerald Isle.

Are you planning to visit the Wicklow Mountains? Have any questions about this day trip? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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