WICKLOW HEATHER Outdoors
The county of Wicklow is called the Garden of Ireland, yet it has a real mixture of landscapes with magnificent hills and mountains, long sandy beaches, tumbling rivers and glassy lakes. It’s also host to Ireland’s largest national park (the Wicklow Mountains National Park), greatest forest acreage and highest waterfall.
The Wicklow mountains have amazing scenery in all four seasons. The mountains and dense forests are popular for walking, hiking, mountain biking and cycling. Deep glacial valleys wind between the hillsides offering extraordinary views, none better than at Glendalough where the impressive ruins of an early Christian monastery are set against the backdrop of a tranquil lake and rugged hills.
Walking & Hiking
There are nine walks to choose from, each starting at the National Park Information Office near the Upper Lake. Staff at the Information Office can help you choose a suitable route.
1. Miner’s Road Walk
This walk skirts one side of the Upper Lake. The trail passes through Scots Pine woodland before reaching the ruined miners’ village. Halfway along the trail, the cave known as St Kevin’s Bed can be seen across the lake. Feral goats are common on this walk. Peregrine Falcons may on occasion be seen high in the sky soaring and calling to each other (a high-pitched cry).
2. Green Road Walk
The Green Road is an easy stroll on mostly flat ground. This walk passes through the Glendalough oak woodlands before dropping down onto the Lower Lake wetland edge. Views up the valley from the boardwalk here are spectacular. Lizards and dragonflies are often seen sunning themselves on the wooden trackway. The wetlands are a valuable breeding place for frogs.
This trail begins with a short but steep climb up by the Poulanass Waterfall and plunge pools. (The name Poulanass is taken from the Irish ‘Poll an Eas’ which means ‘hole of the waterfall’). The trail crosses above the waterfall to drop down through mixed woodlands to the valley floor. Listen out for woodland birds, in particular Jays, which can be quite noisy.
4. Poulanass and St. Kevin’s Cell
This trail rises steeply alongside the Poulanass Waterfall, leading you through the Glendalough oak woodlands. It then winds gently down to the site of St Kevin’s Cell. At this point there is a scenic viewpoint overlooking the Upper Lake, which is a good place to birdwatch. A visit to Reefert Church is worthwhile before ending your walk.
5. Derrybawn Woodland Trail
This trail climbs steeply up alongside the Poulanass Waterfall before leading you to the upper reaches of Derrybawn Mountain. Flanked by larch and pine trees, the route offers magnificent views of the whole Glendalough Valley. Red Squirrels and birds such as Treecreepers are often seen here. In early summer, wood sorrel, bluebells and wood anemones add colour to the woodland floor.
6. Woodland Road
This is a pleasant walk through one of the more secretive areas of Glendalough. It weaves through mixed woodlands into neighbouring Glendasan Valley, where it joins St. Kevin’s Way and the path up to Glendasan Mines. The trail follows the Glendasan River back towards Glendalough where it then joins up with the boardwalk which runs through the Lower Lake wetlands.
7. Spinc and Glenealo Valley
This popular walk leads you through some of the most spectacular scenery in Co Wicklow. (The name Spinc comes from the Irish ‘An Spinc’ and means ‘pointed hill’). The trail ascends steeply up by the Poulanass Waterfall before joining a boardwalk. More than 600 wooden steps lead you to a viewing point overlooking the Upper Lake. The boardwalk skirts the top of the cliffs before descending through blanket bog and heath into the picturesque Glenealo Valley, home to a large herd of deer. A rough track then leads you back down into Glendalough Valley.
8. Spinc and the Wicklow Way
This walk follows the same route as the other Spinc trails up onto the boardwalk. It stays on this boardwalk for 1.7 kilometres before turning off in the direction of Lugduff Mountain. This section of the trail is a good place to spot deer and birds such as Raven, Merlin and Kestrel. Finally the trail links up with the Wicklow Way track to lead you back to the Information Office.
9. Spinc (short route)
Although this walk is short in comparison to the other Spinc routes, it still leads you into mountainous terrain where navigational experience is necessary. The walk follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley. From there, a steep climb up steps brings you onto the boardwalk. This trail continues for 1.2 kilometres along the boardwalk which hugs the cliff of the Spinc, before cutting down through forest to lead back towards the Information Office.
The Wicklow Mountains showcase what cycling in Ireland is all about. Offering some of Ireland’s most beautiful cycling routes, they are among the best regions for cyclists in Ireland.
There is a wide network of minor roads with little traffic and provide excellent and sometimes challenging cycling. Start your ride at the Wickow Heather in Laragh where quiet roads lead west to the Wicklow Gap, north to Glencree and Enniskerry and south to Rathdrum, Woodenbridge and Aughrim.
There are several good mountain biking areas too in the area, such as Ballinastoe, Roundwood. Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Trail system, takes the rider through some beautiful forest with views east over Calary Common and the Sugarloaf with the sea beyond. At the top of the trail, Lough Tay and the mountains beyond give views worth the effort of the climb. The trail accesses many types of terrain from open heather moor land on the top through thicket spruce and Scot’s Pine on the lower section. The trail system, designed by one of the world leaders in the sport, is a one-way system constructed to give a challenging and rewarding ride.
Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.
Health is better than wealth.