Day One - Glendalough & Sally Gap


Wicklow Mountains National Park covers part of a range of mountains in the southeast of Ireland. Running in a north-south direction from south Dublin across County Wicklow, they have what once was the first long-distance mountain-walk in the country (82 miles - 132 km route) starting in Rathfarnham (a suburb of Dublin) and ending in Clonegal (County Carlow). The highest peak on the area is Lugnaquilla, with 925 m.

Just within a stone's throw from Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains are a fabulous place to spend the weekend or, coming from Cork, to spend one of those long weekends (adding a bank holiday Monday) that we enjoy sometimes.

We were a couple of times in the Wicklow Mountains and found the town of Naas (just passing Kildare, on the way from Cork to Dublin, driving the M7) an ideal place to stay overnight on Friday. The following day, after a generous Full Irish Breakfast in the B&B in Naas, we drove from there following the roads R411 or R410 to start exploring the Wicklow Mountains National Park. We chose the R411 from Naas so we could drive across a small village called Hollywood (with a population of just 200 people) in which area famous movies like King Arthur (2004) and Michael Collins (1996) were filmed.

From Hollywood we drove the R756 entering into the Wicklow Mountains National Park.

The main routes to drive on the Wicklow Mountains National Park are the R756 (following the Wicklow Gap) and the R759 (Sally Gap, for us the nicest of both). You can also change from one into the other by just driving the R115, in a beautiful village called Laragh with plenty of lovely B&B's to stay overnight. All the way on the Wicklow and Sally Gaps offers stunning views from both sides: several lakes, rolling valleys, woodlands... You can stop your car wherever you want and enjoy some of the many mountain trails on the area.

More information about the walking routes on the National Park


Glenmacnass Waterfall and Valley (Sally Gap)


Lough Tay (Sally Gap)

Sally Gap

Typical road in the Wicklow Mountains, driving through the Sally Gap

A must see place that you will love is Glendalough, just few km before Laragh, on the R756, and only 50 km driving from Dublin City. This 6th century monastic settlement with seven churches and a well preserved round tower, is set in a deep glacial valley with beautiful and comfortable walking routes along two lakes surrounded by woodland and mountains. Glendalough was founded by St. Kevin and became the most important Early Christian settlement in Ireland. It survived many attacks by the Vikings between 795 and 1095AD, and became one of the two dioceses of North Leinster in 1111. Unfortunately the site was almost completely destroyed by English forces in 1398.

The remains we can see today in Glendalough are just a small part of the workshops, areas for manuscript writing and copying, guest houses, infirmary, farm buildings... that the place had in its heyday, with a large population.

Round tower and St. Kevin's Church at Glendalough

The best way to explore Glendalough (admission free) and really enjoy the visit is coming around 4.30 - 5.00 pm, once the hundreds of tourists that come with the bus in day excursions from Dublin are gone. We were the first time in the morning and could not enjoy the visit as I remember having more than 50 people in the background of each single photo I took. We decided to book a B&B in Laragh (what a wonderful location for that) and continue driving to Sally Gap, exploring the other part of the National Park. When we returned to Glendalough in the afternoon, around 4 pm, the site was like a completely different place. The peaceful and the quietness of the once Christian settlement is magic.

The Gateway to the monastic site, one of the most important monuments, is totally unique in Ireland

Celtic cross in the very old graveyard at Glendalough, in the background, the 30m high round tower

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St. Kevin's Church, one of the main tourist attractions in Glendalough

More information about the history and architecture in Glendalough can be found
in this very interesting article of Wikipedia.

Just behind St. Kevin's Church, crossing over the river on a small wooden bridge, there are many walking trails of varying difficulty. The best thing to do if you would like to walk from the monastic site to the lakes, is pick up a booklet in the information office at Glendalough and enjoy a comfortable walk around for a couple of hours.



Three pictures taken on one of the many walking trails at Glendalough

Staying overnight at Laragh has another advantage: you can also go and visit to Glendalough in the late evening or in the early morning. Fantastic pictures can be taken on both moments.

For a nice dinner you have several restaurants and pubs in Laragh. Then back to the B&B to have some rest in preparation for the second full day on the Wicklow Mountains.
Destination: Powerscourt Estate (Palladian house, ornamental gardens and the highest waterfall in Ireland, all in one!) by just driving from Laragh 28 km to the north, on the R755 road ¡Click on the link below to go to the article about our second day in the Wicklow Mountains!


I almost forgot it... For blockbuster fans the Wicklow Mountains are also a perfect place: great cinema movies like Michael Collins, Braveheart, Excalibur, My left foot, P.S. I love you, King Arthur, etc... were filmed here. You may see road signs advising you to follow the "Excalibur Drive" or the "Braveheart Drive"... Please do not feel disappointed as we did during our first visit to the National Park... The scenery is fantastic but there are no movie connections at all and it results impossible to recognize where famous scenes were shot. Enjoy the landscape and try not to get very obsessed following all the "cinema signs" you will see on your way...


Click here to see the article about our visit
to the Powerscourt Estate

(second day exploring the Wicklow Mountains)

back to Enjoying Long Weekends

Text and pictures copyright © 2009 by Raúl Corral