I have been to the amazing National park in Glendalough a few times before but I have always traveled down the M50 for the turnoff into the Wicklow Mountains National Park. A friend of mine advised me the day before that traveling down the N81 from Dublin and through the Sally Gap was a lot more scenic. I am so glad I took their advice. Its an easy drive from Dublin and you are avoiding the sometimes mental traffic of the M50. From the N81 you take the R759 and follow the signs for Glendalough. This part of the country is less than an hour from Dublin but you will share the road with lots of mountain sheep, plenty of tourists in their sparkly rental cars, cyclists and walkers. When you reach the Sally Gap (a crossroads that will take you north to Dublin, West to Blessington, south to Glendalough and East to Roundwood) continue on the road to Roundwood. About two kilometres down this amazingly scenic route you come upon Lough Tay or the Guinness Lake. There are two different lay bys that you can pull up your car to get out and take a walk along the cliff over the lake.
Lough Tay is part of the Guinness family estate and while I was sitting taking in the views a lovely English man was taking photos close to me. He commented how the estate was part of a series of some sort and I cannot for the life of me think what it was. I know a few movies have been set around here including Excalibur and the History Channels “Vikings”. Access down to the lake seems to only be by way of a private road which is disappointing but there are plenty of treks and walks to do along Fancy mountain (Luggala) to give you breathtaking views. Lough Dan is also close to here and they are plenty of easy walks to appreciate the scenery. The wicklow way walking trail also runs through here so you could pick this up at any point. After taking my fill of Lough Tay and the surrounding countryside I hopped back into the car and headed in the direction of Roundwood.
Roundwood is a pretty little village at the foot of the wicklow mountains and a beautiful spot to base yourself if you wanted to explore the National Park. Its set right beside the Dartry resevoirs and offers plenty of accommodation including B+B’s, camping and self catering accommodation. Past Roundwood you will travel through Laragh (another pretty village offering plenty of places to eat and stay) and you follow the directions out to Glendalough. As you approach Glendalough you will see the Glendalough Hotel on your left hand side, drive past this and over the little bridge to left. Here you see the entrance to St Kevins Monastic site but keep going past there and you will come upon the main car park for the National park. This car park can get quite busy but I arrived early enough in the day and got parked up straight away. Its €4 to park you car here for the day.
There are plenty of walks you can do around Glendalough from a couple of Kilometres to the 11km trek.
I was kitted out in my hiking boots and set off past the education center along the upper lake. This particular trek is called the Spinc Trail. This is an easy walk up as far as the old miners Village. This is where the path starts to climb. Now as I have mentioned in previous posts I would not be the fittest person in Ireland but with plenty of rest breaks I made my way up the zig zag path to the top of the hill. The views up here are out of this world. I was first introduced to this route by my lovely friends from Crumlin Childrens hospital when we were all fundraisers and in training for a trek in India. I actually found the walk easier this time around but that is probably because I knew what to expect. I followed the rocky path beside the river and crossed over to the other side of the valley.
From here you are mostly walking on wooden slats that are full of grips to help you along the way. These can get quite slippy in places and there is only room for one walker at a time on them. When you come across another walker you need to step off the slat at a dry spot to let them pass (or give them a death stare until they move off and let you pass! 🙂 ). The scenery along here looking down into the valley and the two lakes is like no other. There are plenty of places to stop and sit and rest. There are also plenty of places to stop for pictures. I made the mistake of only bringing a small bottle of water with me on this walk. I really could have done with a 2 litre bottle and some sun cream (I could feel the freckles on my face turning green!). There are two spots along here where you can start your decent back down the mountain. To your right along the way you will come along an opening in the woods where the wooden slats decend into the forest. From travelling this way before I know it can get quite steep and I have landed on my arse in the past. I decided to keep going and started my decent into the forest and down the painful 600 steps towards the Poulanass waterfall and back down to the carpark. A lot of maps will start this walk the other way around but I found the trek up from the forest road a lot easier than treking up the 600 steps. Whichever way you do it you will walked 11kms by the end of it!
After grabbing an ice cream from one of the vendors in the car park I hopped back into the car and made my way back over to the Glendalough Hotel. You can park your car in here for the day for €5 and start your walks from here. I walked around the Hotel and I was well impressed with the food they had on offer and the beautiful restaurants and outside seating areas. St Kevin’s monastic site is just to the right of the Hotel and you will find plenty of stalls selling souvenirs. You enter the monastery through an impressive arced gateway and you are taken back in time. This historic monastic site was founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. The settlement itself is mostly gravestones but you will find amazing structures like The priests house, The main Cathedral known as St Kevin’s Kitchen and of course St Kevin’s round tower which is still standing perfectly in all of its glory. The site was extensively refurbished in the 19th century and history is oozing out of every corner. If you are planning a trip to Glendalough this has to be one of your stops. My legs were starting to ache at this stage so I took my leave of Glendalough along the R115 and through the Wicklow mountains again. This was one of my favourite drives to date and I would definitely recommend a visit. I have attached all the links below to help you on your way- As always- Happy Galavanting! xxx