Things to do in Glendalough, Ireland in 2024

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Suppose you’re planning a visit to Ireland and looking for the best day trips from Dublin. In that case, we have a location you need to check, being one of the most fascinating and most accessible when in Dublin: Glendalough, the Monastic city and the Wicklow Mountains.

This article will guide you through the logistics of visiting the valley, how to arrive at the site, what’s the best hike, and everything you need to know. We will also give you a little information if you’re looking for accommodation in Dublin and surrounding areas and how to rent a car in Dublin to get the most out of your trip.

Before deep-diving into the guide, contact us if you need to organize your trip to Ireland and look for logistical support directly from Ireland.

What is Glendalough?

This site is literally a monastic city in a valley within the County Wicklow, and it’s the home of the monastic site of the same name. The monastic site was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, who choose to establish a monastic settlement here because of its calmness and stunning nature. The ruins of the Old Monastic Site are scattered all around the Valley, but the biggest part is definitely the Round Tower, which stands 30m high, and it’s one of the best-preserved monuments of the whole of Ireland. The name Glendalough in Irish translates to “valley of the two lakes,” and The Upper and Lower lakes are definitely the biggest catalysts of the area, like the monastic site.

Where is it?

Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, in County Wicklow and covers an area of 20,000 hectares and much of upland Wicklow. The distance from Dublin is 36 km, making the Valley one of the most chosen destinations for a day trip from the capital.

How to get to Glendalough from Dublin?

The easiest way to get there from Dublin is 100% by car: the itinerary from the Capital city to the Valley is stunning. You can also stop and admire the landscape, including the famous Guinness Lake.

If you don’t have a car, you can take a direct bus departing from Leeson Street and arriving at the Visitor Centre; the bus departs twice daily and takes approximately 1h 15m.

There is no direct train service from Dublin (or any other place in Ireland!).

Multiple tours depart daily from Dublin, allowing you to sit and arrive directly to the Valley comfortably; some of these tours also include a guide, others don’t, so you can enjoy the area at your own pace, making sure to get back to the bus on time for departing.

These are some of the tours that we recommend

How to pronounce Glendalough?

It is an Irish word for “valley of the two lakes,” and it’s pronounced
If you ask for information on the area, spell the name correctly to avoid confusion.

Do you have to pay to visit?

There is no entry fee to Glendalough nor the Wicklow Mountains National Park. If you arrive at the site by car, you may need to pay for parking. There are two main car parks: One at the Upper Lake, which costs €4 for the day, and one at the visitor center, which costs €4 a day at weekends and during the summer months but is free at other times of the year.

What to see?

The Monastic site is possibly the most important historical attraction in the area. It’s hard to miss it; ruins are scattered around the area, so make sure you check the signs not to forget anything. The Upper and the Lower Lakes are unmissable and easily accessible, even for people not really into hiking.
It takes between 2 and 4 hours to complete the loop from the Visitor Centre crossing the two lakes, and the walk is easy and pleasant.

What to do?

Hiking is one of the most popular activities; in fact, there are many marked trails/routes from easy to difficult. One of the best hikes in the area is the Spinc, a tough climb that overlooks the Valley, its lakes, and the surrounding Wicklow Mountains; we recommend you start the 10 km hike from the Poulanass waterfalls and end it at the old Miner Village, before stretching for a few more Km into the Upper and the Lower Lake. In total, 9 trails are starting from the Visitor Centre which has all the information you may need.

Is it worth seeing?

It is, indeed. Even if you’re not into Monastic and religious things, it’s worth visiting for its nature, breathtaking views, and location. It’s just the perfect escape from the city, one of the best ways to experience Ireland and enjoy its atmosphere.

How long do you need to visit?

It is impossible to define how long you need to stay. It depends on what you want to do and how deeply you want to discover the area and your primary interest. You can easily spend one full day here to realize you’ve only scratched its surface.

What’s the best time to visit?

Glendalough is open all year round and for Irish and people living in Ireland every day and every season is suitable for a visit, no matter the weather. If you’re planning a visit to Dublin or Ireland and want to know what’s the best time to visit, we recommend you look at spring or summer: the days are longer, and the sun may shine. High season means more tourists, so make sure you’re prepared for the flow of people flocking here, especially on weekends, and plan on heading out early so you can start your day without too much hassle.
Bear in mind that the weather is quite unpredictable in Ireland, so even a marvelous sunny day may become a rainy day. Pack and dress appropriately, and you will enjoy it at its best.

Where to eat?

You can plan a picnic in the valley and stop for refreshments all along the way. Food is available at the parking lots if you want to have something quick on the go. But if you want to end up your day here at its best, we recommend you book a dinner or lunch at the excellent Wicklow Heather which offers locally sourced organic produce cooked in the traditional Irish way. One of the most loved dishes is the traditional Wicklow lamb.

Can you swim in the lakes?

Swimming and pad in the Upper Lake is possible, but there is a lifeguard on duty, so entering the lakes is doable at your own risk. Just remember that the lake is deep with sudden depth changes.

Can I camp here?

Camping is strictly not permitted in the valley. Camping is only permitted in the National Park, but you must check the rules and restrictions to avoid fines. Campfires are permitted neither in the National Park nor in the Glendalough Valley.

What are the best places to stay?

There is no huge amount of good accommodation in the area, so we highly recommend going a bit further afield and driving over to it. The majority of the people chose Dublin as their main accommodation, and reach Glendalough by car/bus. We’re inclined to suggest you do the same, to avoid being disappointed.

We have a whole article where we recommend the 13 best hotels in Dublin from a local standpoint. Among them:

  • Hilton Garden Inn Dublin Custom House: very close to the city but not too close;
  • Maldron Hotel Pearse Street: in a non-touristic place, it’s a certainty, and on the corner, you’ll also find one of the best pubs in Dublin;
  • Aloft: very close to the Guinness Storehouse, a contemporary and young hotel for smart and casual people;
  • The Dean: a contemporary, stylish, and functional hotel in the city center. It includes a restaurant on the rooftop.

Clearly, there are tons of options for Dublin accommodations based on prices and individual needs; click HERE to find your place in Dublin via Bookings.

If you prefer to sleep in the countryside, then these are the places that we strongly recommend close to Glendalough:

Glendalough Video

Have a look at our video for having a feeling of what Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains are:

A trip to Ireland is always worth it

if you need to organize your trip to Ireland and look for logistical support directly from Ireland, get in touch with us. If you need to organize your trip to Ireland and you are looking for logistical support directly from Ireland, get in touch with us.

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