Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in Ireland

Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in IrelandThe Wicklow Way is a long-distance hiking trail that starts in Dublin, Ireland and heads south through the scenic Wicklow Mountains for 82 miles, ending in Clonegal. Along the way it passes through sleepy Irish towns, important historic sites, and rugged wilderness. In 2008, I had the chance to walk a good portion of it to celebrate my 28th birthday.

The Plan for Walking Wicklow Way Trail

During a visit to Ireland in 2007 I literally stumbled across the Wicklow Way backpacking trail while looking for a restroom at the historic monastery of Glendalough. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the trail began in an urban park in southern Dublin and meandered for 82 miles through the Wicklow Mountains, which other than being beautiful, played an important role in Irish history as a hideout for rebels fighting the English around the beginning of the 19th century. Well, the combination of scenery and history was too good to pass up, so I resolved to return in 2008 and walk the trail.
Due to the fact that I only had six days off, I decided to only walk the first 31 miles of the trail south from Dublin to Glendalough (pronounced glen-da-lock).Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in Ireland This covered the most beautiful and scenic sections of the trail, and since the southern portion of the trail included a high percentage of road walking, I didn’t mind skipping it too much. The idea was to fly from Philadelphia to Dublin overnight, arriving Easter morning. I would take the bus from the airport south through the city to Marlay Park, where the trail started. I would hike 15 miles to a hostel along the trail, then continue south over the next two days, staying at B&Bs and hostels along the way. At Glendalough, I would take the bus back to Dublin and fly home.


Arriving in Dublin on Easter morning was special for several reasons. Obviously, in a country where the vast majority of the population is Roman Catholic, it was an important day to begin with. However, it is also an important anniversary day in modern Irish history–the 1916 Easter Rising marked the start of the fighting that finally led to independence (basically, the Irish equivalent of the battles of Lexington and Concord). This anniversary is celebrated by a military parade through downtown Dublin…which to me meant a slightly longer bus trip as we had to divert around the parade route. However, I still made it to Marlay Park by 11:30 am…the sun was shining, with hardly a cloud in the sky, and I was ready for a hike!

Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in IrelandMarlay Park to Glencree River

The first section of trail I had to tackle was also the longest–15 miles!  The first few miles were pretty easy hiking through Marlay park and the suburbs of Dublin. The trail then began climbing into the hills bordering the city, with excellent views over the whole area. As I climbed, I could hear the church bells of Dublin playing some Easter tunes. There were quite a few Dubliners out walking and enjoying the excellent weather, but the trail was still far from crowded. I made a half-kilometer side hike to the summit of Two Rock Mountain, where a pillar marked an ancient grave site.

At about the halfway point of the day’s hike, I had the chance to make 1.6-kilometer (each way) side trip to visit the “highest pub in Ireland”, Johnnie Fox’s.  It was also one of the oldest pubs in the country, having opened in 1798. Well, I was making good time, and the combination of beer and history was too good to pass up, so…a half-hour after leaving the trail, I was enjoying a pint of Guinness and some of the best seafood I’ve ever tasted. It was definitely worth the delay, but I still had a long way to go. I finally made it to the hostel around 7 pm and collapsed into bed, totally exhausted.

Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in IrelandGlencree River to Oldbridge

For my second day of walking, I didn’t have to go quite as far–only 11 miles–but the terrain was the most difficult and mountainous of the hike. It also promised to be the most scenic, but as I started out in the morning, the sky was cloudy and rain was threatening.
After passing by Powerscourt Waterfall (the highest waterfall in Ireland), the trail climbed into the Wicklow Mountains. Unlike the first day, there was hardly any road-walking, and the trail more closely resembled typical backcountry hiking trails of U.S. national parks. As I climbed the shoulder of Djouce Mountain (725 meters), visibility began to drop, and the wind picked up. Before long, I couldn’t see more than 100 meters in any direction, and the rain was coming down steadily.

The rest of the afternoon was a wet, cold slog through mountains and forest in the swirling mist. Mile after mile went slowly by, and still the rain came down. Other than quick breaks in what little shelter I could find to eat and drink, I walked for about 5 hours straight–it was the best defense against the cold, and since there wasn’t anything to see anyway, it wasn’t hard to keep moving. Late that afternoon, I finally reached the town of Oldbridge and turned right for the Wicklow Way Lodge.

After a hot shower and quick nap in the gigantic fluffy bed in the lodge, the owner was kind enough to drive me into the nearby town of Roundwood and drop me off at the inn for dinner. There’s nothing like a few pints and some hot stew at the end of a long, cold, wet day of hiking! The atmosphere in the pub was great—it was packed with locals, most of whom seemed to know each other, and I was the only tourist in the place. In other words, the exact opposite of most pubs in Dublin I went to the previous year. It was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in IrelandOldbridge to Glendalough

My final day of walking was an easy one–only 6 fairly easy miles to do today. A lot of the walking was along country roads, which could be a little scary, given the narrow, winding nature of most country roads in Ireland. I had to remember to walk on the right side of the road to face oncoming traffic, rather than the left, but once I got used to it, I enjoyed the chance to see the rural countryside up close and personal.

There was a little rain shower, but nothing like the day before. As the trail climbed up into the mountains around Glendalough, the sun even came out a little. I reached the monastic village by noon and checked in at the youth hostel.


Meaning “land of two lakes”, the Glendalough valley is the scene of one of the oldest and most important monasteries in Ireland. Throughout the country’s history, it has been a place for religious pilgrimages, and the ruins of many of the original buildings remain to this day. Unfortunately, it has also turned into a tourist trap. Visitors from Dublin come up by the busload (what I did the previous year) and stay for a few hours before returning to the city. Since my room at the hostel wasn’t ready yet, I went for a hike in the mountains overlooking the ruins to get away from the crowds.


When I returned to the hostel in Glendalough, I had a decision to make. I could take the 4:30 p.m. bus back to Dublin and stay in a hostel in the city, or I could wait till the morning and take the 7:15 am bus. Since my flight left at 11:15 am, waiting until the morning would make getting to the airport in time a little iffy, so I decided to return to the city that night. This ended up working out quite well–the hostel transferred my reservation their Dublin location, and by 7:30 that night I was sitting in a pub watching a football match on TV.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my 28th birthday. The trip seemed a lot longer than 5 days, and it had just the right amount of everything…wilderness adventure, local culture, and good companions. If you’re looking for a way to experience the best Ireland has to offer, the Wicklow Way trail is for you.

Author: Kevin Jordan
Edited By: CampTrip.com

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4 responses to "Walking the Wicklow Way Trail in Ireland"

  • Kevin says:

    My wife and I hiked the Wicklow Way between Glendaloch and Knockree last year. We actually went with the plan to hike through the Wicklow Way, but we got distracted by the sights and sounds of Ireland. Spent lots of time at several youth hostels (Glendaloch’s my fave) and plenty of time exploring Bunclody and other small Irish towns. Can’t wait to go back – perhaps we’ll hike the whole trail one of these times!

  • Great report
    the southern end of the trail is really worth exploring – yes some is on roads but theres so little traffic and the views are amazing.

    Do come back!

  • Kaitlyn says:

    There you have it. “The southern end of the Wicklow Way Trail is really worth exploring” – Take it from someone who really knows!

  • Stinna Christiansen says:

    Hey. Great article. I’m planning to walk 100k in the Wicklow Mountains along the wicklow way. Do you think it would be possible to walk from Marlay park to glendalough from early morning. Lets say around 6? to late in the evening – maybe to midnight? I have heard that Djouce should be pretty tough?

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