The Wicklow Way is Ireland’s oldest way-marked long-distance walk! The 128 km long walk takes you through the incredible Wicklow Mountains and through County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland!
Highlights of the Wicklow Way:
My favourite part of walking the Wicklow Way was walking in Wicklow Mountains National Park and through Glenmalure, the longest glacial valley in Ireland! You’ll also walk past Glendalough, a 6th century monastic city, which is one of the most important in the country. Some of the scenery may be familiar to your, if you watch the TV show Vikings – you’ll pass Lough Dan and Lough Tay, where scenes have been filmed. You’ll also get great views of Powerscourt Waterfall – the highest in Ireland!
Map of the Wicklow Way:
Terrain of the Wicklow Way:
The Wicklow Way is a combination of country roads (especially on the southern part of the walk), forestry roads, hiking trails and platforms over bogs. Approximately 28% of the route is walking on roads, past fields of sheep and countryside. The highest point is 630 m and you’ll do a total of 3753m of elevation if you walk the entire route. You will find yourself climbing a hill, only to climb back down, and then climb back up, but only a few instances is it really steep. If you’re used to hiking in the Canadian Rockies or have done the Tour du Mont Blanc, the elevation will seem easy. Still, it’s not to be underestimated since some days you will be walking over 25km!
How to Plan for Walking the Wicklow Way:
The first thing you need to decide is whether you are going to walk the entire Wicklow Way (128km) or just part of it. IrelandWays.com, offers self-guided tours. I.e. they book your accommodation, arrange your luggage transfers and provide you with detailed instructions for each day of the route, (use the code MONKEYS2016 at the time of booking for a €20 discount) and you have a choice of the full Wicklow Way, which takes 9 days, including an arrival and sightseeing day, the Wicklow Way Highlights in 5 days, or a short break which takes 4 days. If you are pressed for time, I would highly recommend the Wicklow Way Highlights tour, since this takes you through the most impressive parts of the walk, including the Wicklow Mountains, which were my favourite part! You can see the additional benefits of why I recommend a self-guided tour here.
Next, you need to decide whether you are going to walk it from north to south (Marlay Park in Dublin to the village of Clonegal), or from south to north. I walked it from south to north and was very happy with this choice, because the more impressive scenery comes later in the trip. There’s also more elevation in the northern part of the route, so your walking legs have a chance to kick in. Finally, the prevailing wind blows from the southwest, so you’re more likely to have the wind on your back for most of your walk. This is another reason I like doing self-guided tours, they are able to advise which way makes the most sense.
You will also need a guide book and map. I used The Wicklow Way: Rucksack Readers. The book provides an overall description of the Wicklow Way which was useful, but it only provides day by day instructions for the walk from north to south. As a result, I didn’t use it very much when actually walking, as I found it confusing, since I was doing it in the opposite direction. I did however, find the map very useful and used it a lot on the trip. I used it in conjunction with the free app mapmywalk, which tracks your progress via GPS and with the route description given to me from IrelandWays.com, which provides specific directions at each turn. The combination of using the three together worked very well. WicklowWay.com is also a good resource for information about the walk.
Plan your route and book your accommodation. I highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance, and not as you go along. In most places, accommodation is not directly on the Wicklow Way. Pre-advanced arrangements need to be made for your accommodation provider to pick you up from a meeting point. I.e., it’s not usually obvious where you are going to stay, and there are not a lot of choices. If you are able to walk to your accommodation, in most cases, you need specific instructions beforehand. It’s possible to plan your route and book your accommodation yourself. This site has a list of accommodation, but it would take a lot of time and planning. That’s one of the reasons I recommend IrelandWays.com (use the code MONKEYS2016 at the time of booking for a €20 discount) – it took virtually no planning from my side. They booked all my accommodations, arranged all my luggage transfers and provided me with a detailed route description each day and the phone number and address for my accommodation. It saved me a ton of time and I didn’t have to stress about the details! I also recommend having a mobile phone on you, since you will need to call your B&B for a pick-up on at least 2-3 of the days.
Decide whether to carry your own luggage or arrange for a luggage transfer. Confession: I’ve never had my luggage carried for me before. When I did the Tour du Mont Blanc, I carried my own. Same when I cycled the Danube. Having a lighter load makes your walk much easier. It was also very convenient to have my luggage waiting for me each day when I arrived. If you book with IrelandWays.com, they will arrange it for you. Alternatively, if you are going on your own, you can arrange it through Wicklow Way Baggage. Note: if you do go for the baggage transfer service, you leave your bag in the lobby for pick up. It will be waiting for you in the lobby for you to take up to your room. I never had a problem with anything being stolen, but I would recommend a good lock. It’s also a good idea to carry your valuables with you, since your luggage may be left unsupervised at times.
Eating Along the Wicklow Way. Despite being in Ireland, there are only a few pubs directly on the route. There are also only a few restaurants and often these are several kilometres away from your B&B or hotel. You will either need to walk, or ask your B&B to arrange a taxi for you. For lunches and snacks, either bring food with you, or ask your B&B to prepare a packed lunch for you. On most days, you will not come across anywhere to purchase food during the day. I stocked up at a grocery store in the evenings when available. There wasn’t one close by each day, so I always made sure that I had 3 days of food with me. I took when I needed for the day, then packed the rest in my luggage that was being transferred to keep my backpack weight to a minimum.
If you have dietary requirements, like I do (I’m celiac), inform your accommodation provider in advance, or if you book with IrelandWays.com, they’ll do it for you. When the B&B’s knew in advance that I was celiac, they would arrange for gluten-free bread. Had they not been informed prior, they may not have had this available.
What to Pack for Walking the Wicklow Way:
Check out my packing list for the Wicklow Way, which has everything you need for when you’re on the trail. Of special note is my favourite item that I brought: a Smartwool base layer that I got from Zalando. I wore this shirt every day I walked. While I’m embarrassed to admit it, I only washed it once. It didn’t stink at all! I love this shirt! I also purchased these quick-dry hiking pants from Zalando, which I also wore everyday. Zalando is a great place to stock up on all your outdoor gear at once, especially if you’re short on time. My items arrived in 2 days, and they have a generous 100 day return policy. It’s so easy, and makes getting all your necessary gear for a trip really convenient. You can also check out my video showing what layers I wore when walking the Wicklow Way.
My 7-Day Walk of the Wicklow Way
Arrival Day: Arrive in Bunclody
Note: I have purposely not include the name of the B&Bs and hotels where I stayed as a courtesy to IrelandWays.com who organized my accommodation. You can find accommodation on www.wicklowway.com.
Walking Distance: 0
Walking Route Description: N/A
Highlights: A short walk around the village. If you’re able to make it to the village of Clonegal (5.5 km away) there’s Huntington Castle. Tours are offered June, July and August and the gardens are open from May to September. I was there in April, so unfortunately everything was closed.
Where to Stay: I stayed in an old charming farm house B&B located just a 10 minute walk from the city centre.
Where to Eat: There’s a pub that serves food in Bunclody, but it’s closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I went down to the grocery store, which has a good selection of ready-to-go food, and brought it back to my B&B.
Additional Info: The south starting point for the Wicklow Way is the tiny village of Clonegal. It’s 5.5km from Bunclody, so stay with a B&B that will give you a ride to the starting point.
Day 1: Walking from Clonegal to Shillelagh
Walking Distance: 25.7 km + 2km extra from getting lost (~6:30 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: The route starts from the small village of Clonegal which is known as the Switzerland of Ireland, since it’s so scenic. 65% of the route today is on road, but with the sheep baa-ing as you pass by, it’s not as mundane as it sounds. Much of the route is through scenic country side, with a few jaunts up forest covered hills. Be careful on Urelands Hill – I got lost and had to backtrack. Note: Once you’re at the top of the ridge, take the first right downhill – don’t carry on the road as I did. A local informed me that it loops right back around to Clonegal – where I had started from! The only part of the walk I didn’t enjoy was through the part where they were logging.
Highlights: I finished at the historic farmhouse Dying Cow Pub, originally called Tallon’s – which is what the sign still says. The pub is 300 years old! Unfortunately it was closed when I arrived (3:30 on a Wednesday). I couldn’t find any opening hours on site or online, so ask a local to make sure you don’t miss this famous pub! The dog was very friendly though and I hung out with him until my B&B came to pick me up.
Wildlife Sightings: Lots of birds, and several rabbits
Weather: Mainly sunny/cloudy until around 1:30, then scattered showers, and some hail for about 10 minutes.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Only 1 and she was headed in the opposite direction.
Where to Stay: I stayed directly in the village of Shillelagh (I called my B&B from the Dying Cow Pub and they came and picked me up – was arranged in advance)
Where to Eat: There’s one restaurant in Shillelagh, but it was closed for renovations when I visited (April 2016). They only other options were: 1) taking a taxi to Tinahely, a market town where there are more restaurants/pubs, or 2) picking up something from the mini-mart in Shillelagh. I did the latter, but the grab and go section was rather limited, so I don’t recommend this option.
Additional Info: Ensure you have enough food to tide you over while walking the next day, as you won’t pass any place to buy any. I picked up some at the mini-mart in Shillelagh. Note: Tinahely is ~2 km from the Wicklow Way at one point, so you could always detour here if needed. I was too lazy to walk the additional 4 km, but would have loved to have seen the town.
Day 2: Walking from Shillelah to Moyne
Walking Distance: 18.4 km + 900m to B&B (4:45 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: My B&B dropped me off at the Dying Cow Pub where they had picked me up yesterday. 45% of the route is on small country road and passes through scenic countryside, rolling hills, valleys and forest. Quite a bit of the route was on paths through farmer’s fields, which if it’s wet, can get quite so mucky. Be sure to close any gates that you pass through. It was very picturesque.
Highlights: Seeing two herds of deer on Muskeagh Hill and the valleys – just gorgeous.
Wildlife Sightings: Lots of birds, several rabbits, and two herds of deer on Muskeagh Hill
Weather: I woke up to the sound of pitter patter on the skylight of my B&B. Fortunately, it stopped shortly before I headed up. For the most part it was cloudy with bits of sun until 12:30. Then there was a heavy rain for ~30 minutes, followed by scattered showers.
# of Other Hikers Seen: 0 while hiking, but had a lovely dinner with two other hikers from Denmark at my B&B.
Where to Stay: I stayed at a B&B just 900m from the Wicklow Way and walked there.
Where to Eat: My B&B had the option of having supper there for an additional cost (€12 for a main course, €5 each for soup and dessert). The closest village that has restaurants is Tinahely, ~10km away. If you’re just craving a pint, the closest option is at the pub in Knockananna (which doesn’t serve food), ~ 3km away.
Additional Info: At least at the B&B that I stayed at, located in the countryside, there was no grocery store/mini-mart. The nearest village is Tinahely. Ensure that you have brought enough to eat from the previous day. Alternatively ask your B&B nicely if they’ll pack you a lunch for an extra fee.
Day 3: Walking from Moyne to Glenmalure
Walking Distance: 21 km + 900m to get from B&B back on the Wicklow Way (5:30 hours of walking time)
Walking Route Description: A large part of the route today was walking along forestry roads. Farm land quickly turned into forests and the hills became more numerous and larger. The route also takes you through quite a bit of wood harvesting. Part of my route around and in Drumgoff Forest Recreation Area was re-routed due to harvesting, but there were signs to clearly mark the alternate route.
Highlights: Seeing deer on three separate occasions, seeing snow on a couple of hill tops (didn’t expect that in Ireland at the end of April!) and entering the valley of Drumgoff – gorgeous!
Wildlife Sightings: Birds and deer – no rabbits today!
Weather: I woke up to snow. Fortunately it was gone by the time I finished breakfast. There was a tiny bit of rain and hail, and although it remained cloudy, it was the driest day I had. It did start to pour at around 2:30 – right after I had arrived at my B&B for the night – whew!
# of Other Hikers Seen: 4 in one group near the end of my walk in Drumgoff Forest Recreation Area.
Where to Stay: I stayed at a B&B in Drumgoff.
Where to Eat: I ate at the pub/restaurant attached to the B&B in Drumgoff.
Additional Info: As far as I can tell, there’s nowhere else nearby to grab something to eat, so ensure you have enough with you or eat at the pub/restaurant in Drumgoff.
Day 4: Walking from Glenmalure to Glendalough
Walking Distance: 14km to Glenmalure + 4km to get to Laragh (4:15 of walking time + stop at the Monastic City
Walking Route Description: This has been my favourite day of walking so far! You’re no longer looking at the Wicklow Mountains from a distance, you’re hiking in them! It’s also where things start to get busier, notably around the Valley of the Two Lakes in Glendalough Valley in Wicklow Mountains National Park. You also pass by one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. It developed into a Monastic City and dates back to the 6th century! While it was strange being around so many people again, I can see why the Glendalough Valley is so popular, it’s a beautiful, and historic area!
Highlights: I loved the hiking trails in the Wicklow Mountains, the views of the Valley of the Two Lakes and walking through the Monastic City.
Wildlife Sightings: Just birds today, but it was raining.
Weather: I was excited to wake up to the bluest skies I’ve had on the entire trip so far. Unfortunately they didn’t last and it sprinkled most of the morning – not hard enough for me to put my rain pants on though. It cleared up around noon.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Only 1 for the first part, then too many to count in the Valley of the Two Lakes. Note: Tour buses make a stop here, so it will be busy.
Where to Stay: You can stay in the Glenalough Hotel or in one of the many B&Bs in the nearby village of Laragh, which is what I did.
Where to Eat: I stopped for lunch at Casey’s in the Glendalough Hotel. It was busy, and filled with tourists, but the food was good. I also stopped for a cappuccino and a gluten-free cake at the Glendalough Fayre, which also has a shop. I LOVED this place, tasty gluten-free cake is hard to find anywhere, and the piece I had was especially good. There are a couple of restaurants in the village of Laragh, along with a convenience store that sells grocery items.
Day 5: Walking from Laragh to Roundwood
Walking Distance:10.9km + 3km to visit Lough Dan (3:25 of walking time)
Walking Route Description: A lot of today’s route is walking along a road, including a relatively busy road into Roundwood. I did enjoy the walking paths, and getting mistaken for a sheep herder on one path. Guess I’m really starting to fit into my surroundings?
Highlights: Today was my least favourite day of walking so far. The scenery was OK, but not amazing – perhaps that was due in part to the rainy weather. I did enjoy the hiking paths.
Wildlife Sightings: One herd of deer.
Weather: I was excited to wake up to sun, but unfortunately that had turned into rain by the time I had started walking. It rained on and off for most of my walk.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Several coming from the opposite direction.
Where to Stay: I stayed in a hotel in the village of Roundwood.
Where to Eat: There are four pubs in Roundwood, a convenience store, cafe and several take-aways so you have several options.
Additional Info: You can visit Johnnie Fox’s Pub, the highest pub in Ireland at ! I had a pint there, because how could I not!
Day 6: Walking from Roundwood to Crone Woods Car Park (near Enniskerry)
Walking Distance: 18.9km + 1.5 km extra from getting lost
Walking Route Description: I LOVED the walk today! Only 20% of it was on roads, meaning I spent more time on hiking paths. That’s always a plus in my book! I got excellent views of Louch Dan, which I had visited yesterday, but was more spectacular from this angle. I saw Lough Tay – also known as Guinness Lake, since the Guiness estate is on one end of the lake (estate is not pictured). What I loved most of all was walking along the bog on White Hill and Djouce Peak. I was up high enough to get spectacular views! As I descended, I got views of the Irish Sea AND passed by Powerscourt Waterfall – the highest in Ireland at 121m.
It’s also worth noting that I did lost at around the 7th km mark along the forestry road- it’s tricky so be careful. I found my way on the trail again, but I never find out where the correct point was to descend, adding an extra 1km to my route.
Highlights: Walking along White Hill and Djouce Peak (not quite to the top – I turned off at the Wicklow Way marker), seeing Powerscourt Waterfall and the Irish Sea – so many highlights today!
Wildlife Sightings: A herd of deer
Weather: Warm and sunny for the morning, then really windy, and a hail storm. It was so windy that the pellets actually hurt when they hit. I was on White Hill on the bog with no place to duck for cover so carried on. 30 minutes later, the sun was out and it was a gorgeous day again!
# of Other Hikers Seen: A few mountain bikers at the beginning, and then too many hikers to count on White Hill and descending from Djouce Peak.
Where to Stay: My pick up point was at the Crone Woods Car Park. From there, I called my B&B to pick me up.
Where to Eat: The nearest place to eat was a pub, or in Enniskerry. Both were 3km away and you had to either walk or take a taxi.
Day 7: Walking from Enniskerry to Marlay Park in Dublin
Walking Distance: 22km + an additional 4km (1.2km+ walking to the top of Two-Rock Mountain for fantastic views over Dublin and another 2.8km somehow (5:55 of walking time)
Walking Route Description: Much of the walking route today was along paths or boardwalks with gorgeous views of the Wicklow Mountains, valleys and the Irish Sea.
Highlights: I loved the frequent open views of the Irish Sea. Today, was my second favourite day of walking the Wicklow Way. I was also giddy knowing that I was getting close to finishing – not because I wanted to be done, but for the sense of accomplishment.
Wildlife Sightings: Birds, but no deer or rabbits today.
Weather: Sunny and the warmest day I’d had so far.
# of Other Hikers Seen: Too many to count, as I came closer to Dublin.
Where to Stay: You arrive back in Dublin, so you have your choice of accommodation.
Where to Eat: There are so many places to eat in Dublin, but a requirement for me was stopping for an ice-cream in Marlay Park near the Wicklow Way sign.
Additional Info: The Wicklow Way sign in Marlay Park is near the car park, not far from Marlay House. Just outside the car park on Grange Road, you can catch a bus to the centre of Dublin.
Final Thoughts About Walking the Wicklow Way:
I enjoyed the walk, especially through the Wicklow Mountains and the route leading to Marlay Park, these two days were my favourite.
It’s a beautiful route through the Garden of Ireland, and a wonderful way to experience Ireland at a slower pace. If you are hard-core mountain hiker, you may find it too easy. While the Wicklow Way was easier than my usual type of hikes, I still enjoyed it and slept very well at night after walking over 20 km some days!
While it’s definitely possible to walk the Wicklow Way on your own and make all the arrangements yourself, I was very grateful that I had made mine through IrelandWays.com.
It made my planning so easy, and saved me a ton of time. I also still independent, walking alone and not with a group, which I prefer for most walks. I’m sure I would have gotten lost a lot more left to my own devices, and I may not have chosen the most convenient accommodation providers. That’s why I’m happy to recommend IrelandWays.com and provide a €20 discount to you for booking when you use the code MONKEYS2016.
That way, you can have as good of a time walking the Wicklow Way as I had!
Disclosure: Thank you to IrelandWays.com for making my journey of the Wicklow Way possible. As always, all opinions are my own. If you use the discount code above, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.