The Best Things To Do In Glendalough

In a stunning glaciated valley in County Wicklow, in the sixth century, one of Ireland's most revered saints founded a monastery.

The Best Things To Do In Glendalough

Nestled in the verdant foliage of the Wicklow Mountains National Park lies an exemplary jewel of Ireland’s Ancient East; Glendalough. This monastic establishment, founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century, swiftly grew into one of the foremost centers of learning within early Christian Ireland. 

Honed by eroding glaciers during the previous Ice Age, the valley of Glendalough is an extensive stretch of terrain that fuses unrivaled natural splendor with an ambiance of undisturbed calm. 

As you scale the ascending slopes of the Wicklow Mountains, mist streams over the valley’s precipice while the sound of glacial streams flow freely across rocky crevices. An atmosphere of absolute serenity is sure to captivate you.


Glendalough monastic site and Visitor Centre

Experience the breathtaking beauty of Glendalough, meaning ‘Valley of the Two Lakes’. Discover the rich history of this significant monastic site in Ireland that dates back to the late 5th century. St Kevin’s Kitchen and a ruined cathedral add to the beauty of the site, and the 1000-year-old Round Tower takes centre stage.

In the Middle Ages, Glendalough flourished as a monastic city, catering to thousands of students and teachers, and you can still enter through the only surviving monastic gateway in Ireland today. Embark on one of the many hiking trails that start at the Upper Lake and lead you to the hills. Enjoy the historical displays at the Glendalough Visitor Center, and take in the 20-minute audiovisual show.

With free admission and 24-hour access, there’s no excuse not to visit this beautiful spot. To avoid the crowds, plan your visit on a quiet weekday and arrive early or stay late to truly experience the true beauty of Glendalough.

Glendalough monastic

Upper and Lower lakes hike

Upper and Lower lakes hike

Hiking is one of the most sought after activities in Glendalough due to the scenic beauty of its trails. The hike around both lakes can be completed without much difficulty as it takes only between 2 and 4 hours to complete the full loop. 

Commencing from the Visitor’s Centre, you are advised to stay on the left side of the lakes while ascending and completing the loop. Though there are spots of boggy areas, keep rest assured that railway sleepers have been laid down, providing good grips on them, thereby ensuring a safe hike even in wet weather conditions. 

You are encouraged to carry some lunch along and relish it at the peak while admiring the breathtaking view. However, please carry ample water as there is no availability of water until your descent from the peak. It is suggested to look at the trail map in order to ensure a safe hike.

Visit Poulanass Waterfall


We cordially suggest embarking on the Poulanass Waterfall hiking track, despite its challenges. The waterfall’s name originates from the Irish phrase “Poll an Eas,” signifying the fall’s orifice. Once you reach the summit, take a left turn and cross the bridge to commence descending through the oak woods towards the vehicle lot.

The track commences with a short yet steep climb, following a trail along the Poulanass Waterfall and its cascading pools. The track advances over the waterfall, leading to a forest road that drops into the valley floor through mixed woodlands. This is an excellent opportunity to observe the woodland birds; please listen attentively.

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picnic at the Glendalough Viewpoint

Glendalough Viewpoint

The Spinc ridge offers a picturesque view of the magnificent Glendalough Valley. Climbing the trail requires effort, however, it’s unparalleled as it offers splendid panoramic views of not only the valley but also the Wicklow Uplands.

The trail commences by climbing steeply on a path by Poulanass Waterfall before uniting with a boardwalk and wooden steps, leading to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the Upper Lake. 

It passes the top of cliffs, all the while presenting awe-inspiring views before descending through blanket bog down a rocky trail towards the abandoned Miners Village. Finally, the trail concludes on a wide and well-maintained trail, which runs alongside the upper lake shore.

St. Kevin’s Bed

St. Kevin’s Bed

Temple-na-Skellig, the most westerly church situated at Glendalough, is a single-celled church that was partially reconstructed in the 12th century. The church, with a twin-light window in the east gable, is located on a small shelf on the south side of the upper lake, and can be accessed either by boat or by descending the steep cliffs of Lugduff Mountain. 

However, as it is not recommended and dangerous, it is advised to avoid the latter. To the west of the church is a platform consisting of evidence of wattle huts that were interconnected by paved pathways and were revealed during excavations. 

The most convenient way to view the church is to walk approximately 350 meters along the northern shore towards the abandoned mining village. One can scan the south shore for the church and St. Kevin’s Bed. East of the church and positioned about 40 meters, 10 meters above the lake, is a small rock-cut cave known as St. Kevin’s Bed. 

This cave is traditionally believed to be where St. Kevin slept during times of meditation and prayer. The cave is presumed to have been an opening to a mine and was present before St. Kevin’s time. Further, evidence of a second opening beneath the one at St. Kevin’s Bed has been found.

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