“Do you want to take a walk with me?” At that time, our guide didn’t mention neither a visit to the Poulanass Waterfall nor any specific walking trails leading to the falls.
Last updated: January 16, 2023
How to Visit Poulanass Waterfall in Glendalough, Ireland: The Best Walking Trails and Photo Diary
After pondering over some pros and cons of taking a guided tour in Ireland, contrary to my preferences to feel independent while exploring a new place, I decided to use a guide this time. Narrow country roads, driving and parking in Dublin where I stayed… It was too much to deal with on your own while visiting Ireland for the first time.
So after scrolling through tour options available for that day, I stopped on the Glendalough and Wicklow Tour.
Located in Wicklow Mountains National Park, the Glendalough Valley is renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement. Founded in the 6th century, this historic site is the highlight of any trips to Glendalough.
The tour I joined was not an exception. It focused first of all on the ancient remains and their history. But once the erudite guide who had lived in the area for a while finished her narration about the former monastery, the visitors were on their own.
And this is when the tour leader looked straight at me, the only person in a group with a camera, and asked if I wanted to join her for a walk. A walk? I didn’t know back then that the walk in Ireland is equivalent to the American hike.
Yet since I wasn’t familiar with the area, I could either linger near the monastic site or let this Irish woman surprise me. A few other group members accepted the guide’s invitation as well. And so off we went on a short adventure along a raised boardwalk.
Staying a little bit behind to take a few pictures, I noticed a sign to Poulanass Waterfall. As I didn’t want to miss the group, I made a mental note of the trail and followed the guide. Yet Poulanass Waterfall kept alluring me. I had to see it even if it meant to run all the way back to our bus afterwards.
Therefore, when the unofficial walk with the guide was completed at the shore of Upper Lake, I used extra forty minutes given to us to explore the area on our own to visit Poulanass Waterfall.
Streaming through the Glendalough oak woodlands, Poulanass Waterfall is a series of small falls spilling into Upper Lake. Several pools festoon the bottom area of these streams, adding another reason to visit Poulanass Waterfall.
Interestingly, the name Poulanass is adopted from the Irish “Poll an Eas”, which means “Hole of the waterfall”.
Not being an official destination on any guided tour itineraries, the walking trail to the falls felt serene and somewhat uncrowded. Yet I changed my mind as soon as I reached a viewpoint overlooking the waterfall. Although small, but still a row of people lined up by the observation deck waiting for their turn to photograph the falls.
In reality, though, you can visit Poulanass Waterfall and explore its remarkable surroundings without joining the crowd and lingering at this popular photo location. Several spots along the walking trail ensure the good views of the waterfall, unspoiled by any excessive attention.
TIP: While going off the beaten path during your first visit to Poulanass Waterfall, keep in mind, though, that the trail may be slippery. Be careful when approaching the stream.
Yet if a fear of sliding right into the water stops you in your tracks, just feast your eyes on the quintessential Irish woodlands from the trail. It’s captivating, especially after it rains. Needless to say, the moss-covered trees surrounding the winding path inspire you to walk forward and eventually stumble upon Poulanass Waterfall itself.
Here are some of the tours I took while staying in Dublin and can’t recommend them enough.
Visit Poulanass Waterfall: Location and Direction
Poulanass Waterfall is one of the hidden gems to explore in Glendalough, a glacier valley in County Wicklow. Apart from its iconic monastic site, the area houses astonishing Upper and Lower Lakes, panoramic Sally Gap, and remarkable Lough Tay.
For a day trip from Dublin, board a Glendalough St. Kevin Bus to visit the valley and its historic and natural attractions, including Poulanass Waterfall.
The other popular way to pay a visit to Poulanass Waterfall is to book a Glendalough – Wicklow Mountains tour. Based on my experience, it’s such a wonderful option to learn more about the area, its history, and see several secret spots along the way. After all, Ireland is full of hidden treasures that only locals know about. The visit to Glendalough and Poulanass Waterfall certainly proves it.
Last but not least, rent a car and road-trip from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains. Stop at Glendalough for a quick visit to Poulanass Waterfall and the monastic site, then continue exploring the Wicklow Mountains. There is a big parking lot (you must buy a pass) right near the main landmark of Glendalough.
Visit Poulanass Waterfall: The Best Walking Trails
Not sure what to expect from our walk, I followed the guide to the far end of the parking lot. At a trail junction, we proceeded onto the boardwalk to Upper Lake (1.6 km). A few minutes into the walk, the path came across an open area with panoramic views of Lower Lake. Staying away from the shore, the trail continued on until it looped to the left right at the shore of Upper Lake.
To visit Poulanass Waterfall from here, I had to follow the trail for a few more minutes until an unmissable sign, Poulanass Waterfall, came into view. The trail forked to the right here and climbed uphill abruptly. Several steps loomed out of the dirt path. With frequent rains typical for Glendalough, these were a great help in walking up along the slippery trail.
Poulanass Waterfall emerged about 10-15 minutes from the moment I had veered to the right at the trail junction. The trail continued on pass the waterfall. But with not much time to enjoy it, I had to cut my visit to the waterfall short. Following the same trail I came from, I returned to the raised boardwalk and rushed back to the parking lot.
While doing my research for this blog post, I realized that there are two proper walking trails leading to the falls. Both of them are almost the same distance and allow you to visit Poulanass Waterfall in less than one hour. The scenery along the way, however, differs. And it’s by far the best part of these walks.
1. Poulanass and St. Kevin Cell (Bronze Route)
- Distance: 1 km (0.6 miles)
- Elevation Gain: 85 m (278 feet)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 30 minutes
The Bronze Route runs through the woodlands. Upon reaching Poulanass Waterfall, it streams downhill to the site of St. Kevin Cell. The historic landmark is a sight to behold. Yet a nearby viewpoint overlooking Upper Lake often steals the show.
2. Poulanass Walk (Pink Route)
- Distance: 1.6 km (1 mile)
- Elevation Gain: 100 m (328 feet)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 40-45 minutes
Starting as a steep walk uphill, the Pink Route proceeds above Poulanass Waterfall before descending to the valley floor, intersecting the Glendalough woodlands along the way.
The Best Time to Visit Poulanass Waterfall
Poulanass Waterfall allures the visitors all year round. The trail may be covered with snow in winter. Rain becomes an almost permanent companion during a visit to Poulanass Waterfall in warmer months.
The site is a gushing falls that runs through the green forest in summer. In spring, the greenish shades of the surrounding trees rejuvenate. This new coating along with the melted snow transform the waterfall, adding more vigor into its flow.
Yet visit Poulanass Waterfall in fall and fall in love with the surroundings and deep green tones with a touch of autumn brilliance. The green colors hardly ever fade on the Emerald Isle. The country that is known for its forty shades of green holds on tight to its signature color.
Things to Know before Visiting Poulanass Waterfall
1. You are not Alone
While Poulanass Waterfall is rarely the main attraction to visit in Glendalough, the place can get crowded. Weekends are usually the busiest. Expect to see many other travelers paying a visit to the churning Poulanass Waterfall after exploring the Glendalough monastic site.
2. It Rains Often
Ireland is a land of rain. It rains a lot and often. Glendalough and the Poulanass Waterfall area are not exempt of sudden downpours.
3. It Can Get Slippery
The visit to Poulanass Waterfall includes walking uphill, along the slippery trail. Good walking shoes surely help cover this distance without making you look like a ballet dancer gliding on a muddy “stage”.
4. The Poulanass Waterfall Area is Packed with Epic Places to Visit
Lower and Upper Lake, the monastic site, St. Kevin Cell… Glendalough has far more to offer than just a short visit to Poulanass Waterfall. So be willing to explore more and often.
Visit Poulanass Waterfall Photo Diary
Although Poulanass Waterfall should be enjoyed in person, here is a short photo diary to inspire you to visit this picturesque destination at some point in the future.