The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Glendalough, Ireland

When it comes to visiting a beautiful place almost on the outskirts of Dublin, Glendalough is ahead of the game. Stunning landscapes, historical sites, a short driving distance from the capital of Ireland… The Glendalough Valley ensures all of these along with unforgettable travel experiences.

Last updated: January 14, 2023

4 Days in Dublin and Ireland - Roads and Destinations.
A Guide to Visiting Glendalough: Upper Lake

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Glendalough Valley, Ireland

During my latest trip to Ireland, I wasn’t sure where exactly to go. One thing was certain, I needed to see the country beyond Dublin. As I was traveling solo and was (still am) not particularly comfortable driving on the left side of the road, guided tours looked like the best option for me.

Browsing the Internet in search of the right tours, I got to learn about the Glendalough Valley. I’m a visual person, and just a few pictures were enough to convince me to visit the place.

The tour I signed up for was absolutely great. It allowed me to learn about history, customs, and people residing in Glendalough. Yet it came with some limitation. Similar to any other guided tour, it had its own advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of the circumstances (or mainly because of them) and based on my personal experience, I’ve compiled this guide to the Glendalough Valley to inspire your future trips and adventures

Here are some of the guided tours I took or would take if I had more time to explore Ireland.


A Day Trip to Glendalough

Glendalough is located about one-hour drive from Dublin and works as a perfect destination for a day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.

There are plenty of ways to visit the Glendalough Valley, but driving is by far the best one. It ensures greater flexibility and allows to explore some places nearby. More importantly, you can drive at your own speed and enjoy the stunning scenery along the way. Because, as everybody knows, Ireland is all about green pastures and endless hills

Visit Glendalough Valley, Ireland - Roads and Destinations
Glendalough’s historical site

Places to Visit in Glendalough Valley

Glendalough Monastic Site

Glendalough is a glacial valley near Laragh village in County Wicklow. The place is hugely known for an Early Medieval Monastic settlement.

Saint Kevin founded the site in the 6th century as one of the first Christian settlement in the country. For the next few centuries, the monastery was spreading and teaching ecclesiastic doctrines. In 1214, however, the Normans destroyed the settlements.

Most of the structures of the Glendalough monastic site that survived today date from the 10th though 12th centuries. Some of the buildings to pay closer attention on the site are St. Kevin’s Kitchen, the Gateway, St. Kevin’s Cross, the Cathedral, and a round tower

4 Days in Dublin and Ireland, Glendalough - Roads and Destinations
Visiting Upper Lake in Glendalough

Hike to Upper and Lower Lakes

Don’t rush back to your car after visiting the Glendalough monastic site. Instead, take a walk (for somebody it might be a hike) to the Lower and Upper Lakes areas. The two scenic lakes are indisputable favorites among the locals and visitors alike.

An easy trail starts at the medieval monastic settlement and passes by Lower Lake, which is smaller and less appealing than its neighbor, Upper Lake. The hike takes about 20 minutes one way. Additionally, you can wander off your trail and check out Poulanass Waterfall on your way back.

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Visiting Lake Guinness, a private waterbody in the Glendalough Valley

Drive through Wicklow Mountains National Park

Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of six national parks in Ireland. The park covers much of upland Wicklow, including the Lugnaquilla and Liffey Head Bog complexes and Glendalough Wood National Reserve. The place offers different activities such as field trips and nature walks. It’s also one of the great destinations to take your hiking to the next level and test your stamina on the Wicklow Way or the St. Kevin’s Way.

Those who prefer to admire the natural beauty of Glendalough without shedding too much sweat can simply drive through Wicklow Mountains National Park. There are three scenic routes. You can explore all of them. However, if you’re pressed by time, I’d suggest taking the R759 that crosses the Military Road at Sally Gap. From here you’re a stone’s throw away from our next must-visit destinations in the Glendalough Valley.

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Visiting Sally Gap, Glendalough

Enjoy the Views of Lake Guinness

According to locals, you can’t visit Glendalough without stopping to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Guinness or Lough Tay. The lake is located on a private property and is out of your reach. Yet you can admire it from a road above. The best viewing point is along the Military Road at a junction with the Wicklow Way.

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Guide to Visiting Glendalough. Photo by Dimitry Anikin

Powerscourt House and Gardens

About a 30-minute drive from Glendalough (almost the same time from the viewing platform above Lake Guinness) takes you to Powerscourt Estate. Known for its opulent house and gardens, the place doesn’t escape attention of royalty. The house was built in the 13th century. It went through significantly alterations during a decade-long renovation in the 18th century.

The  Powerscourt Gardens are much younger and date back to 1844. The main attractions here are the Tower Valley, the Japanese Gardens, Triton Lake, the walled gardens, Dolphin Pond, and the Italian Garden.

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Guide to Visiting Glendalough. Photo by Magdalena Smolnicka

Powerscourt Waterfall

The highest waterfall in Ireland is also located on the territory of the famous estate. The place is open for visiting. The best way to explore the waterfall and its surroundings is along a scenic walking trail that takes approximately 30 minutes to tread.

Places to Eat in Glendalough

While visiting Glendalough, stop at Laragh village for lunch. Your choices might be somewhat limited, especially if you have some dietary restrictions. Yet the locals try to accommodate you as much as they can. And frankly, you won’t leave hungry. I had my best soup in Glendalough at Lynham’s of Laragh restaurant. 

Final Thoughts on Visiting Glendalough Valley

While visiting Glendalough, you can always count on two things: a lot of walking and the panoramic views. Therefore, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring along a camera. Ok, you may also want to pack an umbrella because it’s Ireland, after all. It rains a lot here.  

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