The Wicklow Way is a 132 km long walking trail that winds its way south from Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and finishes in the small village of Clonegal in County Carlow. It is Ireland’s first signposted long-distance hiking trail, and was created in 1980 by J.B. Malone through a series of newspaper articles in 1966.
The trail takes hikers through some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of Ireland from mountains, steep sided glacial valleys, upland lakes and forests.
Seven Stages of the Wicklow Way Trail
The Wicklow Way walking route is a perfect way to experience the beauty of Ireland on foot. The trail offers stunning views of the Wicklow Mountains, as well as the rolling hills and countryside of County Wicklow. The trail is divided into seven stages, each of which offers a unique and challenging hiking experience.
The Wicklow Way is typically broken down into seven stages, although these can be adjusted according to your personal preferences or abilities. Here are the seven stages:
- Stage One: Marlay Park to Knockree (21km): This stage starts at Marlay Park in Dublin and takes you up into the Dublin Mountains, offering great views of the city. It ends in the beautiful countryside of Knockree.
- Stage Two: Knockree to Roundwood (18km): This stage includes some road walking but also some lovely forest trails, and ends in Roundwood, the highest village in Ireland.
- Stage Three: Roundwood to Laragh/Glendalough (18km): This stage takes you through some beautiful woodland areas and offers fantastic views of the two lakes in Glendalough.
- Stage Four: Laragh to Glenmalure (14km): This stage is a shorter one, but includes some spectacular views of the valleys, fast flowing mountain streams and mountains of Wicklow, and ends in the longest glacial valley in the British Isles.
- Stage Five: Glenmalure to Moyne (21km): This stage takes you through forests and over hills, with plenty of great views. Moyne is a small, quiet village perfect for a rest.
- Stage Six: Moyne to Tinahely (13km): This is another shorter stage, with a lot of the walking done on quiet country roads. Tinahely is a lively village with a number of pubs and restaurants.
- Stage Seven: Tinahely to Clonegal (24km): The final stage takes you through a variety of landscapes, including forests, farmland, and small villages, before ending in Clonegal, where you can celebrate the completion of your hike.
The starting point of the Wicklow Way hike is Marlay Park, located in the suburbs of Dublin City. This bustling city is a great place to start the journey and explore the beautiful countryside of Wicklow.
Stage 1 Marlay Park to Knockree (21km)
The first stage of the Wicklow Way begins in Marlay Park, a stunning 247-acre public park located in Rathfarnham in southern Dublin, there is a car park. The initial part of the trail meanders through the peaceful park, passing by the carefully tended walled garden, a picturesque pond, and a grand Georgian house. From there, the trail begins to ascend into the Dublin Mountains, leaving the city’s hustle and bustle behind.
As you make your ascent, you will be greeted by the crisp, fresh air of the mountains and the tranquil surroundings of forests and moorland. The climb can be a bit challenging but it’s worth every effort, offering panoramic views of Dublin and the Irish Sea beyond. The trail is well-signposted and takes you through woodland areas, farmland, and open mountain terrain.
The stage ends in the charming area of Knockree with an approximate walk time of 5 to 6 hours. Knockree is nestled at the foot of the Maulin Mountain, a lovely spot to relax after your first day on the Wicklow Way. It’s an enchanting start to a fantastic trail, blending both the urban and natural beauty of Ireland.
Knockree to Roundwood (18km)
The second stage of the Wicklow Way, from Knockree to Roundwood, is an 18km trek that offers a blend of tranquil woodland paths, serene country lanes, and open mountainside trails. Leaving Knockree, the trail initially ascends to the shoulder of Maulin Mountain, where the views of the Powerscourt Waterfall will have you reaching for your camera. This waterfall is the highest in Ireland and is truly a sight to behold.
The trail continues, undulating along the contours of the mountainside and descending into the beautiful Crone Woods. It’s not uncommon here to spot Ireland’s native sika deer among the trees. Emerging from the woods, you’ll cross the Glencree River before beginning a gentle climb through heathland towards the hamlet of Oldbridge.
At this stage, you’ll find yourself on one of the highest sections of the Wicklow Way, enjoying vast panoramas over the Vartry Reservoirs and the Irish Sea. Your destination of Roundwood, the highest village in Ireland, is a welcome sight. With its cosy pubs and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to unwind after your journey. The second stage can be completed in approximately 4 to 5 hours, but with so much stunning scenery to take in, you may want to allow a little longer!
Laragh to Glenmalure (14km)
The stage from Laragh to Glenmalure covers about 14 kilometers and is considered one of the most scenic sections of the Wicklow Way. Here’s a bit more about it:
Starting off from the charming village of Laragh, this route immediately presents you with the opportunity to detour and explore the historic monastic site of Glendalough, with its iconic round tower, ancient churches, and tranquil lakes.
From there, you will traverse through the lush forest trails until you start a slow and steady ascent up to the saddle between Mullacor and Lugduff mountains. This is the highest point of the day’s walk and the views here are truly magnificent, encompassing the vast wilderness of the Wicklow Mountains.
The descent from the saddle takes you through a mix of forest tracks and open mountainside trails, until you find yourself in the remote and peaceful Glenmalure Valley. This is Ireland’s longest glacial valley and the sense of tranquility here is truly special.
Finally, you reach Glenmalure, a perfect place to rest and recharge for the next day’s hike. The whole walk should take around 4-5 hours, depending on your pace and how much time you take to soak up the stunning scenery along the way. This section of the Wicklow Way truly encapsulates the rugged beauty and tranquility of the Wicklow Mountains.
Glenmalure to Moyne (21km)
The Glenmalure to Moyne stage of the Wicklow Way stretches over 21 kilometers, and it’s a delightful journey filled with captivating sights and the tranquil beauty of the Irish countryside. Here’s a more detailed look at it:
Kicking off from the serenity of the Glenmalure Valley, the longest glacial valley in Ireland, you’ll ascend gradually through a mix of quiet forest trails and open moorland, where you can appreciate the expansive views of the surrounding landscapes.
The trail then navigates across the Ow Valley and starts a slow climb up to the highest point of the day, the shoulder of Slieve Maan. From here, there are panoramic views of the rolling hills and valleys below.
Descending from Slieve Maan, you’ll cross a mix of forest and open moorland trails, offering a diversity of scenery. The path winds its way through stands of coniferous woodland, a haven for local wildlife.
You will end this stage in the small, picturesque hamlet of Moyne. This peaceful spot, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, offers a perfect opportunity to rest and reflect on the day’s journey.
This section of the trail, which usually takes around 5-7 hours to complete, offers a great balance of challenging ascents, rewarding views, and peaceful woodland walks. It’s an excellent representation of what the Wicklow Way has to offer.
Moyne to Tinahely (13km)
The 13-kilometer stage from Moyne to Tinahely is a fantastic part of the Wicklow Way that showcases the gentle charm of Ireland’s countryside. This section is mostly flat with some minor ascents and descents, making it an enjoyable, less strenuous hike that still provides stunning views and opportunities to soak in the local flora and fauna.
Starting from the quiet hamlet of Moyne, you’ll first venture through verdant farmland and tranquil forest paths. These trails wind through a mix of pine and deciduous woods, a real treat for nature enthusiasts. Listen for the chirping of local bird species and the rustling of small wildlife in the undergrowth.
As you emerge from the forests, you’ll find yourself in the wide-open fields characteristic of the Irish countryside. These stretches offer stunning panoramic views of the surrounding farmland and distant hills, and on a clear day, you can see for miles.
Next, the trail will take you into the charming town of Tinahely, known for its welcoming community, quaint Irish cottages, and lush green fields. A perfect spot to wind down, enjoy a hearty meal in one of the local pubs, and reflect on your journey through the rolling hills of Wicklow.
This leg of the journey typically takes about 3-4 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how often you stop to admire the view. The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, making it a pleasant hike for people of all experience levels.
Tinahely to Clonegal (24km)
Embarking on the final leg of the Wicklow Way from Tinahely to Clonegal, you’ll cover a distance of 24 kilometers through the serene countryside of County Wicklow. This last section of the trail gives you a real taste of Ireland’s rural charm and pastoral beauty.
Setting off from the picturesque town of Tinahely, you’ll follow country lanes and forestry tracks, all the while surrounded by the gentle rolling hills and lush farmland that this region is renowned for. Along the way, keep your eyes open for sightings of local wildlife, including a variety of birds and perhaps a hare or two.
As you traverse the verdant landscape, the trail will lead you through a series of small, charming villages, each offering a glimpse into traditional Irish life. Be sure to take some time to rest, refuel, and perhaps chat with the friendly locals.
The path will then take you through some peaceful forested areas before you emerge onto the open farmland again, with the quaint village of Clonegal in sight. The town serves as a fitting end to your journey, with its historic Huntington Castle and a selection of welcoming pubs where you can celebrate your achievement.
The whole stage should take around 6-7 hours to complete, depending on your pace. It’s a moderately challenging stretch due to its length but the path is well-marked and the terrain is not overly steep, making it achievable for most walkers.
Here are some of the natural attractions that hikers can expect to encounter on their journey.
The Wicklow Mountains are a range of rolling hills and rugged peaks that are home to some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery. The mountains are covered in heather and gorse, and are dotted with sparkling lakes and streams. Hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the summits of the mountains.
Lough Tay, also known as the Guinness Lake, is a picturesque lake that is famous for its dark peaty waters and white sandy beach. The lake is surrounded by heather-covered hills and is a popular spot for picnics and swimming.
Guinness Lake, also known as Lough Tay, is a stunning lake that is surrounded by heather-covered hills. The lake is famous for its dark peaty waters and white sandy beach, and is a popular spot for picnics and swimming.
Powerscourt Waterfall is one of Ireland’s highest waterfalls, cascading down over 120 meters into a pool below. The waterfall is surrounded by lush woodland and is a popular spot for picnics and hiking.
The Wicklow Mountains are home to several glacial valleys, including the stunning Glendalough Valley. These valleys were carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age, and are now home to sparkling lakes and lush forests.
The Wicklow Mountains are home to several upland lakes, including Lough Dan and Lough Tay. These lakes are surrounded by heather-covered hills and are a popular spot for fishing and swimming.
The Wicklow Mountains are crisscrossed by sparkling mountain streams, which are home to a variety of fish and other wildlife. Hikers can follow these streams through the mountains, enjoying the sound of the rushing water and the cool mountain air.
The heathery hills of the Wicklow Mountains are covered in a thick layer of heather and gorse, which provide a stunning backdrop to the surrounding countryside. Hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the hills and valleys from the summits of the mountains.
Cultural and Historical Sites
The Wicklow Way is not only a great opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Ireland, but it is also a chance to immerse oneself in the rich history and culture of the region. Here are some of the most notable cultural and historical sites along the way:
Glendalough Monastic Site
The Glendalough Monastic Site is a must-visit for anyone interested in Irish history and culture. Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, the site was once a thriving monastic city and is now home to a number of well-preserved ruins, including a round tower, several churches, and a large stone cross. Visitors can take a guided tour of the site or explore on their own.
The Powerscourt Estate is a magnificent country estate located just outside of Dublin. The estate is home to a stunning mansion, beautiful gardens, and a number of historic buildings, including a 13th-century castle. Visitors can take a guided tour of the mansion, stroll through the gardens, or enjoy a meal at one of the estate’s restaurants.
The Wicklow Way is part of the Ancient East, a region of Ireland that is steeped in history and culture. Along the way, hikers will encounter a number of ancient sites, including megalithic tombs, ring forts, and stone circles. These sites offer a glimpse into Ireland’s rich past and provide a fascinating backdrop for the hike.
What to Expect on the Trails
The entire route spans approximately 129 kilometers (or about 80 miles). The trail takes hikers from the Dublin suburbs, through the heart of the Wicklow Mountains in mountain paths to some truly remote upland areas, and ends in the small village of Clonegal in County Carlow.
The terrain of the Wicklow Way is varied and can be challenging at times. Hikers can expect to encounter rocky paths, steep climbs, and uneven ground. It is important to wear proper footwear and bring trekking poles to help with stability and balance.
The Wicklow Way is a waymarked trail, which means that hikers can follow the signposts and markers along the way. These markers are usually placed at regular intervals and are easy to spot. Hikers should always stay on the marked trails to avoid getting lost.
A significant portion of the Wicklow Way passes through dense forests, which provide a welcome respite from the sun on hot days. Hikers can expect to encounter narrow paths, low-hanging branches, and fallen trees along forest trails. It is important to pay attention to the trail markers and watch out for hazards.
Green roads are unpaved roads that are used for farming and forestry activities. These roads are often wide and flat, making them easier to navigate than some of the more challenging terrain on the Wicklow Way. However, hikers should be aware of vehicles and farm animals that may be using the roads.
Planning Your Wicklow Way Hike
When planning a Wicklow Way hike, there are several factors to consider to ensure a successful and enjoyable trek. Here are some important things to keep in mind before embarking on this beautiful journey.
Best Time to Hike
The best time to hike the Wicklow Way is from April to September when the weather is mild and the days are longer. However, keep in mind that the trail can be crowded during peak season, so plan accordingly. If you prefer a quieter hike, consider going in the shoulder season, such as March or October.
Fitness Level Required
The Wicklow Way is a moderately challenging long distance trail, so it’s important to have a decent level of fitness before embarking on this journey. The trail covers a distance of 127km with an ascent of 3,200m, so it’s recommended that hikers have experience with multi-day hikes and are comfortable walking 15-20km per day.
Flexibility and Trek Duration
The Wicklow Way can be completed in 5-7 days, depending on your pace and fitness level. However, it’s recommended to allow for some flexibility in your itinerary in case of unforeseen circumstances or inclement weather. Additionally, it’s important to take rest days and allow your body to recover between stages.
Day 1: Marlay Park to Knockree (21km, 5-7 hours) Starting at Marlay Park in Dublin, you’ll traverse through beautiful parklands and forests before ascending to enjoy fantastic views of Dublin City and the Irish Sea.
Day 2: Knockree to Roundwood (18km, 4-6 hours) Continuing from Knockree, you’ll pass by the stunning Powerscourt Waterfall and walk through Crone Woods. The charming village of Roundwood is your destination – a great place to rest and refuel.
Day 3: Roundwood to Glenmalure (12km, 3-5 hours) Day 3 will bring you across the scenic Wicklow Mountains, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Descend into the longest glacial valley in Ireland, Glenmalure.
Day 4: Glenmalure to Tinahely (21km, 5-7 hours) Prepare for a long but rewarding day. You’ll enjoy a peaceful woodland walk before heading into the remote townland of Moyne.
Day 5: Tinahely to Clonegal (24km, 6-8 hours) The final leg of the journey takes you through farmland and forest tracks until you reach the end of the trail at Clonegal, a charming village where you can celebrate your accomplishment!
Self-Guided Vs Guided Hikes
Another important decision to make when planning your Wicklow Way hike is whether to go on a self-guided or a guided hike. Self-guided hikes give hikers the freedom to go at their own pace and explore the trail on their own, while guided hikes or Walking Tours offer the benefit of a knowledgeable guide who can provide insight and information about the trail. It’s important to consider your hiking experience, comfort level with navigation, and budget when making this decision.