An hour and a half south of the Dublin city center, the Wicklow Mountains National Park offers as rustic a respite from the daily urban grind that any city-dweller or tranquility seeker could ever ask for.
Rising to a mere 850 meters yet discernibly colder than the nearby city center, Wicklow Mountains National Park sprawls across a crisp and quiet expanse of hills that are constantly being groomed by the rolling mists, never quite allowing the expansive grasslands ample time to dry.
While the park features 9 hiking trails that range in length from 30 minutes to 4 hours (including sections that run along the 127 km Wicklow Way), most visitors will find themselves strolling the forested pathways that ring the two wind-whipped lakes that give the region its name (Glendalough = Valley of the Two Lakes).
With it’s decidedly transcendental landscape, it’s the type of place where you are struck by the immediate urge to curl up on one of the conveniently placed park benches and thumb through an old copy of Thoreau. If Walden Pond had isolated herds of sheep then this is it.
Not surprising given the serene surroundings, this corner of Ireland has held this pensive allure for wayward travelers for millenia, most notably of whom was St. Kevin, the 6th century monk who founded the monastery that would welcome faith seekers and pilgrims for centuries to come. A testament to its pious history and stone-age past, massive slabs of stone spring from the verdant pastures and preside over the undisturbed remains of worshipers who devoted their lives to God’s work inside the nearby stone cathedral. Lovers of ancient architecture can marvel at the stone arches complete with wedged keystones that form the framework of this ancient monastery by the lakes.
If a trademark drizzle blows over the damp hills or the North Atlantic air starts to strengthen its nip, visitors can find refuge in the Glendalough Hotel and the accompanying lounge bar and restaurant. With tiny rivulets running down the foggy, dark wood framed windows, a steaming cup of local seafood chowder and mid-afternoon cup of coffee is the perfect accompaniment to this countryside gem in the Irish hillside.
How to Get to Wicklow Mountains National Park
Lacking any direct form of public transportation from the city center, the most practical way of reaching the Wicklow Mountains National Park is by the Glendalough Bus that makes the 90 minute commute from the hustle of modernity to the calm of the hinterland. Anyone wanting to tackle one of the longer walking tracks that run throughout the park will require more time in the park than the Glendalough Bus allows, although bus, cab, and train service are available from the nearby town of Rathdrum.