Ireland has some amazing places to visit from rolling hills with stunning views, waterfalls, to abandoned monastic sites and more. There’s no better way to discover the magic of Ireland than with this Wicklow Mountains Road Trip.
Wicklow Mountains is less than one hour south of Dublin within the County of County Wicklow, making this the ideal road trip, that’ll make you want to see more of Ireland.
This short 4-day Wicklow Mountains Road Trip will take you to an abandoned Monastic site, get you out into the fresh air on a number of hikes with breathtaking views. You’ll also come across many large and small waterfalls and even spend some time on a glorious sandy beach.
What are you waiting for, lets jump in the car and head out to all those incredible places to see in Wicklow. You won’t be disappointed.
When to visit Wicklow Mountains
To get the best from your Wicklow Mountains road trip, you must choose the best time to travel.
Hitting the road in cold and wet conditions can be dangerous especially if there has been significant rain to cause flooding, which will prevent you from getting out onto the road.
So, when will the best time to road trip in County Wicklow?
In our experience, any time between spring and autumn will be the best time to travel to Wicklow Mountains in Ireland.
Spring and autumn are the considerably quieter and cheaper than visiting during the summer months. Yet the summer months are predictably warmer with better weather conditions. Only caveat, is that it is the most expensive time to travel and busier.
Travelling to Wicklow Mountains in Summer
August is the hottest. If you are planning a road trip and heading to the coast, the summer months are ideal.
Travelling to Wicklow Mountains in Autumn
If the hot weather gets too much for you, then you’re better of travelling during the spring or autumn May – June and September – October. The crowds would have reduced, but the weather will be warm.
Travelling to Wicklow Mountains in Winter
Ireland can get cold and wet in winter, which could delay your travel plans if the roads are undriveable, especially in remote areas of Ireland.
There won’t be very many tourists visiting, unless you choose to visit during December, when the big cities come to life with Christmas Markets.
When will you choose to visit Ireland?
Is it safe in County Wicklow?
Yes, County Wicklow is a safe place to visit. Of course, every place has some level of crime, if anything, tourists may encounter pickpocketing or theft. But in our experience as two female travelers, we didn’t encounter any safety issues.
Although we didn’t encounter any issues, it is always best to be cautious, we are aware of our surroundings, research before we travel and try not to put ourselves in a position which is unsafe.
As female traveler’s, we have some great tips on how to stay safe while travelling. By following these tips, you should feel safer to travel, be that as a solo traveler, or traveling as part of a family or group.
What is the currency in Ireland?
The currency in Ireland is the €(Euro).
Overseas travelers will need to convert their currency into the €. It is recommended to take enough cash with you for your holiday and a little bit extra for emergencies. You can also use debit or credit cards, but always check with your bank prior to travel. There could be a fee for overseas transactions.
4-day Wicklow Mountain Road Trip
A road trip around Co. Wicklow (County Wicklow) should take four days. If you’re a slow traveler then five days to one week is sufficient time to spend here.
We take you on the same route we took around the Wicklow Mountains on our road trip.
On arrival at Dublin Airport, we picked up our hire vehicle and drove south to start our Wicklow Mountains road trip.
Depending on your arrival time, you may plan to include Dublin in your road trip. If you do include Dublin, then we would recommend parking in the number of park and ride car parks on the outskirts of the city.
Parking is easy, you pay for your car park at the ticket machine before taking the tram into Dublin.
There’s so much to do in Dublin that a day trip really isn’t enough time. We would recommend spending at least 2-3 days in the city before heading out on your road trip.
If like us, we only had 4 days in Ireland, then you may want to skip Dublin and visit the city on your next visit.
Do have time to visit Dublin? If so, then you must visit the Guinness Storehouse. Learn more about Irish home brew, nothing tastes better than drinking a good pint of Guinness in Ireland.
Cost: €11.50 per adult (£9.84/$13.56), €5.00 per child under 16 (£4.28/$5.90), €26.00 for a family (£22.26/$30.65)
Opening times: 9:30am to 5:30pm
Powerscourt is a large estate covering 19 hectares of land that was originally owned by the Viscount Powerscourt family, but now owned by the Slazenger family.
Admission price include the two rooms of Powerscourt Estate that’s open to the public and the gardens.
Families will enjoy the gardens with so many hidden gems that’ll keep the children and adults entertained for much of the day.
The gardens offer incredible views of the landscape with The Great Sugarloaf in the distance. Wander around the lovely Triton Lake, admire the Japanese Garden with the bright colours of the flowers.
There’s even a cemetery for the family’s pet animals. Read the names of the pets that have now passed away, it’s surprising how many pets they had over the years.
It’s quite easy to spend the entire day at Powerscourt, but if you don’t have time, then spend between 2-5 hours here is sufficient.
Related post: Tips on driving in Ireland
Cost: €6.50 per adult (£5.56/$7.66), €3.50 child under 16 (£3.00/$4.13), Free child under 2, €16.00 family (£13.70/$18.86).
Opening times: 9:30am – 7pm
Powerscourt Waterfall is part of the Powerscourt Estate, although the land is no longer directly connected. The only way to get to the waterfall is to drive. It wouldn’t be possible to walk from Powerscourt Estate to the waterfall as the roads are narrow and unsafe for pedestrians.
The short drive brings you to the biggest waterfall in Ireland at 21 metres.
There’s a small barbeque area to cook on, alternatively the small café offers a small selection of hot and cold meals and drinks.
After a long day travelling, relax back with a picnic or barbeque while you watch the water gush over the edge of the rocks to the bottom.
Hikers and walkers will enjoy the walking paths around the waterfall. The terrain is quite flat, making it suitable for all abilities and ages.
This scenic location’s ideal for young families. The play area next to the waterfall will keep the children entertained for a while.
In day two of your Wicklow Mountains road trip you’ll explore an ancient monastic site that’s like a ghost town and you better have some comfortable shoes on ready to do some walking. These walks will offer you some incredible scenic views.
The Great Sugarloaf
At a height of about 501 metres (1466 ft), The Great Sugarloaf offers incredible views across Co. Wicklow.
Climbing to the top of the Great Sugarloaf is so rewarding, but watch the terrain as you ascend and descend, as it becomes more rugged nearer to the summit.
Windy days, makes the climb more challenging and can become unsafe. If you think the winds are too strong then abandon your climb. We did that. As we ascended The Great Sugarloaf, the winds became stronger and with the uneven terrain, we felt it was unsafe to climb to the top.
It is possible for all ages to climb, but young children and some people may find it more difficult in areas, especially at the steep inclines.
If you are determined to reach the top, just watch the footing and take it at your own pace.
Glendalough Monastic Site
Opening times: 9:30am – 5pm
St Kevin founded the Christian Monastic Site, back in the 6th century in Glendalough, and we can see why he chose this perfect, tranquil and peaceful location. The highlights of the Monastic Site are:
St Kevin’s Kitchen
This isn’t actually a kitchen, although the name would suggest. The name derives from the bell tower that looks like a chimney to a kitchen. St Kevin’s Kitchen was a church with a nave and stone roof.
Unfortunately, one of two buildings that’s not open to the public.
This is a fascinating building within the Monastic Site. Its purpose was as a bell tower, to summon the monks to prayer. It wasn’t just used for this purpose though!
It stands at 100 feet tall. The main entrance is by a door 12 feet off the ground.
It is thought that to gain access was via a ladder that could be removed should the area become under attack.
At the very top are four windows, it’s also possible the Round Tower could have been a lookout.
Cathedral of St. Peter and St Paul
The largest building at the site. Inside this grand building is a cupboard, stone font, grave slabs and remains of an archway.
The origins of what this small and compact room was used for is uncertain. The name Priest’s House derives from an 18th century practice, whereby priests would be brought to be prepared for burial. They would then be buried within the floor.
Some theories are thought that the Priest’s House was built over the grave of St Kevin, or it just retained some of his relics.
Now these are no ordinary stones, these are Bullaun Stone. Bullaun Stones are primarily used as a mortar grinding food or medicines.
It’s unknown what these stones would have been used for or represented. But there is a tale about these particular stones.
It is said that St Kevin needed milk for a young baby left in his care by the name of Foelan. One morning, St Kevin saw a doe waiting at the stones to be milked.
Every morning the same doe would return to be milked, which fed Foelan.
How true the story is, we will never know!
Glendalough Lower and Upper Lake
Opening times: 9:30am – 5pm
Glendalough Lower and Upper Lake form part of the Glendalough Visitors Centre and the Monastic Site.
Once you have finished exploring the Monastic Site, follow the signs which lead you around the Lower Lake and then onto the Upper Lake.
There’re a number of walking routes with different colours representing different routes and abilities.
If you’re a keen walker or hiker, then you must continue around the Upper Lake following one of the walking routes.
At the top of the lake are amazing views as you look down back the way you came.
If you have had enough walking and hiking for one day, then just sit back and relax by the Upper Lake and admire the view from below.
Bring a picnic and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
As you walked to the Upper Lake, did you find any waterfalls on your way?
Some waterfalls in the area are so small that you may have walked past them.
A more relaxed day beside the seaside.
This lovely seaside town, with long sandy beaches, is a popular resort in Co. Wicklow. Ideal for a family day by the sea, or for dog walkers.
Shops, restaurants and cafes line the seafront with deliciously tempting food.
Lay back on the beach, relax and enjoy, you deserve it after the last few days hiking in the hills of County Wicklow.
The views along the beach to Bray and onto Dublin are surprising and amazing.
Another beautiful seaside town, located right on the borders of Co. Wicklow and Co.Dublin.
A busy beach location, but if the weather’s lovely, find a spot, sit back and take in the sun rays.
Killiney Hill Park
Located in Co. Dublin, this park is perfect for stunning views across the ocean and Co. Wicklow. Take a stroll around the park and locate some of the hidden gems, such as The Obelisk and The Pyramid of Dublin.
Ireland is such a lovely place to visit, and we just fell in love with Co. Wicklow. But there’s so many other amazing places to visit not just in the Republic of Ireland but also Northern Ireland. What about venturing over that boarder to visit some of the Best Things to do In Belfast Northern Ireland.
Make you way back to Dublin airport to return the hire vehicle. Make a point of stopping at the petrol station on the outskirts of the airport to refuel the vehicle.
Some hire companies will offer a premium price to return the vehicle with little or no petrol in the vehicle. If you have paid this premium, you can skip the petrol station and return the hire vehicle.
Where to stay Wicklow Mountains
You have a few options on where to stay in the Wicklow Mountains.
There’re a few hotels and Airbnb’s, making it quick and easy to get around by car to all the things to do in this 4-day road trip.
We stayed in a small hotel in Newtown Mount Kennedy, called Parkview Hotel. It’s in a great location to get you around Co. Wicklow, there’s plenty of free off-road parking at the hotel, with helpful staff.
Here are some other places you could stay:
Hiring a vehicle
A road trip to Ireland, is no road trip without a vehicle.
County Wicklow is in a rural location so a vehicle is a must.
On arrival at Dublin Airport, hire a vehicle from the many hire companies available. We hired our vehicle from Sixt to take us on our road trip.
Shop around and check other hire companies in Ireland for the best deal that is budget friendly.
You should consider booking the hire vehicle in advance to prevent disappointment.
If you are taking the ferry from England, why not bring your own vehicle with you. You won’t have to pay the hire charges; you’ll be comfortable in your own vehicle and could find it cheaper.
Related post: Should I get travel insurance?
Road trip tips
To help you plan and maintain your safety, here are some tips to consider when visiting County Wicklow:
- Being in the country side, the terrain in areas will change. You must watch your footing at all times, so you don’t trip and fall. Especially so, when hiking the Great Sugarloaf and the routes around the Upper Lake in Glendalough
- Take into account the weather conditions and that these could change at any point. You’ll need to take extra layers, should the weather turn cold. Check out our post on What to pack for a hike, which includes clothes and what snacks and drinks to pack.
- As mentioned above, you’ll need snacks and drinks to maintain hydration and to fuel your body.
- In most places in County Wicklow, parking is Free of charge, but limited. Arrive early to prevent disappointment.
- In some locations, there’s no toilet facilities
- Pack appropriate shoes for any hiking
Where to eat on your Wicklow Mountain Road trip
Yummy Irish food. But eating out in Ireland can be expensive, or in some places, there’re no cafes and restaurants. We share with you the best places to eat in County Wicklow and where you might need to take a picnic or packed lunch.
Save some money by making a fresh homemade picnic. It is far cheaper than buying food in a café or restaurant and a lot healthier (you know what you’re putting into it).
In some places such as the Great Sugarloaf and Glendalough (Monastic site, Glendalough Upper and Lower Lake), there’re no facilities. You’ll need to bring your own packed lunch, picnic and snacks.
If you’re feeling hungry, then you’ll have to buy food from the Terrace Café in Powerscourt House. A wide range of hot and cold cuisine and drinks are available at a reasonable price.
The food is good and definitely worth eating humble Irish food.
Only snag, no picnics allowed, so you’ll have to buy food here if you’re hungry.
Powerscourt Waterfall Café
You have a choice. Do you want a BBQ, or sandwiches and snacks?
The small refreshments kiosk at Powerscourt Waterfall offers a limited range of hot and cold drinks and sandwiches and snacks.
Alternatively, bring your own BBQ and food for a family day out by the waterfall.
This quaint little café in Greystones, serves sandwiches, cakes and pastries that are so delicious and flavourful.
We had tea and a cake, which made our mouth water. It was that good!
Definitely the place to visit while driving through Greystones.
The Coffee Dock
Right on the seafront, with great food and great views.
Sit outside on a hot summer’s day, relax back and enjoy your hot or cold drink.
If you’re hungry, you’ll enjoy a choice of soup, sandwiches, pastries and snacks.
Tower Tea Rooms
Tucked away in Kiliney Hill Park is the small tea rooms, with a selection of hot and cold dishes, including soup, sandwiches and pastries.
Small seating area inside and outside that’s shaded from the sun by the large towering trees.
After a few days on the road, you’ll enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, with a hot drink in one hand and food in the other.
What to pack
Packing is essential when going on holiday, but you have to be smart about what to pack.
Ireland is seasonal, so depending on when you travel will depend on what you will need to pack.
It isn’t just the clothing you need to consider; you’ll need to pack the correct documents such as passport and visa if this is required.
Why not head over to our post on What to Pack for Ireland. In this, we provide an extensive list of all the important things to pack. You can also download, a check list to help you pack the right things and never miss an item.
Planning a road trip isn’t easy, but to help you with the planning process, check out this ultimate guide for planning an Irish Road Trip.
We have covered a wide variety of places to go in Wicklow, that will keep you and the family entertained.
We loved Co. Wicklow so much, that we can’t wait to get back. But with so many other amazing places to visit in Ireland, we’ll be heading out on another Ireland road trip shortly.
We hope you enjoyed the Wicklow Mountains as much as we did and hope to see you on our next Ireland road trip.
Have you done an Ireland road trip? Where did you go? How long was the trip for? Is there somewhere you would recommend in Wicklow, that should be included in this road trip? Let us know, by leaving a comment below.
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