Often referred to as the Garden of Ireland County Wicklow (Irish: Contae Chill Mhantáin) is a beautiful mountainous region of Ireland's East Coast and Midlands. County Wicklow offers visitors breathtaking views of towering mountains, crystal-clear rivers & tranquil forestry, all within easy reach of the capital.
Towns and villages
As a largely rural county, much of the charm of County Wicklow is to be found in the small villages & hamlets which dot the mountainous countryside. The vast majority of these villages have old churches, shops & pubs.
- Glendalough — one of the main tourist attractions of Wicklow because of the monastic village, round tower and lakes
- Enniskerry — for the gardens in the Powerscourt Estate and the highest waterfall in Ireland
County Wicklow is very mountainous with the highest peak Lugnaquilla rising to 3018 ft (925m). The mountains dominate the North and centre of the county, while along the coast is relatively flat. South Wicklow gives way to rolling hills where there is a lot more farmland.
Much of the mountainous area is covered with a layer of peat and this in turn has heather and conifer evergreen forests growing on it, with gorse in the drier areas. This makes for scenic vegetation and gives it a rugged appearance.
As in the rest of Ireland English is the language spoken by the majority. A visitor may notice the wide variety of accents on display in Wicklow. People from the hills tend to sound different from those on the coast. Residents of Bray & Greystones have distinctively Dublin-tinged accents. Likewise, the voices of southern and western 'Wicklowites' carry the influence of neighbouring counties. One part of the unique Wicklow 'dialect' you may hear in Wicklow town, Arklow town or inland, is the use of the word 'quern' to replace 'very'. As in 'I'm quern tired'.
The Wicklow mountains, being mountains, are not particularly well-served by public transport, which is surprising given their proximity to the capital and their popularity among visitors. Therefore the car is often the most convenient way of travelling around the county. Those travelling from Dublin to the east of the county should take the N11 in the direction of Wexford. Meanwhile those travelling to the west of the county should take the N81.
Wicklow roads can vary greatly from modern motorways to rough mountain roads & petrol filling stations can, at times, be hard to find.
Wicklow doesn't have a public airport, but due to its proximity to the capital it can be easily reached from Dublin Airport, the largest airport in the country - see the Get in section of the Dublin article for additional information on flying to Dublin airport.
The most straightforward way to get to your destination in County Wicklow from Dublin Airport is to travel by the dark green 'Dublin Bus' airport shuttle service to Busarás (Dublin city's central bus station near Custom House Quay) and to take a connecting bus or train from there.
If you are travelling by car and you arrive at the sea port of Rosslare, Wicklow town is about a 1½ hour drive away. For ferry travellers who leave the car behind you can take public buses to Wicklow. Buses run on the Rosslare to Dublin route and serve Arklow, Wicklow & Bray. More information is available on the Bus Éireann website.
Those arriving at Dublin Port or Dún Laoghaire harbour from the UK should take the N11 road to reach the East of County Wicklow or the N81 to reach the West of the county. Likewise those travelling without a car can either get the train directly from Dublin(Connolly Station) or Dún Laoghaire station to reach Wicklow, Rathdrum, Bray or Arklow. Otherwise these towns & other destinations not served by trains can be reached by Bus Éireann coaches. Travellers are recommended to check the Irish Rain & Bus Éireann websites in advance to plan their route.
A coastal rail line serves Bray, Greystones, Kilcoole, Wicklow, Rathdrum and Arklow. However, services to anywhere but the first two are infrequent and overpriced. Visitors from elsewhere in the EU may be disappointed at the lack of connecting public transport services to anywhere within the mountains. A return ticket from Dublin’s Connolly station to Greystones town costs €8.90 and takes around 50 minutes. Timetables are available from the website of Irish Rail.
Travellers to County Wicklow will find the public bus service to be of much more use than the coastal train service, which avoids much of the mountainous areas which Wicklow is best known for.
Buses serve all major towns & many villages along the route. Kilmacanogue, Newtown Mount-Kennedy, Ashford, Wicklow and Arklow are served by the Bus Éireann commuter network, with hourly services north to Dublin and Bray, and south to Wexford, Waterford and Rosslare Harbour. This route is numbered #133. Alternatively less frequent buses serve Rathdrum & Avoca. It is not entirely uncommon for buses to arrive at a stop later than scheduled. A one-way ticket to or from Dublin costs around €8 and the journey time is just over an hour.
On the western side of the mountains, Blessington is served by the Bus Eireann #180 bus service from Dublin to Athy. Likewise Blessington, and to a lesser scale Ballymore Eustace and Ballyknockan, are also served by the conventional Dublin Bus (No. 65) service which operates fairly frequently throughout the day. Expect to pay a €4.40 fare from Eden Quay to Blessington, and it takes roughly an hour.
Travellers to Glendalough can avail of the privately operated St. Kevins Bus Service which operates between Dublin and Glendalough twice daily. See the Get in section of Glendalough for details.
- Monastic City — in Glendalough
- Powerscourt House & Gardens — just outside Enniskerry village
- Powerscourt Waterfall — Ireland's highest waterfall (near Enniskerry)
- Meeting of the Waters — between Rathdrum and Avoca
- Turlough Hill
- The Gaps — points on scenic routes across the Wicklow Mountains (see Glendalough for details)
- Loch Dan
- Avondale House — near Rathdrum (see Glendalough for details)
- Wicklow Gaol
- Bray Head
- The Big Sugarloaf
- Devil's Glen
A list of some of the more interesting and higher peaks to hike are:
- Lugnaquilla (3,018 ft)
- Mullaghcleevaun (2,785 ft)
- Tonelagee (2,681 ft -estimated from metre figure)
- Djouce (2,379 ft)
- Table Mountain (701m)
And for those looking for a 2 or 3 day walk.
- Walk the Wicklow Way. This extends from foothills of the Wicklow mountain in south County Dublin right through the main mountainous parts of Wicklow on down to the very south of the county.
Some excellent spots to eat:
- Roundwood Inn. Roundwood: venison and Irish stew.
- The Strawberry Tree. Aughrim: delicious & expensive.
- The Happy Pear. Greystones: delicious smoothies & healthy, hippy, organic cafe fare.
- Ashford Oriental. Ashford: Chinese & Thai.