The Wicklow Way (Slí Cualann Nua, "New Cuala Way") is a 131 km / 81 mile long-distance trail across the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland.
The Wicklow Way is a 131 km hiking trail along Wicklow Mountains. It's traditionally walked north to south over 5-7 days, from Marlay Park in Dublin through County Wicklow to Clonegal in County Carlow. It's so described here but walking it south to north puts the weather at your back and gives you a couple of days on gentle terrain before getting into more rugged country. Being so close to the city, it can also be done by a series of Sunday afternoon there-and-back strolls in any order you please. Much of the route is over firm trails in forest plantations, with boardwalks over the bogs, waymarked by a yellow "walking man." It's scenic but can feel busy with so many like-minded Sunday strollers, especially around touristy Glendalough. It's also used for mountain running competitions.
The Wicklow Mountains are granite, uplifted about 400 million years ago. They were later polished by glaciation into rounded tops, coated in heath and bog, with occasional deep U-shaped valleys. Most summits (and high points on the trail) are around 600 m. As the granite rose, it shouldered aside a layer of mica-schist, and the trail mostly follows the boundary between this and the granite. Schist fractures and laminates, so it forms sharper country which vegetation can better take root in. The east flank of the mountains has extensive forest plantations - mostly monotonous conifers, but these are gradually being replaced with mixed native trees. Further east is slate. All these rocks are impervious, so the mountains' 2000 mm annual rainfall has nowhere to go but into bogs and your boots until it cascades over waterfalls down into the lowlands. The southern section of the trail descends into fields and little farming villages - less rugged yet more away-from-it-all, as they're further from the city and the big tourist attractions.
Much of the trail is within Wicklow Mountains National Park, which preserves the area from an encrustation of weekend cottages. Check their park rules, eg on wild camping.
A reasonable level of fitness is needed but nothing outstanding, nor any technical mountaineering or climbing skills. But best assume it will rain, and go on raining.
You'll need a car, and maybe two, to have a pick-up at the end of a day's hike. The early sections from Dublin through Roundwood to Glendalough have accommodation, other amenities and public transport, but these are lacking further south. See individual town pages for options.
1 Marlay House to Knockree 21 km, ascent 600 m, 7 hours:
Head south across the bosky park, passing under M50 then up the Dublin hills. Ascend via Kilmashogue, Fairy Castle, Two Rock and Tibradden mountains then descend onto the Glencullen road at Ballybrack. Zag east then south (and see Enniskerry for Johnnie Fox's pub and other amenities nearby). The route then climbs Prince William's Seat (555 m) before descending into Knockree.
Pass west of Knockree Hill, then go through Crone Wood car park and ascend to the viewpoint over Powerscourt waterfall and estate. You cross the River Dargle then climb Djouce (775 m). Onwards to White Hill where there's a boardwalk to protect the blanket bog, then descend through Ballinastoe Woods onto the car park on R759. Follow the highway for 1 km before cutting onto a forest trail to reach Roundwood.
Start on R755 south through Annamoe, and after the junction for Wicklow branch onto the track over Paddock Hill. This easy section continues into Laragh and Glendalough - and allow a day off the trail to explore everything here.
Follow the very touristy trail to the Upper Lake and Poulanass waterfall. Here it's a steep ascent onto the ridge of Mullacor, where a boardwalk leads over the bog to Lugduff. Then it's a sharp descent into Glenmaclure.
5 Glenmaclure to Moyne: 21 km, ascent 550 m, 7 hours:
Climb through the forests of Slieve Maan onto the Military Road. You skirt Carrickashane then descend into the Ow River valley at Iron Bridge (Aghavannagh). Ascend through Ballyteigue Bridge, follow the valley between Ballygobban and Sheilstown Hill, and onto the lane into Moyne. This is the end of the mountain sections.
6 Moyne to Shillelagh: 21 km, ascent 500 m, 7 hours:
Skirt the base of Ballycumber and Coolafunshoge to reach R747, the Hacketstown-Tinahely road. This highway is busy, cut off onto the boreen passing Muskeagh Hill to Mullinacuff and Stranakelly cross roads. You're now 100 km out from Marlay Park and have earned a drink at Tallon's Pub, aka "The Dying Cow". Continue south 6 km, then you can either follow busy R725 to Shillelagh or take the track through Raheenakit Forest, then the lane via Ballard Cross to Shillelagh.
7 Shillelagh to Clonegal: 19 km, ascent 300 m, 6 hours:
The last stage is a lowland stroll through Raheenakit Forest into the broad valley of the Derry River. Its south bank is County Wexford, but stay on the north bank to cross Wicklow Bridge into 8 Clonegal in County Carlow.
There are no technical climbs or great altitudes involved, so it's standard precautions for northern hills where the weather can turn unpleasant at any time. Theft from parked cars is the main hazard.