Quite unusually for a capital city, Dublin has an area of natural beauty – the Wicklow Mountains – right on the doorstep. The most visited attraction of this picturesque region is Glendalough – a threefold attraction consisting of a monastic site, visitor centre and two lakes.
The monastic site is the impressive set of ruins of a 6th century monastery complete with an distinct round tower, cemetery and chapels. On the spectrum of Ireland’s abundant pile-of-rocks attractions this ranks right near the top of those worth seeing. The intactness of the buildings and the backdrop of the lake and mountains give great photo opportunities. As always, if you want to actually learn about what you’re seeing that the inexpensive visitor centre is good for a gander but otherwise just enjoy your surroundings.
The Irish know by experience to take advantage of any good weather and the Dubliners stream out of the city at the slightest glimmer of that rarely seen ball of raging fire in the sky. Top these crowds off with a cavalcade of coach tours all with Glendalough at the top on their itinerary and it can get pretty busy up here on weekends. The car parks fill up pretty early and it’s a fight for free places from then on. On a weekday morning the whole area can be a welcoming place of peace and solitude and there's enough area to fan the crowds out. There are a couple of buses per day that run from Dublin but not nearly regularly enough.
The best way to experience Glendalough, if you’re up to it and have the time, is one of the nine scenic walks. To experience the variety of this area, the 8 kilometre (5 mile) white trail is a good pick. It winds alongside Lower Glendalough and continues into the heath covered Glenealo Valley where the air is filled with the chilling sound of braying deer. The walk then gets interesting as it loops up onto a hilltop boardwalk giving you fantastic panoramic views far across the Wicklow Mountains. You then finish with a ridiculous six hundred step descent back to the start. If you don’t want to die before you’ve barely got started, we recommend that you do this walk in an anti-clockwise steps-last direction.