Right on Dublin's doorstep is the beautiful Wicklow Mountains National Park where you'll see arguably the east's finest scenery. Within an hour of the buzzing capital city there is the peaceful, multi-coloured undulating mountains, whose lofty highlights includes grand houses, remote monastic ruins and great walking country.
Wicklow's scenery is anything except boring. The yellow gorse and purple heather of summer, multi-coloured trees of the area's many forests in autumn and dustings of snow in winter make this an all-round destination. The stunning Wicklow scenery makes the journey just as important as the destination as winding roads cut through forest after forest and viewing points at Sally's Gap and Wicklow Gap give framed snapshots of Wicklow with miles of greenery stretching out from these elevated positions.
A great place to start is Glendalough - one of our favourite places in Ireland. Packed in to this scenic spot is two lakes and an 8th century monastic site which offers one of the best examples of an Irish round tower. On the forested hills above the Upper Glendalough, the largest lake, a range of moderate walks traverse hilltop ridges that offer fantastic views across County Wicklow and out onto the Irish Sea. Admittedly, Glendalough is the busiest and most touristy location in Wicklow but the county also offers the less visited Lough Tay which is just as beautiful.
For a more genteel introduction to Ireland there's Powerscourt House and Gardens. This is a truly outstanding example of when Victorians with boatloads of money meet nature. Powerscourt offers an impressive Palladian house, eclectic and extensive manicured gardens and a nice centrepiece of a fountain to tie it all together. This is definitely a recommended stately home experience.
One of our few issues with Ireland in general, beyond a real lack of good Azerbaijani restaurants, is the paucity of public rights of way allowing you to properly get out into the countryside on foot. It's rare to find off route paths cutting through farmland as you would all over the UK. Instead it's left to greenways and signposted footpaths maintained by government bodies. Wicklow has the Wicklow Way which is one of the oldest and least sanitised of these. Many, many miles of mountain trails extend through some of the most remote parts of Wicklow and makes for some of the best hiking routes in Ireland.
The Wicklow Mountains are also bordered by a lovely stretch of coastline extending down from Dublin. Connected to Dublin on the DART light rail line is the pretty coastal village of Greystones and then Bray which offers more classic seaside delights and a number of hotel options.
In the middle of the region Avoca exudes a one-horse-town appeal and offers a great opportunity of a quiet getaway so close to the busy capital city. In the village is the Avoca Handweavers, a mecca for super expensive but high quality clothing, blankets and the like. Not too far away is the Wicklow Brewery, a Disneylandesque brewing complex complete with tours, regular live music and dancing and glamping. There are no hotels but a number good of airbnbs and guesthouses are in the area.
Although tempting to gravitate to the county town based on the idea that there might be more going on, it has to be admitted that Wicklow Town is a bit of a meh place. Aside from a few pubs and restaurants and the rainy day attraction of Wicklow Gaol there's not too many reasons to frequent the town.
Quite unusually for Ireland a railway line goes straight through the Wicklow Mountains and connects Wexford in the very south east to Dublin with stops at Arklow and Wicklow Town. It's a bit of a beauty too.