Outdoor adventures in Wicklow

Outdoor adventures in Wicklow

by Jessica Zen 
Stripes Europe

If you’ve been itching to get outside and roam in the great outdoors, County Wicklow in Ireland is the place for you. Located south of Dublin on the east coast, Wicklow is known for its dramatic beauty due to the towering Wicklow Mountains and coastline proximity. It’s called the “Garden of Ireland,” and for good reason; this county is so lush, green and peaceful that it is sure to delight the harshest of critics. Lace up your hiking boots and great ready to explore everything Wicklow County has to offer. 

One of the best places to spend the day in Wicklow is in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It is the largest of six national parks and covers roughly 54,000 acres. Here you’ll find Glendalough valley, home to an early medieval monastic settlement dating back to the 6th century. It was founded by St. Kevin and has two surrounding lakes. The settlement is now in ruins and includes several churches and a round tower. However, the arched granite gateway into the monastic settlement is intact and the last of its kind in Ireland. You can wander around the ruins or hike up one of the surrounding mountains for more of a challenge. There are also modern remains of lead mines in the valley just a quick 30-minute walk away. 

Another great way to pass some time in the park is to take a walk on the Wicklow Way, a self-guided trail that goes on for just over 81 miles. To complete the entire trail takes about seven days, but you can just do part of it that is located within the park.  

For better views of the coast, wander along the Bray to Greystones coastal walk. It hugs the coast the entire way and offers incredible views. The path is well maintained and offers a train at the end to return you to your starting point. It takes around two and a half hours to complete this walk. On the way you might just see dolphins, sharks or black harbor porpoises in the waters below! There’s no food or drinks on the trail itself, but at the start or finish there will be plenty of options to choose from. 

If you want to get closer to the water, head to Brittas Bay. This beach is one of the best on the east coast and offers three miles of powdery sand and sand dunes. It is said that this is where St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, landed when he first arrived in the country. Take a walk through the sand and admire the beautiful surroundings in this little slice of heaven. 

Though part of this adventure may be inside, you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit the Powerscourt Estate, House & Gardens. With 800 years of history surrounding you, you’ll likely be dazzled by this establishment. Here you’ll find a once medieval castle turned into a grand mansion in the 1740s. Inside you’ll see 18th-century antiques and the most delightful little cafe where you can enjoy a coffee while admiring the grounds. The gardens here are over 47 acres and have been featured as one of the top three most beautiful gardens in National Geographic. Powerscourt is also home to Ireland’s tallest waterfall, perched in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. The waterfall is 397 feet tall and is a haven for the Sika deer and the Irish red squirrel. Drive right to the location and enjoy a picnic along one of the trails. 

If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary outdoor experience, Victor’s Way Indian Sculpture Park is it. This sculpture park is for adults only (ages approximately 28 - 65) that need some time alone to think and contemplate. Leave your kids and cell phone with someone else. Here you’ll have the chance to reflect, walk and meditate. All of the sculptures were imported from India. There are seven major and 37 minor black granite sculptures, and the park has taken 25 years to complete so far. The park covers 20 acres and the contemplation path is just over a mile long. 

If you think I’ve exhausted the outdoor activities in County Wicklow, you would be wrong! This is just the tip of the iceberg in this incredible outdoor paradise. Pick a path, or five, to wander down and enjoy the clean, fresh air as you discover valleys, peaks, lakes, streams, forests and all the other amazing things Mother Nature has to offer in this area. A word of advice: pack sturdy shoes!

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