Handpicked selection of the best things to do in Wicklow, stunning county in the east of Ireland with gorgeous hikes, historical sites, towns and much more!
County Wicklow lies in the east of Ireland, along the coast to the immediate South of Dublin. It is a wonderful part of the country, with a landscape so pristine it got the area the nickname ‘the Garden of Ireland’. It is that pretty!
There are many things to do in Wicklow for visitors on an Irish road trip and locals looking for fun days out or a weekend away
We know Wicklow well. My husband is from there and since we live in Dublin, it is one of the places we most often visit at weekends and days off.
This is our selection of the best things to do in Wicklow!
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Wicklow, Ireland
Visit the monastic site of Glendalough
I am going to start with the most famous site in Wicklow, the monastic site of Glendalough (Pronounced: glen -da – lock), one of my favorite places in the whole of Ireland.
Set amidst the lovely Wicklow mountains, close to the shores of twin mountain lakes, Glendalough is a small enough site with remains dating back to the VI century, consisting of a round tower, cemetery and small buildings.
It is a lovely place to explore and an easy one to enjoy even if you are not into history.
The natural setting of the area makes the ruins exceptionally atmospheric and the pleasant pathways around the lakes make this a great place to mix sightseeing and enjoying the beautiful Irish outdoors.
Glendalough is a popular day trip from Dublin: you can reach it by car or join one of the many organized tours from the city. Have a look at options and costs here.
Good to know: the site gets very busy especially at weekends and during Easter and Summer holidays and parking can be a problem. Come early to gain entrance or, if you want to tap into the more mystical side of the place, go on a rainy day: you may get a little wet but you will have the site mostly to yourself and the atmosphere, when it sizzle, is truly magical here!
Catch a view of the Guinness Lake
Wicklow hasn’t got the wild high cliffs the west of Ireland is famous for however, it makes up for this with stunning mountains views.
One of the best of all is the one above Lough Tay, aka the Guinness Lake.
The lake takes its name from a peculiarity of its colors: dark waters and white shores, which make it look, you guessed it, like a pint of Guinness!
You can reach Lough Tay by car, following the Military Road across the mountains (follow for Glencree and then the Sally Gap)
Take a family hike to Lough Dan
The Wicklow Mountains offer very many hiking opportunities but my personal favorite is the path to Lough Dan, suitable for most levels of fitness.
The walk is along a paved road for the first part and then an easy-on-the-foot country path and leads you to a gorgeous, secluded lake: Lough Dan (you can read our full description of the Lough Dan walk here).
There is nothing here, no cafe, no facilities and this is what makes this place so beautiful. Come here on a sunny day and bring a picnic: it’s pure bliss!
Need to know: the beginning of the hike is downhill and on the way back, that hill is steep! Take your time and if you have young kids, avoid a stroller: they are awfully hard to push here!
Visit Powerscourt House and Garden
If you prefer manicured, elegant nature to wild mountain scenery, then you should not miss the wonderful Powerscourt Gardens, an elegant estate regularly featured as one of the most beautiful in the world.
Powerscourt is a large estate with wonderful views over the Mountains and elegant landscaping. Not to be missed are the Italian gardens, the most famous of all, but also the Japanese ones, which you reach venturing farther down into the estate.
A nice cafe and craft shop make the visit even more pleasurable and recently two additional attractions have open here: the Cool Planet Experience (see below), which is an interactive exhibition about climate change that is great for all ages, and the Powerscourt Distillery, that offers tours and tastings.
Powerscourt is one of the most famous Wicklow attractions and many day tours reach it from Dublin. This one allows you to see both Powerscourt and Glendalough on the same day and is excellent as a first trip, when jet lag makes driving unsafe.
Visit the Cool Planet Experience
Within Powerscourt estate but with a separate entrance, there is the Cool Planet Experience, a wonderful hand-on exhibition teaching children and adults about climate change and action we can all take to tackle it.
The experience is suitable for primary school children and tweens but you can bring younger siblings along too. If you do, just be aware that the very first room, showing a 360 degrees video, might be a little intense and loud for very young kids. The rest of the exhibition poses no problems.
Climb to the very top of the Sugar Loaf
The Sugarloaf is one of the most distinctive mountains in Wicklow, characterized by a pointy top towering above the surrounding area.
Its position not far from the coast means that climbing to its top will regal you wonderful views not just on the Wicklow mountains but also the sea.
The climb is steep yet easy: the only tricky point is at the very top, when you need to use both hands and feet to climb up the stony top (nothing too hards, we did it with the kids but elderly walkers may find this bit difficult).
Good to know. This is a lovely hike for beginners. The tops of the Sugar Loaf is one of the most beautiful places in Wicklow, with an expansive, serene view that stretches across the green countryside all the way to the coast.
Go to the beach
Wicklow has lovely sandy beaches, perfect for a sunny afternoon. Two we love are the Silver Strand, where on a quiet day you may even spot seals, and Brittas Bay, which is a gorgeous stretch of sand super popular with locals.
On a hot sunny day, you’ll forget you are in Ireland, with all the sunbathing happening here!
Take the coastal walk between Bray and Greystones
Bray and Greystones are two coastal towns in County Wicklow connected by an easy and beautiful coastal walk. the walk is easy and offers gorgeous views over the bay.
Fun fact: you walk above the train tracks so you occasionally see the DART ‘darting’ (sorry…) under you – an easy distraction for kids.
Treat yourself to a romantic break in Brooklodge hotel
One of the things I love the most about Wicklow is how romantic it is.
The pristine landscapes and its remote yet accessible nature make the country the perfect backdrop for a couple’s weekend away and secluded elegant hotels are the cherry on top.
Our favorite is Brooklodge at Macreddin Village, a lovely mountain hotel with nice restaurants and a fabulous spa on site.
You can check prices, rooms and offers here
Take the kids to Killruddery House
Wicklow is full of family attractions and one of the most beautiful is the large Killruddery House, a beautiful estate and farm with a large kids’ playground, high rope / ziplining tree adventure course and lovely tea houses.
This is one of out kids favourite places in Ireland and a wonderful place for a family day out near Dublin or a quieter day when visiting Ireland with kids.
You can read our full review of Killruddery House here.
Explore the tree trail in Parnell’s estate
Wicklow is also the country with the old house of Parnell: Avondale House.
This estate is now open to the public and it is lovely: it is worth visiting for the small museum, its fantastic fragrant arboretum and, if you have kids, the large spaces and a fun playground.
Spend a day in Russborough House
Russborough House is a wonderful Palladian Villa in Blessington, Co Wicklow, perfect for architecture lovers and families
The Villa itself is fantastic both inside and out (take the tour of its interiors if you love architecture and elegant decor) and the estate offers several opportunities for entertaining kids and adults.
The main courtyard has nice Irish craft shops, perfect for a special gift or to bring home a precious handmade piece of Ireland and the main play area has a playground and maze for kids.
Something special: Russboroigh house hosts a birds of prey center and organizes regular demonstrations and falcon walks!
Get Visit the world-famous Mount Usher Gardens
If you love gardens, then you must not miss the wonderful Mount Usher Gardens, in Ashford, one of the most famous gardens in Ireland and one of the most exquisite examples of Robinsonian style garden in the world.
The gardens are wonderful and as different from Powerscourt Gardens mentioned above as it gets.
In reaction to the manicured style of Victorian gardens so popular in the 19th century, Mount Usher gardens have a much more natural layout, which makes them strike a delicate balance between serene manicured space and natural wonder.
They are one of the best places to visit in Wicklow and one of our favorite Wicklow attractions of all.
Wicklow has many areas with dark sky that make looking at the starts and absolute delight. You can do it on your own, or you can join one of the organized experiences on offer, often including the use of a free telescope and explanations. Astronomy Ireland and Galactic Wicklow are two good sites to look for the best event for you.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of the best things to do in Wicklow and the best Wicklow attractions and it helped you plan your Irish trip. Happy travel planning!