Wicklow Mountains and Lough Tay

Day Trip From Dublin: Wicklow Mountain Tour

If you’re looking for the perfect day trip from Dublin, look no further than the nearby Wicklow Mountains. There are plenty of things to see and do here, like the monastic site of Glendalough or the beautiful mountain scenery. Wicklow is also closer to Dublin than some other day trip options like Northern Ireland or the Cliffs of Moher which require a lot of time in transport.

I did this day tour to Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains as part of this bus tour. For me, it wasn’t worth picking up a rental car for just a single day so going with a tour bus made sense. If you are driving, this is still a great rough sketch of a day itinerary you can use for planning your time in Wicklow.

The mountain scenery of Wicklow Mountains on the way to Glendalough. The mountain pass roads here are quite narrow and it can get quite busy as it is close to Dublin so it makes for a popular day tour.

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Wicklow Mountains Tour From Dublin

Wicklow and Glendalough make for the perfect short day trip from Dublin as they are only about an hour from the city. This means that instead of spending hours on the bus looking at the highway, you get to spend more time looking at the interesting stuff. I did this tour as part of of a car free itinerary to Ireland.

This day trip from Dublin to Wicklow Mountains was about 9 hours long. There are a lot of options for day trips to the Wicklow Mountains area, but the Wicklow tour I took is focused on the natural scenery and Glendalough. It’s also possible to find half-day tours if you have a shorter time or find tours with Kilkenny included. It’s well worth it to visit Kilkenny as it is a fantastic city. I was happy to have a day trip focused on the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough.

You can also easily do this as a self-drive tour if you have a rental car and just follow along with this day itinerary for Wicklow and Glendalough.

Sandycove Beach

The first stop on the day tour is Sandycove beach. It’s just a quick place to stop and look at the ocean and coastline. Sandycove beach is not very far from Dublin and is on the edge of a very cute town.

Sandycove beach is the first stop on one of the most popular day trips from Dublin, the Wicklow Mountains tour.

Avoca Handweavers

The first bathroom and snack break of the trip. Avoca Handweavers offers up a good selection of snacks and coffee. Indeed, they have really delicious doughnuts here. There is also a nice garden behind the building to explore.

They do also sell souvenirs and some wool items but do not wait until here to buy your woolen items. I actually found there was a better selection of wool items in other places, like the wool outlet near Blarney Castle or right in Dublin.

If you are driving yourself, this is when you can add on a visit to Powerscourt Gardens and waterfall. It wasn’t included in the bus trip I was on and I think it would make your day extremely long but this is where I would add it in to the schedule.

Lough Bray

After driving down some very narrow roads but through some beautiful scenery, the first stop in Wicklow Mountains National Park is Lough Bray, near Glencree. There is a small parking lot here and that really is one of the best places to get a view of the two lakes. The bus only stopped for a small photo session but there are also trails down to the upper lake that looks like a fun hike.

Lough Bray in Wicklow Mountains National Park. This lake is a great place to stop for views of this park located not far from Dublin in Ireland.

Sally Gap

After Lough Bray, it’s back on the bus for a short drive through fantastic scenery of Sally Gap. Sally Gap is a mountain pass in the Wicklow Mountains. The narrow and winding road offers a great opportunity to see the beautiful scenery.

Given how narrow the roads are here, I was glad to be a passenger that could just enjoy the sights rather than have to worry about oncoming traffic and staying on the road. While driving through this area, you will pass a very small stream. This is actually the source of the River Liffey, the river in Dublin.

In this area, you will be able to see places where peat was cut out of the hillside to be used as fuel. This is also an area that was used to film some of the fight scenes for the movie Braveheart as it was cheaper to film in Ireland instead of Scotland.

The rolling hills of Ireland in Wicklow Mountains National Park. In autumn, the hills turn a really beautiful golden copper color. The roads are narrow in Wicklow, so a bus tour is a great way to enjoy the scenery.

I did this trip during autumn and as you can see, the landscape has turned a beautiful mix of gold and coppers. It’s not the green you might expect from Ireland, but it’s definitely beautiful. If you get a chance to look closely, you can see the purple blooms from the heath and the yellow of gorse.

Purple and yellow flowers in Ireland that make up some of the scenery.

P.S. I Love You Bridge

I’m unsure of what this bridge’s name was before the movie PS I Love You. As you may have guessed, it was made famous from being one of the film locations for that movie. Film aside, the bridge is very cute and it’s a great place to stop to see the mountains around you.

The PS I Love You Bridge in Sally Gap, Ireland, is a popular place to stop on a day tour of Wicklow Mountains. It is not far from Dublin but the roads are quite narrow to drive.

Guinness Lake

The Guinness Lake, or Lough Tay, is on private land so you cannot walk down. Luckily, there is a fantastic view from above. It gets its nickname of the Guinness Lake for being vaguely shaped like a beer glass, the same rich brown colour as Guinness beer and a beach looking like the foam on top. In Lough Tay’s case, the colour comes from the peat in the soil. For hikers, there are public hikes that you can do above the lake.

Guinness Lake or Lough Tay in Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland. This lake got its name for its beach creating the look of a Guinness beer. It's one of the most popular stops on a day trip to Wicklow.

Lunch in Laragh

After lots of great sights in Wicklow Mountains National Park, it was time for a lunch break in Laragh. The lunch stop was at Lynham’s Hotel. The hotel serves up traditional style Irish pub food and is a great place to grab a quick pint of Guinness. There was plenty of time to have lunch as well as check out the cafe and a souvenir shop. You can skip lunch instead and walk to the nearby woolen mill, but there isn’t time to both eat lunch and walk.

Because it is such a packed schedule, if you are driving yourself, you may want to bring a packed lunch to save on time.


I was very excited to visit Glendalough. From photos, it looks like a beautiful place to visit. Glendalough is a monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. The bus driver gave a short tour around the ruins of Glendalough to give some historical context to what we were seeing. The ruins here really are interesting to explore around and offer up tons of photo opportunities.

Some of the ruins and grave markers at Glendalough in Ireland. A Wicklow Glendalough tour is the perfect way to experience this site.

For me, this was the weak point of the day tour. Because of people returning late to the bus at earlier stops, time at Glendalough was shorter than was planned.

After exploring the ruins and the round tower, we were given time to walk to the Upper Lake at Glendalough. This walk takes you through either a forested area or along a boardwalk and doesn’t take very long.

The round tower and gravestones at Glendalough, Ireland. Glendalough is only one hour from Dublin so it makes a fantastic day trip.

The scenery here is beautiful as you are in a valley with mountains around you. Aside from the short hike I did, there are several at Glendalough that I would love to do. It is definitely a place I would return on future trips to Ireland. Glendalough, despite being popular with tourists, still felt like a really peaceful area.

As this was the last stop of the day, the tour ended by the bus driver offering shots of Jameson Whiskey to everyone.

Boardwalk trail at Glendalough in Ireland. Glendalough is a popular day trip from Dublin and is a great place to experience the mountains close to Dublin.
The upper lake at Glendalough. It is just a short walk from the ruins at Glendalough monastic site.

Return to Dublin

From Glendalough, it is only a 1-hour drive back to Dublin. It was really the drive back that made me thankful to be on a bus tour. After a full day schedule, I napped on the way back to Dublin. The drop off point is right in the heart of Dublin so you are perfectly placed to head back to your hotel or head out for some dinner in Dublin.

Visiting the wicklow Mountains

I found a visit to the Wicklow Mountains to be such a different experience than visiting the mountains in Killarney National Park or Connemara near Galway. It was well worth experiencing the scenery here and Wicklow is the perfect day trip from Dublin to explore more corners of Ireland.

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  1. Glendalough was one of my favorite stops our on our trip through the Wicklow mountains, too!! We just DIYed our own road trip, so we didn’t have much context for what we looking at, but the entire area was really beautiful. I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time (very cold and windy), but when I got home and went through my photos, it was incredible how beautiful the entire region was. Your photos are beautiful, too. I think we need to go back!

    1. It’s too bad that you had cold and windy weather! At least you were able to get great photos and relive your experience 🙂 It really is a beautiful area of Ireland, and so conveniently close to Dublin too! I

  2. I did this tour on my first trip to Ireland and can’t recommend it enough! Thanks for letting me relive it through this post!

  3. We loved our time in Glendalough! I’m sorry that yours was abbreviated, but it looks like you got to see a lot of fun stuff that we missed as well. Pinning for my next trip to Ireland 🙂

    1. I was very happy to see Glendalough, I only wish I had more time to hike in the area there. I’m glad you found a few things to see on your next trip to Ireland, Wicklow is a beautiful area!

  4. The Wicklow mountains looks so, soooo beautiful! I feel like a single day would not be enough as I’d want to get close-up and hike through that scenery! The Guinness lake is gorgeous too.

    1. A single day was hardly enough but I was happy I could squeeze it into my trip. I think there are some really fantastic long hikes in the Wicklow Mountains and the scenery is so beautiful and kind of peaceful.

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