48 Hours in Wicklow

It's easy to see why this setting is perfect for a short break – with majestic peaks sweeping down to the coast, secluded forest walks, and stunning country estates, you'll discover the ideal retreat. Any time of year, Wicklow offers something unique with its ever-beautiful backdrop.
A couple walking in Wicklow
Boats in Greystones Harbour with Bray Head in the distance
Powerscourt Gardens - view of Triton Fountain
Left: A couple walking in Wicklow | Middle: Boats in Greystones Harbour with Bray Head in the distance | Right: The Triton Fountain in Powerscourt Gardens

Exploring East Wicklow

A strikingly scenic county which attracts dedicated hill walkers, keen cyclists – and those who just like a quiet stroll – Wicklow provides plenty of pursuits for active types. Hug the coastline on the two-to-four-hour Bray to Greystones Walk: first, sit back and enjoy the views as you take the DART light railway to Bray. Upon arrival, from the station head for the seafront – and begin your walk on the Victorian promenade. It's soon time for the climb up Bray Head, where you'll be rewarded for your efforts with sweeping views of the Irish Sea, Wicklow Mountains and Bray itself. This well-maintained 7km cliff walk follows a rail line which opened in 1856 – designed by renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it was referred to as 'Brunel’s Folly' due to the high cost of its upkeep.

After an energising hike along the cliff tops, you've definitely earned a treat – refuel with some hearty, healthy fare at the Happy Pear in Greystones or delicious coffee and tempting baked goods at the Firehouse Bakery in nearby Delgany.

For a more easygoing experience, a visit to the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry is a must. Many great houses have been sited in Wicklow's stunning surroundings – it's easy to see why when you tour the Estate's vast grounds, wandering through 47 acres of gorgeous gardens. When you've investigated all that the great outdoors has to offer, return to Powerscourt House itself to learn about its history as the Wingfield family home, browse the shops, or take a break at the Avoca Terrace Café. While you're in the area, visit Ireland's highest waterfall located nearby. An impressive sight in full flow, it's the perfect spot for a picnic on fine days. There's also a coffee kiosk to help maintain your energy levels – and a playground to keep younger kids entertained.

Perhaps not quite as well known, there's another big house beauty to appreciate in East Wicklow – nestled at the foot of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain, you'll find Killruddery House. Killruddery showcases unique 17th-century gardens filled with beautiful planting, wooded areas, water features, an orangery and distinctive outdoor rooms. The lovingly-restored Walled Garden supplies fresh produce for the Tea Rooms where you can enjoy tea, coffee, savoury and sweet bites. Don't miss an opportunity to tour the house – like so many of Ireland's great houses, Killruddery has fascinating stories of its own to tell.

Killruddery House
Mount Usher Gardens
Wicklow Gaol
Left: Killruddery House | Middle: Mount Usher Gardens | Right: Wicklow Gaol

Continuing down the coast

Heading south, even more garden glories await: at magnificent Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, you'll find a variety of plant species and trees including magnolias, camellias and ornamental shrubs – while just down the road, the National Botanic Gardens in Kilmacurragh feature a spectacular collection of rhododendrons that flower from early springtime, putting on a riotous display of rainbow colours.
Once you've had your fill (for now) of grand estates, lush landscapes and country air, head to Wicklow Town – a busy county hub where you'll find many appealing options for lunch or dinner. There's much to see here, but a visit to atmospheric Wicklow Gaol is top of the list while you're in the town – though you might need to be brave to take a tour of this foreboding place, filled with chilling tales of its dark history!

After a jaunt into town, it's back out into the captivating countryside. An area of breathtaking beauty and stillness, Glendalough is surpassingly serene, tailor-made for contemplation – so much so that it served as a monastic site from as early as the 6th century. The Glendalough Visitor Centre offers an exhibition, audiovisual shows, and guided tours – you can also enjoy hikes suitable for all levels, from a brief meander amongst the monastery ruins to a demanding trek through the valley and around the lakes. The challenging 10km Spink Loop walk in particular – with its excellent waymarking and well looked-after trail – is a visitor favourite (set aside a good four to five hours for this journey).

To get a taste of country life in Wicklow, you can't do much better than Avoca. One of the prettiest villages in Ireland, its known for the Meeting of the Waters, where the Avonmore and Avonbeg join together to become the River Avoca. And where there's running water, there's mills – here you'll also find the original Avoca Handweavers. Featuring a large store and café, there's a working hand weaving mill on site as well. Dating from 1723, it's said to be Ireland’s oldest working mill (one of the world’s oldest, in fact).

Apart from its fascinating history and beautiful handcrafts, Avoca Handweavers is also great for grabbing a bite – with locally sourced, delicious food on offer. Though should you fancy a pub for your grub, just a stone's throw away in Redcross, seek out Mickey Finn's for a tasty feed. Whatever you're in the mood for when the hunger or thirst is upon you – there are so many alternatives in Wicklow you won't be short of places to replenish before moving on.
Handcrafted goods at Avoca Handweavers
Sally Gap
Russborough House
Left: Handcrafted goods at Avoca Handweavers | Middle: Sally Gap | Right: Russborough House

Heading westward

Take in the Wicklow mountain views with a scenic drive along the Sally Gap surrounded by blanket bog and craggy vistas. One of two east-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains, the Sally Gap is a crossroads – leading North to Dublin, West to Blessington, South to Glendalough or East to Roundwood. Also known as Military Road, it was built by the British army in an attempt to flush out rebels after the 1798 rebellion. Highlights include Glencree Valley, Lough Tay (also known as the Guinness Lake), Lough Bray, Kippure Estate and Glenmacnass Waterfall. When you're ready for refreshment, a lovely lunch can be had at the Roundwood Inn (in Roundwood) – or check out what's on the menu in other charming villages like Laragh and Enniskerry.

Feeling particularly fit and energetic? Take on the test of Lugnaquilla (or Lug as it’s known locally), the highest mountain in Wicklow at 925m – sometimes referred to as a gentle mountain with a mean streak! One for experienced mountain trekkers, depending upon which route you choose this 10-16km climb will take between five and eight hours. There are no routes marked on this exposed mountain trail, and navigation can be especially tricky if poor weather sets in (as it often can). Once you do put in the work, panoramic views clear across to the Blessington Lakes and neighbouring County Kildare await at the top – along with a well-earned sense of accomplishment.

Having witnessed so many of Mother Nature's masterpieces, in Blessington you can admire beauty of a different kind – Russborough House and Parklands is an 18th-century Palladian architectural gem housing one of the most impressive art collections in Ireland. This marvellous country mansion was built between 1741 and 1755, and features interiors with ornate ceiling plasterwork by the acclaimed Lafranchini brothers. See all of this opulence for yourself on a guided tour of the house – and while you're at it, make your visit to the Garden County complete with one more superb outdoor space, by touring the restored walled garden.

What To Do In Wicklow


With so much to experience in Wicklow, you'll never be able to enjoy it all in just two days.
Enjoy your escape in Ireland’s Ancient East!

For more attractions and activities
check out the See & Do section