The brilliant Blessington Lakes are one of my favourite places to visit in Wicklow.
You’ll find Blessington Lakes tucked away just south of Dublin. Amazingly tranquil and showcasing stunning natural beauty, they make a fair contrast to the big city!
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do at Blessington Lakes in Wicklow to where to visit nearby.
Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Blessington Lakes in Wicklow
Although a visit to Blessington Lakes in Wicklow is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The Blessington Lakes are located in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin. They sit peacefully amid the foothills of the breathtaking Wicklow Mountains, just outside the town of Blessington.
2. Where to park
Since the lakes are so big, there are plenty of places you’ll find to park up briefly. However, there are two more common parking areas to accommodate a longer stay. In the town of Blessington, head to the Avon Rí resort car park. Alternatively, there’s a decent free car park at Baltyboys Bridge, with lakeside views over the water and surrounding mountains.
3. Things to do
You’ll find a plethora of things to do at Blessington Lakes. From enjoying the 26 km looped drive around the lake, to water sports such as rowing, there’s something for everyone! For me, I find it’s a tranquil place for an impromptu picnic on a warm day. It’s worth noting that swimming in the lake isn’t allowed.
About the Blessington Lakes
How they formed
While the lakes offer an incredible view of unspoiled natural beauty, it might come as a surprise to learn that they’re actually man-made. In fact, the lakes are a large reservoir, originally created in the 1930s.
At the time, Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, didn’t have adequate water supplies to meet the demands of the growing population. So, in a controversial move, the Poulaphouca Reservoir and hydroelectric station was built.
In the process, many communities and farms had to be abandoned, and hundreds of people relocated. However, the project was a success, and the reservoir still provides the bulk of Dublin’s water and electricity to this day. As a bonus, the lakes have allowed nature to reclaim the land, providing a stunning landscape, rich in wildlife.
We mentioned earlier that the construction of the reservoir led to the uprooting of several communities and farms. Well, there was also a town in the area, at the time home to around 70 families.
As the waters flooded in, the town became submerged, a hidden relic from the past — fortunately, the people had long since abandoned their homes there!
The town was called Ballinahown, and made a surprise appearance in the long, dry summer of 2018. As water levels dropped to new lows, remnants of the old village emerged, with staff sighting old buildings, farm machinery, houses, and bridges, all remarkably well-preserved by the water.
Things to do at the Blessington Lakes
One of the beauties of the Blessington Lakes in Wicklow is that they’re home to plenty to see and do.
Below, you’ll find things to do at the Lakes, like the mighty Blessington Greenway, to places to visit nearby, like Russborough House.
1. Walk (or cycle) the Blessington Greenway
The Blessington Greenway is a superb way to get close to the lakes and the surrounding nature. The 6.5 km route winds around the shores of the lake, before delving into woodlands, crossing through villages, and taking in an array of ancient sites along the way.
It’s a flat, well paved route, with sections of tarmac, boardwalk, and forest roads, making it ideal for both walking and cycling. The route starts in the town of Blessington and ends at Russborough House. Along the way, you’ll have amazing views over the lake, with mountains looming in the background.
2. Visit Russborough House
Dating back to the 1740s, the spectacular Russborough House is well worth checking out on any visit to Blessington Lakes. Outside, it boasts amazing architecture, with intricate stonework, majestic columns, and impressive statues.
Inside, the decor is just as awe-inspiring, with handcrafted furniture, lush carpets, intriguing tapestries, and an amazing mahogany staircase.
The house is open to the public, with guided or self-guided tours taking in all the best bits, as well as an array of hands-on exhibitions. The gardens are just as breathtaking as the house, and the hedge maze is great craic! All the while, you’ll enjoy impressive views over the lake and mountains.
3. Give kayaking a crack
If you’re looking to get a little closer to the water, kayaking is ideal! Don’t worry, if you’ve never done it before, you can do a beginner-friendly guided tour with the activity centre at the Avon.
Experienced guides will provide the basic training you need to operate your own kayak. Next they’ll take you out onto the water for an interesting lesson about the lake, including stories from the area.
During the paddle, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the mountains, villages, and, of course, the lake itself. If you feel like you’ve got the knack for kayaking, you can even do a fully certified course on the lake!
4. Whittle away an afternoon at the Avon
The Avon activity centre has something for everyone. Situated in Blessington, at the start of the Blessington Greenway, it’s ideally located by the lake. As a result, they offer a number of exciting water-based activities, as well as various other things to see and do.
From archery and air rifle shooting, to rock climbing and zip lining, or mountain biking to simply relaxing on the shores of the lake, you’ll find the hours whizzing by! They also offer team building and private group activities, fantastic if you’re travelling with friends and family.
Things to do near the Blessington Lakes in Wicklow
One of the beauties of the Blessington Lakes is that they’re a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Lakes (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Walks, walks and more walks
Wicklow is a great area for walking, and from Blessington Lakes, it’s not far to some of the best that the county has to offer. As a mountainous county, you’ll find many routes that take you to the various summits in the area, boasting incredible views. See our Wicklow walks and our Glendalough walks guides for more.
2. Wicklow Mountains National Park
Did we mention that Wicklow is mountainous? Well, there’s even a national park for them all! The park’s primary goal is to protect the natural beauty of the area and the wildlife that inhabits it. Spread over 20,000 hectares, there’s so much to take in that you could easily spend a week exploring! See our Wicklow Mountains National Park guide for things to do.
3. Lough Tay
If one lake isn’t enough, head to Lough Tay, a beautiful mountain lough surrounded by ruggedly peaceful landscapes. You can catch a fantastic glimpse of the loch from the road, though you can’t get close as it’s privately owned. But the views from the viewpoint are fantastic, and it’s a peaceful spot for a little contemplation. See our guide to the Sally Gap Drive for more.
FAQs about visiting the Lakes in Blessington
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what there is to do at the lakes to what to see nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do at the Blessington Lakes?
You can cycle or walk the Greenway, hit the water at the Avon or explore the area on one of the walks.
Is there a village under the Blessington Lakes?
Yes – the town was called Ballinahown, and it made a surprise appearance in the long, dry summer of 2018.
Can you swim in the Blessington Lakes?
No! Please respect the many signs in the area indicating that you should not swim in the lakes.