The Dublin to Wicklow 1-Day Road Trip Guide (Mountains, Prisons & Breweries)

the spin loop in glendalough
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Wicklow is a county that I’ve been visiting (and loving) for a long long time.

A stone’s throw from Dublin, Wicklow offers ample adventure opportunities to anyone that’s looking to escape from the city and dive head-first into a wild, mountainous landscape.

Today, we’re on a 1-day Dublin to Wicklow road trip that packs in everything from mountains and lakes to a brewery and a prison.

About the There-And-Back-In-A-Day Series: I want to help Dubliners, and people living in Dublin, who think they need to take time off work to explore Ireland, to discover our island in bite-sized chunks. Check out our Dublin to Kilkenny 1-day guide here.

The Dublin to Wicklow 1-day Road Trip: First up – a Detailed Itinerary

Get to bed early the night before and fuel up with a decent breakfast on the morning of the trip.

The itinerary for the day
    • Leave Dublin at 6:30, arrive at the Glendalough Visitor Centre at 7:30
    • Ramble along the Spinc Loop – 7:30 to 11:30
    • Roundwood for a post-hike feed – 11:45 to 12:45
    • Admiring the view at Lough Tay – 13:00 to 13:30
    • Spinning along the Sally Gap – 13:30 to 14:30
    • Having a gander at the Wicklow Gaol – 15:10 to 16:20
    • A brewery and a bite to eat – 17:40 – 19:20
    • Home – 20:20

First things first – getting your 💩 together

We need to make the most out of the morning, so you’ll need to set your alarm for 06:00 and get up and on the road for 06:30.

Get your clothes ready the evening before (hiking boots and rain gear) and have a decent breakfast before you leave the house.

You should also bring some water and snacks for the hike.

Getting from Dublin to Wicklow

Getting to Wicklow from Dublin is a breeze.

  • You need to get onto the M50 heading southbound
  • Stay on it until it merges into the M11
  • Keep going and it’ll become the N11
  • Take the N11/R755 exit toward Dublin/Roundwood/Glendalough

After that, you just need to follow the signs for Glendalough.

Here’s the route on Google Maps below, or you can pop it into AA Route planner.

Stop #1 – Gallivanting around Glendalough

Dublin to the Glendalough Visitor Centre – 1-hour drive (leave at 6:30, arrive for 7:30)

We’re going to park at the Glendalough Visitor Centre as parking is free. If you can’t get parking here, you can part at the Upper Lake Car Park and fork out €4 for the pleasure.

We’re going to kick the day off with a reasonably moderate hike that I’ve done many times over the past few years.

The Glendalough Spinc Loop

The Spinc Loop is challenging enough to give you a good workout, but not too strenuous in that you can still chat away and have a laugh with friends as you climb.

The hike kicks-off at the Upper Lake carpark and follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley.

the spin loop in glendalough
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

From here, climb the steep wooden steps to the top of the boardwalk that runs along the top of The Spinc.

This path is around 500m and it takes you up to a section of the boardwalk that overlooks the Upper Lake.

Here’s a look at some of what you can expect.

This is a gorgeous walk and the views that you’ll be treated to throughout are superb. Get a lungful of mountain air and bask in the brilliance of the Wicklow Mountains.

I’ve done this in 3 and a half hours a couple of times, but take it at your own pace.

Stop #2 – A big aul feed in Roundwood

Glendalough Visitor Centre to Roundwood – 11-minute drive (spend up to 4 hours in Glendalough and arrive at Roundwood for 11:45)

At this stage, you’ll be hankering for a post-hike feed.

We’re going to take the short spin to Roundwood and head straight for the Coach House.

the coach house wicklow
Photo via the Coach House

Fuel up and rest the legs for an hour.

If you’re here in the winter, you’ll be able to warm-up your bones by an enormous open fire.

Stop #3 – Having the lols (can’t believe I just typed that) at Lough Tay

Roundwood to Lough Tay – 11-minute drive (if you spend 60 minutes eating and chilling, you’ll arrive at Lough Tay for 12:45)

lough tay in wicklow
Photo by Chris Hill

Lough Tay is easily one of my favourite places in Ireland.

Mainly because it’s a short drive from Dublin and you’ll have the whole place to yourself the majority of the times that you visit (basing this on the past 4 times that I’ve been).

lough tay wicklow
Photo © the Irish Road Trip

As you drive towards Lough Tay from Roundwood, you’ll eventually come to a little makeshift car park on the right where you can park the car.

Cross the road and walk down the grassy hill until you’re treated to the incredible view above.

Stop #4 – Spinning along the Sally Gap

So, this is a looped drive rather than a stop. Start it at around 13:30 and head in the direction of Glenmacnass Waterfall and then Laragh)

I did this drive several times over the past 12 months, and many times over the years, and it never fails to disappoint.

Here’s how this looks on a map.

The vast quiet landscape that engulfs you as you chug along the Sally Gap Drive has the knack of making you feel like you’re the only person left on earth.

Watch the video below from pixel.flights and you’ll see what I mean.

You’re driving along smooth bendy roads that hug the side of mountains one minute and passing along tarmac surrounded by towering trees (keep an eye out for trees donning Christmas decorations) the next.

Take your time with this drive.

Jump out of the car when the feeling takes you. And gulp down as much of that fresh mountain air that your lungs allow.

Stop #3 – Having a Wander Around the Wicklow Gaol

Laragh to the Wicklow Gaol – 30-minute drive (leave Laragh at 14:30, arrive at the Gaol for 15:00)

Our third stop of the day takes us to the Wicklow Gaol to experience what prison life was like for its 18th-century inmates.

the wicklow gaol tour
Photo via the Wicklow Gaol

We’re going to join the interactive tour that takes visitors through the rich history of the prison and its prisoners, some of whom were participants in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

the Wicklow Gaol prison
Photo via the Wicklow Gaol

Wicklow Gaol’s original dungeon opened recently for the first time in over 100 years.

Those who add this stop to their road trip will experience first-hand the sights and sounds of harsh life in the dungeon.

If you can’t squeeze this into your trip (and if you fancy a scare), they also run a Night Tour for ‘the brave and curious’ where you can join a night-time paranormal investigation.

I’d shit bricks on that so I’m sticking to the day-time tour…

Stop #4 – A Feed and a Pint at the Wicklow Brewery

The Wicklow Gaol to the Wicklow Brewery – 20-minute drive (leave the gaol at 16:00, arrive at the brewery for 16:20)

Our next stop of the day is Mickey Finn’s Pub in Redcross – home to the Wicklow Brewery and the insanely cosy little snug below 😍😍

the wicklow brewery tour
Photo © the Irish Road Trip

For transparency, I was given a free tour of this brewery recently. Trust me, though, if it was crap I’d tell you it was crap. This is worth a visit.

Aside from the fact that it involves doing something with hops, I know very little about (and have very little interest in) the whole brewing beer process, so I was a little wary about this tour.

wicklow brewery tour review
Photo © the Irish Road Trip

However, when I arrived and was greeted by the tour guide, I knew this wasn’t going to be a tour where I’d struggle to pay attention.

The tour was good craic, personal and finished with a decent sampling of the beers on offer.

mickey finns pub wicklow
Photo © the Irish Road Trip

Hopefully, it goes without saying that if you visit the brewery, you shouldn’t drink and drive!

We’re going to round the day off with a bite to eat in the pub and a coffee (if you can grab a seat) in the cosy little snug area.

Stop #6 – Home

You’re about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Dublin.

When you’re ready to rock, hit the road and head on home after a packed day of adventure, history, beer and fooooood.

And that’s a wrap

Did you find this guide useful? I’m constantly looking for feedback in order to make these guides as useful as physically possible – let me know in the comments below!

And that's a wrap.
Would you be tempted to give the above a bash? I’d love to hear any questions you have – so please do lash a comment into the section below if there’s anything you need more info on!