The Glen of the Downs is a fine aul spot for a ramble.
Arguably one of the best-known forest walks in Wicklow, it’s a one of the quieter trails in the area, especially when compared to the likes of Ballinastoe Forest or Djouce Woods.
Once part of the 300 acre Bellevue Estate, the Glen of the Downs is situated between ancient Bronze Age Hillforts that were once the strongholds of Sitric Silkenbeard, the King of Dublin, and Uagaire, the King of Leinster.
Below, you’ll find info on the looped walk, the history of the area and what to look out for when you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Glen of the Downs
So, a visit to the Glen of the Downs can confuse some first time visitors, so take 30 seconds to scan the points below, first:
Glen of the Downs can be hard to find as it is located just off the N11 heading south before the Delgany exit (Exit 10). Once you pass the exit for Glenview (Exit 9) be on the lookout for the Glen of the Downs turnoff. The Glen is a 10-minute drive from Greystones, a 20-minute drive from Wicklow Town and a 20-minute drive from Bray.
The car park for the Glen of the Downs walk is located right off the N11 (here on Google Maps). It’s a sharp turn just off the dual carriageway, so it’s very easy to miss.
3. Once part of the Bellevue Estate
This Glen was once part of a 300 acre demesne known as Bellevue House. The government took over the part of the estate that is now known as The Glen of the Downs and opened it up to the public after the house fell to ruins in the 1950s.
4. The looped walk
There’s a nice 3.6km/1-hour looped forest walk at the Glen of the Downs that’s nice and easy-going. Info below.
About Glen of the Downs
The Glen of the Downs is situated between the ancient Bronze Age Hillforts of Coolagad and Downshill, both of which are around 3,000 years old.
These forts were once the strongholds of Sitric Silkenbeard, the King of Dublin, and Uagaire, the King of Leinster. The two kings clashed in the Battle of Delgany in 1022.
More recent history
In 1753, the 300 acre demesne that was then known as Ballydonagh was purchased by David La Touche, a wealthy banker from Dublin. He built what would become known as Bellevue House in 1754.
The government took over part of the estate in the 1950s and the area has been a nature reserve ever since. The area has one of the largest groves of Sessile oak trees in this part of the country.
The oaks, holly, woodrush and heather provide a home to at least 21 different species of birds including jays, treecreepers, wood warblers, and wrens.
The Glen of the Downs Loop
The Glen of the Downs Loop walk begins and ends from the trails main car park here on Google Maps.
You’ll find an information board in the car park but, if you miss it, don’t worry – this is one of the more straightforward walks in Wicklow.
Kicking it off
This 3.6km walk is an easy stroll through forest trails that can usually be done in runners but we recommend upgrading to hiking boots if there has been rain recently as the trail can get muddy.
The loop generally takes walkers around 1 hour and covers about 200m of gentle ascent. Beginning at the carpark, this walk is well signposted and easy to follow.
Noisy to begin with
The beginning of the walk can be noisy due to your proximity to the N11 but keep going and the sounds of the dual carriageway will give way to the sounds of babbling brooks and chirping birds.
There are multiple look out points along the walk with lovely views of the surrounding hills and Sugarloaf mountain.
Keep an eye out for the Octagon
One of the highlights of the walk is Octagon that was built by the La Touche family in 1766. The story goes that highwaymen were hanged at the Octagon during the 18th century.
If you cast your mind back, you’ll remember that we mentioned the Glen of the Downs was once part of the Bellevue Estate.
‘Bellevue’ is the French word for ‘Nice view’, and you’ll understand where it got its name when you see the views of the Great Sugarloaf from the Octagon.
Things to do near Glen of the Downs
One of the beauties of Glen of the Downs is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Wicklow.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Glen of the Downs!
1. Greystones (10-minute drive)
After your walk, head into Greystones for a bite to eat, a trip to the beach or to walk along the Greystones to Bray walk (note: the Greystones section of the walk is closed, so you’ll need to start it from the Bray side).
2. Djouce Wood (15-minute drive)
Djouce Wood is another beautiful woods with two walking trails suitable for most fitness levels. The Blue Loop is 4.5km and the Deerpark Loop is 9km.
3. Powerscourt Waterfall (10-minute drive)
Powerscourt Waterfall is the second highest waterfall in Ireland, cascading down from 121m. You’ll have to pay in but it’s an impressive sight, especially after heavy rain.
FAQs about Glen of the Downs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth visiting?’ to ‘What’s the story behind the Octagon?’.
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.
How long is Glen of the Downs walk?
The Glen of the Downs walk is a 3.6km looped trail that will take the best of 1-hour to complete depending on pace.
What makes the Glen of the Downs unique?
The Glen of the Downs is located between the ancient Bronze Age Hillforts of Coolagad and Downshill, both of which are around 3,000 years old. These forts were once the strongholds of Sitric Silkenbeard, the King of Dublin, and Uagaire, the King of Leinster.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.