Glendalough Upper Lake is one of the stand-out landmarks in Wicklow.
Located a short ramble from the Upper Car Park, the Upper Lake is 30 metres deep at its deepest point.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from viewing points and parking to what to look out for while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Glendalough Upper Lake
Although a visit to the Upper Lake in Glendalough is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Glendalough Upper Lake is located about 8 minutes outside of the village of Laragh in County Wicklow. The lake is part of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
2. Getting here + parking
The Upper Lake Car Park is located just a few minutes walk from the lake. It cost €4 to park there for the day but be aware that it fills up quickly on sunny days. You can also take St Kevin’s Bus from Dublin to Glendalough. The bus drops you off at Glendalough Visitor Centre which is just a 20 minute walk away from the Upper Lake.
3. How it was formed
Glendalough Upper Lake was formed during the last Ice Age when glaciers carved out Glendalough Valley. The Ice Age ended, the glaciers melted and ta da! The lake was formed. Initially, the two lakes were one large lake but sediment buildup between the two of them created two separate lakes.
4. Several ways to see it
There are a couple of different vantage points to take in views of this beautiful lake ranging from hikes up the surrounding hills to walks along the lakeshore. The view may change from every vantage point, but the quality of the view does not (more info below).
About Glendalough Upper Lake
Glendalough Lake is a glacial lake from the last Ice Age. The glacier that carved out the valley and lake bed left a moraine across the valley mouth near the Monastic City.
Poulanass River, which cascades down into the valley via Poulanass Waterfall, slowly built up sediment between the two lakes, turning what was originally one long lake into the Upper and Lower lakes.
The Upper Lake in Glendalough has been attracting visitors for centuries. St. Kevin first visited the lakes in the 6th century when he retreated to this remote area to live as a hermit.
However St. Kevin was not the first person to come to this beautiful place and there is some evidence that the tiny cave he slept in (known as St. Kevin’s Bed) above the south shore was carved by prehistoric people who lived in the area before him.
The best ways to see Glendalough Upper Lake
So, there are a mix of handy and hard ways of getting an eyeful of the Upper Lake in Glendalough.
Arguably the best views can be gotten on the various walks in Glendalough, but you can also ramble right up to it.
1. The easiest way
The easiest way, and the most accessible way, is to walk up to the shores of the lake from the Upper car park and take in the view from there.
There is a lovely little pebbly beach you can walk on and look out at the lake from. You can also head out on the Miners’ Road Walk (marked by purple arrows) which takes you along the north shore of the lake.
If you want to get a little bit of elevation, the easiest lookout point is St Kevin’s Cell which is a 1km walk up by Poulanass waterfall.
2. On the Spinc Loop
The Spinc ridge is located above the southern shore of the Glendalough Upper Lake and provides, in our opinion, one of the best views of the lake.
There’s a long and short walk for the Spinc and both offer stunning lake views:
3. From just up past the Miner’s Village
Starting at the Upper Car Park, take the Miners’ Road Walk (marked by purple arrows) along the north shore of the lake to the Miner’s Village. From there, continue along the path up the hill.
There is no set viewpoint here but we recommend that you continue up the hill until you have a good vantage point.
Then, just stop and look back at the entire expanse of the Upper Lake in front of you.
Things to do near the Upper Lake in Glendalough
One of the beauties of the Upper Lake is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Glendalough.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the lake!
1. Poulanass Waterfall
Poulanass Waterfall is located right by the Glendalough Upper Lake and is easily accessed from the Upper Car Park.
There are multiple hikes that will take you by this idyllic spot but our favourite is the Poulanass Walk. This short (1.6km) but moderate walk is marked by pink arrows.
Starting in the Upper Car Park, follow the trail up along the waterfall. You do have the option to turn off towards St. Kevin’s Cell so go ahead and take that detour if you like but then come back to the pink route and continue on to the top of the waterfall.
2. Glendalough Monastic City
Glendalough Monastic City is one of the most important early Christian settlements in Ireland. The monastery was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century who came out to Glendalough to live as a hermit.
Instead of fading into obscurity, St. Kevin became a well-known holy man during his life and the monastery grew.
It became an important pilgrimage site and seven pilgrimages to Glendalough were considered equal to one pilgrimage to Rome.
The surviving structures, including the Glendalough Round Tower, all date back to the 10th through 12th centuries.
3. Walks galore
There are a ton of beautiful walks around the lakes and Monastic City. We have already touched on the Spinc Loop and the Miners’ Road Walk. There are two other Spinc walks that all start at the same point as the Spinc Loop.
The Spinc and Glenealo Valley Walk (white arrows) combines the Spinc Loop with the Miners’ Road walk, giving you multiple incredible views of the Upper Lake.
This looped walk is a strenuous hill walk with 380m of ascent. It stretches 9km and generally takes walkers 3.5 hours to complete.
FAQs about the biggest Glendalough Lake
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Can you swim in it?’ to ‘Where do you park?’.
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 deep is the Upper Lake in Glendalough?
The Upper Lake in Glendalough is the deepest of the Upper and Lower Lakes and it’s 30 metres deep in places.
How long is the walk around Glendalough Lake?
There are several walks around the Upper Glendalough Lake. The shortest is the Miners Path, which takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete.
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.