Any time that I spin along the road towards the Sally Gap in Wicklow, I tend to get a little feeling that I’m the last person left on earth.
Now, I get that that probably sounds a little strange, but bear with me – there’s something about this stretch of tarmac that almost feels otherworldly.
A vast wild landscape collides with an often deserted road to make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world… OK, even I feel like I’m talking shite here…
In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Sally Gap Drive in Wicklow, from what to see along with a handy Google Map.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Sally Gap in Wicklow
The Sally Gap Cycle / Drive is one of the most popular things to do in Wicklow so, if you plan on doing it at the weekend (especially during the summer), try and arrive early.
During the summer months, the entire area gets mobbed with people, as some of the best walks in Wicklow kick off nearby. Here are some more need-to-knows.
1. What is the Sally Gap
The Sally Gap is a cross-roads in the Wicklow Mountains, where you can turn off North to Dublin, South to Glendalough, West to Blessington or East to the village of Roundwood. The Sally Gap Drive is a circular route that takes in a clatter of the areas attractions.
You’ll find the Gap a short spin from the village of Roundwood in Wicklow and a stone’s throw from Laragh and Glendalough.
3. Where the Sally Gap Drive starts
As you’ll see below, we recommend starting the Sally Gap Drive from near Roundwood (there’s a map below), as this route treats you to incredible views throughout.
4. How long it takes
If you start and end the Sally Gap Drive in Roundwood, it’ll take you 60 minutes in total, without stops. Allow at least twice this for stops along the way.
5. Why the road was built
The road (known as Military Road) at the Sally Gap in Wicklow was built shortly after the Irish Rebellion (1798). The road was construcxted by the British Army who wanted to drive Irish rebel forces from the area.
The Sally Gap Drive: My favourite route
I like to kick the drive off in the little village of Roundwood in Wicklow, as I’ll usually nip into a shop and grab a cup of coffee.
From here, you want to make your way up to the ‘Lough Tay Viewing Point‘, as it’s listed on Google Maps. To be honest, this route couldn’t be more straightforward, so you don’t really need to worry about getting lost.
You then keep chugging along the road towards the Sally Gap, hang a sharp left, continue around towards Glenmacnass Waterfall and you’re onto the home stretch. Here’s the route broken down.
Stop 1: The stop that isn’t really a stop
The scenery that you’re treated to from your seat as you spin along the narrow road that climbs up to Lough Tay is outstanding. I’ve driven this road 20+ times and it still never fails to knock me a little.
The road (the R759) clings to the mountain and you’ll be treated to incredible views out over Lough Tay and a chunk of the Wicklow Mountains. There are only a handful of places to pull in on this section of the road, but don’t worry – you’ll have plenty more pull-in points ahead.
Stop 2: Lough Tay
If you read our guide to Lough Tay aka Guinness Lake, you’ll know that I’m reasonably obsessed with the place. It’d be hard not to be, to be fair!
Lough Tay is a small but scenic lake that’s set on some very fancy private property (currently owned by members of the Guinness family trust) that lies between Djouce Mountain and Luggala.
Now, while you can’t get down to the lake itself, you can get a mighty view of it from above if you aim for the view point (revert back to our Sally Gap Map).
There’s plenty of space to pull in and it’s a short walk from the little car park across to the viewing point. Keep in mind that this viewing point is on private property, so enter at your own risk.
Stop 3: The Sally Gap
To be fair, you probably won’t be stopping here (aside from at the point where you physically have to stop), but you should be aware of where the Sally Gap actually is.
The Sally Gap (aka ‘Sallys Gap’) is a cross-road (pictured above) that you’ll come to not long after you leave Lough Tay.
The roads here take you North to Dublin, South to Glendalough, West to Blessington or East to the village of Roundwood. Take the turn left and head off on your merry way.
Stop 4. Military Road
After taking the turn to the left, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding blanket bog and the stunning Wicklow Mountains.
The Military Road at Sallys Gap was constructed after the 1798 Irish rebellion and was built by the British Army. They wanted to use the road to flush Irish rebels from the hills.
There are several different places to pull in as you spin along this stretch of road, so make sure to stop (safely), hop out of the car or off the bike, and gulp down a few lungfuls of fresh air.
Stop 5. Glenmacnass Waterfall
Our second last stop on the Sally Gap Cycle / Drive is Glenmacnass Waterfall. As you drive along Military Road, keep an eye out for a car park on your right. Pull in here and hop out.
You should immediately be greeted by the sound of a stream. Walk along Military Road (stay tight to the little grassy verge and keep an ear out for oncoming cars) for around 40 seconds and the waterfall will come into view.
This is a grand little spot to kick-back for a while. There’s a fine view out over the valley and there are plenty of little places to sit and admire the scenery that lays before you.
Stop 6. Coffee and food
The final stop in our Sally Gap guide is the Wicklow Heather. If you’re feeling peckish or if you just fancy a coffee, this is a handy drive from Glenmacnass.
It’s also a ridiculously cosy spot, which makes it the perfect hideaway for those of you visiting during the colder months and looking to warm up.
Another good option for food is the nearby Coach House in Roundwood. If you visit during the winter you can expect a roaring fire and a hearty feed.
Sally Gap walks
So, there are an almost endless number of different Sally Gap Walks that you can try. However, 3 stand out above the rest, in my opinion:
- The Lough Ouler Hike (which starts from the car park at Glenmacnass or from the other side at Turlough Hill Car Park)
- The Djouce Mountain Walk (which starts from the JB Malone Car Park)
- The Lough Tay to Lough Dan walk (which starts from 1 of the 2 car parks near the lake)
Djouce is arguably the handiest of the Sally Gap walks while Lough Ouler tends to be the trickiest, as there’s no trail for a good chunk of it.
If you fancy venturing further afield, you’ll find plenty walks in Glendaloughof to tackle, from short and sweet to long and tough.
The weather at the Sally Gap in Wicklow (warning)
I’ve visited the Wicklow Mountains (I’m not talking about hiking to the summit of a mountain) on a number of occasions and was surprised to find that they were covered in snow.
In the photo above, there had been some snow in Dublin during the weeks previous, but on the day that it was taken, it was cold and wet.
We arrived into Wicklow and there wasn’t a speck of snow to be seen, either. However, when we started to climb towards Lough Tay, the ground became increasingly white.
If you’re visiting during winter and you plan on trying a Sally Gap hike, make sure to check the weather in the area well in advance.
The Sally Gap cycle: A warning
So, I’m adding a section to this guide for those of you debating doing the Sally Gap cycle… Just 5 days after my uncle came off his bike while coming down the hill near Lough Tay.
He was coming down an incline and managed to loose control at a bend. He broke his collar bone and 3 ribs – he was blessed to get out of it without any life-changing injuries.
Wear a helmet, be aware of the sudden declines and, unfortunately, be aware that you may encounter some unsavory characters.
There have been a number of reported incidents of cyclists being attacked while doing the Sally Gap cycle on their own. If you’re planning a Sally Gap cycle, be vigilant and travel in pairs where possible.
FAQs about Sallys Gap in Wicklow
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long the drive takes to what to see on the way.
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 does it take to drive the Sally Gap?
It takes an hour if you start and finish the Sally Gap Drive in Roundwood. However, allow two hours with stops.
What is there to see around the Sally Gap?
You’ve Glenmacnass Waterfall, Lough Tay, Djouce, endless mountain views and some of the wildest scenery in the county.
What are the best viewpoints on the Sally Gap Cycle?
Lough Tay is arguably the best, however, the view from the hill at Glenmacnass is special to say the least.
Saturday 27th of November 2021
Can you do this route by starting at Sally Gap (coming from Bray) then down and around? Or is it better to start at Roundstone (just a bit out of the direct path from Bray)
Monday 29th of November 2021
Hey Beth - the last time I did this drive I did it from the opposite side (the one you'll be doing if coming for Bray) and it was great, too! I just prefer it from Roundstone as you get views out over the valley before Lough Tay. Enjoy your spin!