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.
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 follow your GPS too closely.
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 the mountains of Djouce 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 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 the Sally 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 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 weather
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, be sure to check the weather in the Sally Gap area. Don’t expect it to be the same as the surrounding County.
Cycling the Sally Gap: a warning
There have been a number of reported incidents of cyclists being attacked while cycling the Sally Gap on their own.
If you’re planning a Sally Gap cycle, be vigilant and travel in pairs where possible.