An Unforgettable 18-Day Road Trip That’s Packed With The Best Places to Visit in Ireland

Day 1 – Mountains, Lakes and Lots More in Wicklow

To make the most of our first day on the road, get out of the bed and into the car for 8:00.

Our first day sees us take a nice and handy spin from Dublin to Wicklow.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 1!

What we'll be doingWhere we'll be sleepingWhat you'll need
    • Hiking in Glendalough
    • Fooooooooood
    • A visit to Lough Tay (aka Guinness Lake)
    • A spin along the magnificent Sally Gap
    • More foooooooood and a few pints
The Glendalough Hotel
  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water

Day 1 Stop 1 – Gallivanting Around Glendalough

Dublin City to Glendalough – 55-minute drive (leave at 8:00 and arrive at 8:55)

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

The Glendalough Spinc Route is a hike that I can’t recommend enough.

spinc loop glendalough
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

It’s 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.

Visiting Wicklow for the day? Here’s a 1-day Dublin to Wicklow guide that includes a hike, a prison and a brewery tour!

The walk begins at the Upper Lake car park and follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley.

the spin loop in glendalough
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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

This path is 500m and takes you up to the boardwalk overlooking the Upper Lake, where you’ll be treated to an endless number of breath-taking views.

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

Stick to the boardwalk and you’ll eventually start to descend. As you continue to stroll, you’ll pass along a little bridge, before eventually meeting a gravelly path surrounded by trees, that’ll lead you back towards your starting point.

Day 1 Stop #2 – Roundwood for lunch

Glendalough to Roundwood – 14-minute drive (if it took 4 hours to complete the hike, you should arrive in Roundwood by 14:15)

At this stage, you’ll be in need of a post-hike feed.

Head for the Coach House in Roundwood, fuel up and rest the legs.

If you’re here in the winter you’ll be able to warm yourself by an enormous open fire.

Day 1 Stop #3 – Lough Tay

Roundwood to Lough Tay – 11-minute drive (if you spend 90 minutes eating and chilling, you’ll arrive at Lough Tay for 16:00)

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

Mainly because it’s a such short drive from Dublin (where I live) but also due to the fact that you’ll have the whole place to yourself if you arrive at sunset (basing this on the past 3 times I’ve visited at sunset).

lough tay in wicklow
Photo by Chris Hill

Keep driving until you come to a little makeshift car park on the right.

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

Day 1 Stop #4 – the Sally Gap Drive

So, this is a looped drive rather than a stop. Start it at around 16:30 and head in the direction of Glenmacnass Waterfall.

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

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 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.

Day 1 Stop #5 – A Nest for the Night

Glenmacnass Waterfall to The Glendalough Hotel, – 11-minute drive (take 45 minutes to do the Sally Gap Drive and arrive at the hotel for 17:30)

So, where you stay in Wicklow is totally up to you.

I’m going to recommend The Glendalough Hotel, but if this doesn’t suit your budget, there are plenty of other places to stay nearby (check our interactive map of the best places to stay in Ireland!)

Check into the hotel, grab a bite to eat in the hotel’s Glendassan River Restaurant and kick back with a couple of drinks.

Where the Road Trip will take us on Day 2 (the Most Haunted House in Ireland is Stop #1!)

And that’s day 1 done!

We’ve another great day lined up for our second day of road tripping as we continue down along Ireland’s coast.

Move onto page 3 below to check it out!