There’s plenty of things to do in Glendalough.
From walks and hikes to ancient sites, breath-taking scenery and more, it’s not hard to see why millions visit each year.
Below, you’ll find our favourite things to do and places to visit in Glendalough. Dive on in!
Our favourite things to do in Glendalough
A day spent exploring Glendalough is arguably one of the best things to do in Wicklow.
However, it’s well worth having a plan of action before you leave. You’ll find heaps of ideas below!
1. Set yourself up for success at the Visitor Centre
Look, we get it. You’d rather be outside exploring than inside, but the Glendalough Visitor Centre is worth a stop to get you started on your trip.
The centre does a great job at providing an overview of the history of the area along with the various things to do in Glendalough, so a stop here will set you up for your visit.
2. Step back in time at the Glendalough monastic site
In the 6th century, St. Kevin came to Glendalough to retreat from the world and founded the monastic settlement that we still visit today.
Glendalough Monastery grew into an important pilgrimage site and it was considered just as holy to be buried in Glendalough as it was to be buried in Rome.
The monastery flourished up until 1398 when it was destroyed by English forces, but even after that, it remained an important pilgrimage site.
The remaining structures, like Glendalough Round Tower and the Cathedral, mostly date back to the 10th through 12th centuries and give us an idea of what this monastery would have looked like in its heyday.
3. Soak up the views at the Upper Lake
A visit to the Upper Lake is one of the most popular things to do in Glendalough, and the beauty is that it’s a short walk from the Upper Lake car park.
Head to the shores of the Upper Lake (not far from the Upper Lake car park) or hike up to the Spinc boardwalk for incredible views.
4. Tackle the Spinc Loop
The Spinc ridge borders the lake’s south shore and provides one of the best viewpoints. Head to the Upper Car park and follow signs for Poulanass and the Spinc walks.
The initial chunk of both trails is very steep and strenuous – if you’re after a handier ramble, see our Glendalough walks guide.
5. See Poulanass Waterfall
Poulanass Waterfall is a lovely little waterfall near the Upper Lake. Head to the Upper Lake car park and then follow signs for Poulanass.
A moderate 1.7km walk marked by pink arrows will take you up and around the waterfall and is well worth it. The walk generally takes around 40 minutes.
As this is relatively close to the visitor centre, it tends to be one of the more popular things to do in Glendalough, so don’t be surprised to find a crowd here.
6. Visit the Miners Village
It is almost unbelievable to think that less than 100 years ago, this beautiful area was being used for mining, but from 1825 to 1957, the valley just beyond the Upper Lake was the site of a lead mine.
Today some of the buildings and equipment that the miners used still dot the valley floor. You can access the valley by the Miners Walk which is a linear walk along the north shore of the Upper Lake.
This easy walk is marked with purple arrows and spans 5.4km there and back. It generally takes walkers 1.5 hours to complete but give yourself a little more time to explore what remains of the village.
7. Kick-back with a picnic at the Glendalough Viewpoint
The Glendalough Viewpoint is located up on the Spinc ridge and is accessible via the Spinc walks. Follow the white, red and blue trail markers from the Upper Car Park.
The view point is located about a kilometre along the Spinc boardwalk, just past the turn off point for the Spinc Loop.
If the weather is fine, head up there with a bite to eat and then sit back and enjoy this incredible view of the two lakes. This is one of our favourite things to do in Glendalough for good reason.
8. Discover the story behind St. Kevin’s Bed
St. Kevin’s Bed is a small metre high cave located on the south shore of the upper lake about 10 metres above the shoreline.
According to legend, this is where St. Kevin slept when he lived in Glendalough as a hermit. Accessing the cave can be dangerous so we recommend that you view it from across the lake on the Miner’s Road Walk.
9. Head off on the Green Road Walk
The Green Road Walk is an easy stroll that takes walkers through oak woodlands and around the lower lake. The walk consists of forest trails and boardwalks over wetlands.
The views of the lake from the boardwalk are not to be missed. Be on the lookout for dragonflies, lizards and frogs as you walk along the lake.
This 3km walk generally takes less than an hour to complete. You can join up with the trail near the Monastic City or at the official starting point near the Upper Car Park.
10. Keep an eye out for the deer
Seeing deer is one of the more unique things to do in Glendalough, and it’s something that only happens by complete chance.
Wicklow has the largest population density of deer in Ireland so there is a very good chance you will spot some deer as you venture around Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Deer are most often spotted on the open hills surrounding the lake so if you are hiking the Spinc Loop, be on the look out for deer.
11. Conquer the Derrybawn Woodland Trail
The Derrybawn Woodland Trail is an 8km ramble that takes you by some of the highlights of Glendalough, including Poulanass waterfall, the Monastic City, and up Derrybawn Mountain where you have an incredible view of Glendalough Valley.
You can join up with this looped walk in a couple of places, such as the Upper Car Park, the Monastic City, or from the Visitors Centre.
The walk is graded as moderate and includes 160m of ascent. It generally takes walkers around 2 hours to complete.
FAQs about what to do in Glendalough
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is there to do when it rains?’ to ‘Which walk is the best?’.
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 do I spend my day in Glendalough?
If fitness levels allow, tackle the Spinc Route, as it’ll give you the best views of the area and you’ll see the waterfall, the lakes and magnificent scenery.
Is Glendalough worth seeing?
Yes, Glendalough really is worth seeing. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty that also boasts several sites of historical importance. A day spent here is hard to beat.
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.