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A Guide To The Brilliant Vartry Reservoir Walks

A Guide To The Brilliant Vartry Reservoir Walks

You’ll find Vartry Reservoir near Roundwood village and the stunning Wicklow Mountains.

Vartry Reservoir provides drinking water for Dublin and this massive expanse of water holds a whopping 5.6 billion litres!

It’s also a fine aul spot for an easy-going ramble with several well-trodden-trails available, as you’ll discover below!

Some quick need-to-knows about Vartry Reservoir

Although a visit to Vartry Reservoir is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Vartry Reservoir is located at Roundwood in Wicklow, 50km south of Dublin. It’s located on the R 764 and the R755, midway between Bray and Wicklow Town in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains.

2. Three main trails

There is an upper and lower reservoir at Roundwood with three main walking trails. These are the easy 7.2km Lower Vartry Trail; the slightly shorter 6.4km Upper Vartry Trail and a 3km Woodland Walk, also graded easy. 

3. Parking

Car parking is available at the trailhead of the Upper Vartry Trail and the Woodland Walk (here on Google Maps). There’s also a car park near the start of the Lower Trail (here on Google Maps).

About Vartry Reservoir

Vartry Reservoir began in the mid 19th century as a scheme to dam and partially redirect the Vartry River to provide fresh water to Dublin.

The work was carried out by the Dublin Water Works Committee. The construction of the lower reservoir was completed in 1863.

The reservoir has a maximum depth of 18.3 metres and a capacity of 11.3 billion litres.

The project included piping and filtering the water which is then stored in an open service reservoir in Stillorgan in the southern suburbs of the city.

In 1923, a second embankment further upstream was constructed to create the upper reservoir. It has a maximum depth of 13.4 metres and holds 5.6 billion litres of water. 

An overview of the Vartry Reservoir walks

Vartry Reservoir

Photo left: Russell Taylor. Top right: Wojtek Piatek. Bottom left: rick734’s (Canva)

There are a number of Vartry Reservoir walks that you can head off on and they vary massively from a length perspective.

Each of the trails is relatively easy going and they make a great alternative to some of the tougher walks in Wicklow.

1. Lower Vartry Trail

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 7.2 km
  • Time – 2 hours
  • Starting Point – Roundwood Village at the T-junction between the R755 and the R765. 
  • Waymarker colour – Blue
  • Map of trail

The Roundwood Reservoir Lower Vartry Trail takes you on a scenic loop around Lough Vartry (the lower reservoir) on traffic-free paths and country roads with superb water views.

Look out for the hollowed out Ballaun stone near the water’s edge. It was probably moved from a monastic site.When the reservoir is low, you can also see the old bridge that once crossed the River Vartry. 

2. Upper Vartry Trail

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 6.4 km
  • Time – 90 minutes
  • Starting Point – near Roundwood at the Knockraheen Entrance on the east side of the reservoir
  • Waymarker colour – Green
  • Map of trail

The Upper Vartry Trail is an easy loop hike with a few steep inclines.

The way-marked route skirts around the upper reservoir with superb views of Sugar Loaf and the Djouce Mountains before heading through areas of woodland. 

3. Woodland Trail

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 3km
  • Time – 45 mins
  • Starting Point – near Roundwood at the Knockraheen Entrance on the east side of the reservoir
  • Waymarker colour – Pink
  • Map of trail

The lovely Woodland Trail at Roundwood Reservoir is a pleasant family-friendly amble around part of the lower reservoir. There is pedestrian access from the village along an 800m footpath to the trailhead.

The walk follows the steep-sided cutting linking the upper and lower reservoirs in the shade of towering 100-year-old Scots Pines. Look out for Great Crested Grebes that raise their brood on floating nests! 

Things to do after the Vartry Reservoir walks

One of the beauties of Vartry Reservoir is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Wicklow.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Vartry Reservoir (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Food in Roundwood (2-minute drive)

Tochar House pub roundwood

Photos via Tochar House on FB

Just a short drive form the trailhead, Roundwood village has several cafes, pubs and restaurants for refreshments or you can pick up picnic snacks and coffee from Roundwood Stores. The Sugar Mountain Cafe and Bistro serves speciality coffee, pancakes and light snacks or try the An Tohar House pub for a well-earned pint. 

2. Victors Way (5-minute drive)

victors way sculpture park

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

Victor’s Way is a real surprise! It’s an Indian Sculpture Garden designed for encouraging meditation. The park covers 22 acres and has quirky and interesting artworks carved from black granite. It’s great to stroll quietly through woodland, passing small water features in this privately owned garden.

3. The Sally Gap Drive (5-minutes to start point)

Sally Gap Drive

Photos via Shutterstock

Sally Gap is actually a crossroads in the Wicklow Mountains just west of Roundwood village. The Sally Gap Drive is a very popular circular route with incredible views taking in the likes of Lough Tay, Ballinastoe Woods, Djouce and Glenmacnass Waterfall.

FAQs about the Vartry Reservoir trails

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where do you park?’ to ‘Which trail is the easiest?’.

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 is the walk around Vartry Reservoir?

The Lower Trail is 7.2km and takes 2 hours. The Upper Trail is 6.4km and takes 1.5 hours. The Woodland Trail is 3km and takes 45 minutes.

Where do you park for the Vartry Reservoir walks?

There are two main car parks for the Vartry Reservoir walks. If you’re doing the Upper or Woodland Trails, there’s a car park near the trail head. If you’re doing the Lower Trail, there’s a car park near that trailhead, too.

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