Located on Ireland’s East Coast, Wicklow Town is the county town of Wicklow.
Boasting a sheltered harbour, a heritage trail connecting many historic sites and some great restaurants and bars, Wicklow Town has plenty going for it.
Nearby, you’ll find superb beaches, forest walks and hikes in the Wicklow Mountain National Park and lots, lots more.
Below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Wicklow Town to where to eat, sleep and sip. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about Wicklow Town
Although a visit to Wicklow Town is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Overlooking the Vartry Estuary and the Irish Sea, Wicklow Town is just east of the M11 between Newcastle and Arklow. It’s 60km south of Dublin and 24km from the Wicklow Mountains.
2. A rich history
Wicklow Town has a rich and lengthy history. The discovery of a Bronze Age cooking pot indicates an early Celtic settlement. It was later affected by Viking raids and Norman influences. The Heritage Trail connects the main historic sites from St Patrick’s Landing to the remains of the Franciscan Friary and Black Castle.
3. A great alternative base for Wicklow
Many visitors to Wicklow want to stay in one of the hotels near Glendalough, but Wicklow Town offers an excellent alternative. With coastal wetlands, a bustling harbour and many historic attractions, Wicklow Town is 30 minutes by car from Glendalough’s medieval monastic site and scenic walks in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
About Wicklow Town
Wicklow Town was founded by the Vikings around AD795, but it has evidence of much earlier Bronze Age settlement.
St Patrick arrived here as a bishop in 432AD and initially received a hostile reception. The ruins of 12th century Black Castle are testament to Norman influences and was still a stronghold during the 1614 Uprising.
The ruins of a Franciscan Friary on Main Street are the remains of the oldest surviving settlement in Wicklow.
The Town Hall and Wicklow Gaol (built in 1702) now house an interesting Heritage Centre. The gaol’s most famous incumbent was Billy Byrne, leader of the 1798 Rebellion, who was later executed.
The natural harbour was further protected with the addition of the East Breakwater in 1880s followed by the North Groyne in 1909.
Today, the thriving town is a popular tourist hub with its stony beach, Murrough Wetlands, Heritage Trails and several golf courses.
Things to do in Wicklow Town and nearby
There are a handful of very worthwhile things to do in Wicklow Town and there are endless things to do near Wicklow Town.
Below, you’ll find cliff walks, prison tours, beaches, bays and an awful lot more.
1. Spend a rainy day at Wicklow Gaol
One of the most popular things to do in Wicklow Town is to take a tour of the historic Wicklow Gaol which provides a fascinating experience for visitors.
The building started in 1702 and continued until the 1840s. Now restored, tours of the gaol tell the story of the harsh life for prisoners such as Billy Byrne who was later executed.
Many offenders were transported to penal colonies in Australia. Explore the prison building and meet the holographic gaoler and other characters who will engage young visitors with stories of past times.
The Gaol also offers a scary Gates of Hell Virtual Reality Tour and a spooky Night Tour led by costumed actors.
2. And a fine one in Mount Usher Gardens
Wicklow is nicknamed the “Garden of Ireland” and the beautiful Mount Usher Gardens clearly show why.
Located on the banks of the Vartry River less than a 15-minute spin from the town, these privately owned gardens pack in over 5000 species of plants in 20 acres.
These spectacular gardens include an example of wild “Robinsonian” style gardens with water features, bridges and cascades.
Winding paths introduce a unique collection of flowers, shrubs, and exotic trees with colour in all seasons.
The Avoca Garden Cafe is the perfect setting for lunch and refreshments surrounded by floral beauty.
3. Step back in time at Black Castle
A visit to Black Castle is a must as it reveals the town’s colourful past. Standing on a rocky promontory south of Wicklow Harbour overlooking the Irish Sea, the castle was built by Maurice FitzGerald following the arrival of the Normans in 1169.
It was constantly under attack from local Chieftains in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was burned three times and was besieged during the Uprising of 1641.
Now a ruin, Black Castle stands in landscaped grounds with ancient cannons on display. It offers amazing sea views from its elevated location.
4. See Wicklow Head Lighthouse
Another landmark, Wicklow Head Lighthouse is 5km southeast of Wicklow harbour on a headland near Dunbur. It’s warning light has been guarding the coastline since 1781.
Set in a peaceful landscape with superb views of the Irish Sea on three sides, the octagonal tower has metre-thick walls.
Now managed by Irish Landmark Trust, the rooms have been converted to rental accommodation for visitors.
However, with 109 steps to climb to the kitchen on the top floor, it’s not for the faint-hearted! Even though it is not open to the public, the lighthouse makes a great photo op and provides panoramic views.
5. Tackle the Heritage Trail
Another of the more popular things to do in Wicklow Gaol is to tackle the Wicklow Town Heritage Trail (map here).
This trail takes visitors on a self-guided tour of the historic sites with 25 interesting stops along the way.
You can join the Heritage Trail at any point and follow the storyboards as you visit St Patrick’s Church, the Friary ruins, Black Castle, Wicklow Gaol, the grave and Memorial of Capt Robert Halpin, the Old Schoolhouse, Post Office, Town Hall and Market Square.
Learn the story behind the “Doctor’s Steps” and Melancholy Lane, and track the development of the busy harbour.
6. Or the Glen Cliff Walk
The trail kicks-off just under 2 km south of Wicklow Town centre and it stretches for about 4 km in total.
This is a moderate walk that takes around 1.5 hours to complete. Along the way you’ll see beaches, coves, seals and some of the most under-appreciated coastline in the county.
7. Explore Avondale Forest Park
Avondale Forest Park is 19km southwest of Wicklow Town and is the home of Avondale House where the history of Irish forestry began.
Explore the walled gardens and experience the Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower with incredible views across the Wicklow Mountains and Avonmore River Valley.
Longer walks can be enjoyed on three forest park trails. Try the strenuous 5.2km River Walk, the easy 2.6km Centenary Loop Walk or the moderate linear Railway Walk which is 2.1km each way.
Refreshments are available at the Seed Cafe.
8. Visit one of many nearby beaches
Magheramore Beach is 7km south of Wicklow and offers golden sand sandwiched between stunning blue waters and green fields.
Further south, Brittas Bay is a Blue Fag awarded beach with dune-backed golden sand that stretches for 5km. Head north 23km to Greystones Beach which has a 1km beach that’s a mixture of pebbles and sand.
At little further north, Silver Strand Beach is one of the best in Wicklow. Although smaller than some, it has fine golden sand (it’s just a pain to get to).
Places to stay in Wicklow Town and close by
There isn’t a huge amount of accommodation in Wicklow Town. There are, however, endless places to stay close by.
Note: if you book a stay through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
1. The Bridge Tavern
The Bridge Tavern offers modern accommodation in the heart of Wicklow Town with an onsite restaurant and bar. The beautifully furnished rooms have been awarded the Failte Ireland Green Shamrock reflecting the highest standard. They offer double and family rooms with ensuite bathrooms and breakfast is included.
2. Tinakilly Country House Hotel
Set in 14 acres of landscaped gardens, Tinakilly Country House is one of our favourite hotels in Wicklow. The Victorian residence is filled with history and has 51 luxurious rooms and suites that feature antique furnishings and stunning views of the gardens or sea.
3. Chester Beatty Inn
Situated in pretty Ashford, the Chester Beatty Inn and Restaurant began as a coaching inn in the early 1800s. Now a family-run hotel, it has smart rooms that are furnished for comfort with sleigh beds and ensuite bathrooms.
Pubs and restaurants in Wicklow Town
There’s no shortage of great pubs and restaurants in Wicklow Town, regardless of whether you want a pint by the fire after a long day or a slap up feed.
Below, you’ll find our favourite spots. If there’s somewhere we missed, shout in the comments!
1. Phil Healy’s pub
Oozing history from its rustic wood panelled walls, Phil Healy’s pub has been in business since 1861. It offers a warm welcome to families and visitors with quality food on the menu. It supports live sporting events and serves a full range of beer, wine, gin, whiskey and cocktails.
2. Fitzpatrick’s Bar
For great drinks, live music and a friendly ambience, Fitzpatrick’s Bar is the hub of entertainment in the heart of Wicklow Town. They have a family-run music lounge with sing-song nights and a sports bar so you won’t miss a match.
3. The Brass Fox Wicklow
The award-winning Brass Fox in Wicklow is a traditional Irish pub with charming interior decor. This seaside pub serves healthy home-made food throughout the day including breakfast, salads, sandwiches, steak, fish and pasta dishes. They also do signature cocktails and fine spirits in the Lounge Bar.
4. The Bridge Tavern
The upscale Bridge Tavern has a traditional bar, snug and beautiful riverside lounge for relaxing and enjoying live music. The gastropub restaurant serves an exciting menu from waffles and granola to rib-eye steak and seafood. Don’t miss their Sunday Lunch deemed “Best Roast on the East Coast”!
5. La Locandina
This traditional Italian pizzeria and takeaway has a full menu of dishes to be enjoyed in your own home or digs. They cover everything from antipasti starters and salads to pizza, pasta and desserts. Their lasagna with pork and beef ragu is delicious while the Pizza Contadina has a tasty Gorgonzola, pear and walnut topping.
6. Blue Seafood & Bistro Restaurant
The Blue Seafood Restaurant and Bistro is a trendy upscale eatery overlooking Wicklow Harbour. It serves the freshest seafood as well as locally sourced meats and produce. Their seasonal menu includes tempura battered haddock and chips with pea puree, Slaney Valley shoulder of lamb with ratatouille and how about Baked Alaska for dessert!
FAQs about visiting Wicklow Town
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Are there many things to do in Wicklow Town?’ to ‘Is it worth visiting?’.
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.
What are the best things to do in Wicklow Town?
The best things to do in Wicklow Town are to take a tour of Wicklow Gaol, tackle the Heritage Trail and ramble along the Glen Beach Cliff Walk.
Is Wicklow Town worth a visit?
Wicklow Town often gets overshadowed by the countless areas of natural beauty that the county is famous for. However, thanks to the gaol, the beaches and the cliff walk, the town is well worth a visit in itself.
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.