So after our very popular first entry in our series, it’s time we move on to our next destination for the best places to walk your dog in Ireland – Wicklow. This county is known as ‘the garden of Ireland’ due to its beautiful scenery, and there are some great places to bring your pooch to experience it all with you. Starting with…
Glendalough (White Route) – 11km
One of my favorite walking routes in all of Ireland is Glendalough, stunning mountainsides adorn either side of this deep valley, and the contrast in terrain is sure to get hearts pumping and blood flowing for you and your dog.
The name Glendalough means ‘valley of two lakes’ and the most famous part of this place is the monastic city itself, established in this valley in the 6th century by St. Kevin, the buildings still survive to this day and show how these early Christians lived.
The most recognizable building is the round tower, at 30 meters high, and this building had many functions to the people at the time. It acted as a landmark for visitors, a bell-tower, a place to store supplies like grain, and also a refuge in times of attack.
After passing the ruined monastic city you see the rock close in around you, and as you ascend the trail you rise steeply through a deep forest of pine trees. As you reach the top you see the sprawling lakes and the rocky scree slopes on the far side, and the monastic city you just left behind becomes a small forgotten memory hundreds of feet below.
Here is where the trail opens out into a stunning path along the mountaintops that you follow up to the river that feeds the lakes in the valley. Crossing the river, you make your return journey over the far side on a lower path back towards the car park and visitor center.
Depending on the route you take, the trail can be anything from an hour to 3.5 hours long. The longest route, which is the one I have described, takes you right up behind the lakes and down the far side. But there are many different trails with their own beautiful scenery, so coming here once just makes you want to come back again, and your dog will love the beautiful spring blooms and aroma of fresh pine resin in the air.
Brittas Bay Beach – 5km
Brittas Bay beach is one of the most serene and mesmerizing beaches all along the east coast of Ireland. A 5km stretch of brilliant white sand dunes and immaculately clean beach is what awaits you and your dog when you step onto this hidden gem in County Wicklow. It is even said that Brittas Bay was the initial landing site of St Patrick himself!
There are no rocky headlands to interrupt the silky rhythm of this beach trail, just a straight walk along the beach with the stunning white dunes on one side and a caressing breeze from the Irish sea on the other. A late summer day on this beach will have you and your dog feeling refreshed and totally relaxed by the end of your walk along this stretch of coast.
The dunes themselves are home to some interesting species of plants and animals; even some rare species call these dunes their home. The beach has received a European Union Blue Flag – the international symbol for the highest quality beach in all of Europe – for five consecutive years.
Your dog is sure to love this place as much as you.
Blessington Greenway Walk – 6.5km
This walk is a relatively easy and relaxing one that meanders along the shores of the Blessington lakes, linking the historical town of Blessington to the Palladian mansion near Russborough house, the trail allows you to stroll alongside Poulaphouca reservoir, which feeds most of Dublin with its fresh drinking water.
The thin gravel paths take you through some high trees and open out to some wide open spaces for your pooch to get good exercise, the picturesque green areas are teeming with wildlife in the summer, particularly birds, whose songs will provide an uplifting soundtrack as you take in the clean air surrounding the large Blessington lakes.
Along the trail, you will come across a medieval ringfort, walled fortified settlements built during the early Middle Ages, up to about the year 1,000. Ireland is home to many of these structures, with about 40,000 remaining on the island to this day. They were used as agricultural farmsteads, with cattle roaming the land immediately around the ringfort, and also as defensive forts to small communities or livestock in times of attack from thieves or bandits.
Starting from the Avon Ri Activity Centre at the south end of the town and ending back at Russellstown Bay, the serene views of the vast lakes are stunning to behold as you move along the trail, and your dog will love to explore all of the nooks and crannies to be found here too.
Bray Cliff walk – 7km
The cliff walk from Bray to Greystones is one of the town’s most popular attractions, running along Bray head, it offers spectacular views of the east coast of Ireland. Starting from the promenade at Bray and winding for 7km along the cliffs of Bray head, offering one of the most refreshing sights on a fresh spring day with the sun glistening from waters of the Irish sea just 100 feet below.
In those same waters, with a keen eye you may spot some dolphins or black harbor porpoises, these marine mammals are frequent visitors to the rich coastal waters all along Bray and Wicklow head. The colorful bloom of wildflowers and frequent visits of seabirds along this trail only add to the natural beauty, and your pooch will relish in the excitement of wildlife to be observed (and sniffed).
The cliff walk itself was built in 1855 along with the construction of the railway line, which tunnels through the hard granite of Bray head itself. It was used to move engineers and their tools to and from the extending railway line running from Bray along to the next station at Greystones.
The best part about the walk is that when you reach the end, you can hop on the train back to Bray and relive the spectacular views you just passed, without having to trudge all the way back on foot. Just make sure your dog is potty trained before you take them on the train with you!
Powerscourt – 4.5km
Powerscourt waterfall is Ireland’s highest waterfall at 121m (398ft.) and the woodland trail leading from Crone to the base of the fall is a simple but enjoyable walk along a trail through light woodland, and then opening out into the Powerscourt valley and ending right up at the foot of the waterfall itself.
Starting from the car park at Crone, follow the flat open trail from there marked with ‘Wicklow Way’ signs for a slightly long stretch until you reach a fork in the road, follow the path to the left down onto the forest road leading to Powerscourt valley.
Continue down this path until the road is blocked with gorse and bracken plants, here you can move into the trees parallel to the road and continue on until you reach the Powerscourt waterfall. Your dog can have a lot of fun playing in the fresh water streams that flow down from the waterfall parallel to the walking path.
Tourists have been coming to this waterfall since around the year 1750, and Bishop Pococke; a historic travel writer detailed his trip to Powerscourt as part of his account of travelling throughout Ireland in 1752. He wrote, “When we approached the waterfall we were struck with amazement. The astonishing accounts we had heard of this phenomenon conveyed no idea of it to our minds.”
Camaderry Short Walk – 4km
As with most walks through Wicklow, this one follows a forest route, and the Camaderry walk will give you some beautiful scenery and photographs on a sunny day, with the suns rays breaking through the leaves onto the path below. A relatively flat trail, leading away from the crowds around Glendalough, this is a more peaceful and pleasant way to enjoy the scenery near the upper lakes.
From the Glendalough visitor center, follow the wide path until you reach the education center, and then take the small path uphill just to the left and through a lovely forest leading to a junction. Take the downhill path marked with a grey dot on a wooden post and follow this path until it reaches the river and here it joins St. Kevin’s Way.
St. Kevin was the founder and the first abbot of Glendalough, and his name is synonymous with the monastic ruins throughout the mountain valley. Having been ordained by Bishop Ludigus, he retreated to Glendalough and lived in a cave, a Bronze Age tomb now known as St. Kevin’s bed.
He is said to have lived as a hermit with great closeness to nature, the wildlife of Glendalough being his only companions until his death on June 3rd 618 AD. This date is St. Kevin’s feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar.
Your dog will appreciate the relaxing stroll along the trail with birds and woodland creatures going about their business alongside you. The trail joins up with the road that runs through Glendalough, which you can cross and walk through the Monastic City and back to the car park by the upper lake.
Sugar Loaf – 3km/8km
The Great Sugar Loaf in county Wicklow is 501 meters (1,644 ft.) high, although the surrounding landscape is quite flat and featureless, which makes the hill seem much higher than it is. The view is spectacular, with the rugged coastline and the forested hills of the Wicklow mountains both visible from the viewpoint at the top.
There are two ways to walk up the hill, one relatively straight and steep that takes about an hour there and back, or a loop around the hill, which takes about 2.5 hours. Your dog may appreciate the less steep option around the hill, depending how fit and old they are.
For the shorter route from the south side of the hill, find the small arch on the left side of the road called ‘red lane’ and the walk is straight up the marked way to the top. For the longer route, you start on the north side of the hill near Kilmacanogue village; near the GAA ground you will find a trail that marks the start of the route. Follow this route around the shoulder of the Sugar Loaf and up to the summit towards the big sky summit and see the grazing sheep below.
The sugar loaf was formed millions of years ago in more geologically active times in Ireland and is made up of Cambrian Quartzite. You and your dog will definitely enjoy this walk along one of Wicklow’s most visited landmarks.
So there you have it! Another list of great places to walk your dog in Ireland, and we will continue our journey in our next county, Waterford. Contact us with your ideas for some great places to walk your dog in Waterford.
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Last time: Dublin
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