12 Best Things to Do in County Wicklow

A wild oasis a stone's throw from Dublin

Wicklow Mountains National Park
Sunset in Glendalough - Wicklow, Ireland.

 Giuseppe Milo / Flickr

Sometimes called the Hollywood of Ireland because of its frequently-filmed landscape, County Wicklow offers visitors incredible sights, along with plenty of things to keep them occupied. This region is known as the "Garden County" for its amazing natural landscapes and manicured estates, and it's not far from Dublin, either. Here, you'll find nationally-prized attractions, like the 81-mile long trail, Wicklow Way, and off-the-beaten-path destinations, like the Glendalough Monastic City. Explore the most famous national park in Ireland, stand beneath the country's tallest waterfall, and get lost in a Celtic maze, all with a visit to enchanting County Wicklow.

01 of 10

Hang With the Birds at Faconry Ireland

Golden eagle landing on a falconer

Daniel Hernanz Ramos / Getty Images

Rednagh Road, Balleeshal, Aughrim, Co. Wicklow, Y14 N275, Ireland
Phone +353 86 458 0601

At Falconry Ireland, you can engage in one of the most ancient field sports, falconry, set among a lush, rolling landscape in Woodenbridge. During your guided experience, you will take a Hawk Walk through the forest, where you'll be given the opportunity to put on a glove and fly your own Harris Hawk. Then, you'll return to the center where a professional falconer will demonstrate the technique of flying a falcon, a turkey vulture, and a black kite. Your session concludes with an up-close owl visit and lunch at the Woodenbridge Hotel.

02 of 10

Get Lost in the Greenan Maze

Girl on her father's shoulders in hedge maze

Richard Baker / Getty Images

Ballinanty, Greenan, Co. Wicklow, A67 D789, Ireland
Phone +353 86 884 5624

In 1972, Jonathan and Phoebe Wheeler, and their three children, moved from the city to Wicklow and started an organic vegetable garden and farmstand. Over the years, they expanded to 50 acres and offered organic beef and lamb, alongside their veggies. Jonathan's son had a hobby of collecting antique bottles and farming equipment. His collection grew so big that they opened a museum on the property. Today, at the Greenan Maze, you can tour the museum, as well as the renovated farmhouse and two hedged mazes. The Celtic Maze is a puzzle, complete with a stream that flows through it and a lake in the center. The Solstice Maze is a contemplative pathway set within a stone circle, complete with four large stones that represent each of the seasons.

03 of 10

Experience Tranquillity at Glendalough

Glendalough - The Jewel of County Wicklow
Bernd Biege
Derrybawn, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Phone +353 404 45325

Located south of Dublin, and at the end of a scenic drive in a remote valley, you will find the Glendalough Monastic City. One of the most important early Christian sites in Ireland, this monastery sits beside two tranquil lakes (Glendalough literally means "Valley of the Two Lakes"). Lovers of history and architecture can marvel over "engaged" round towers, St. Kevin's Kitchen, which is actually a church, and the monastery's cathedral ruins. Lovers of nature can simply enjoy a stroll along the lakes. The visitor center hosts a historical exhibit and can equip you with an audio-visual guide (for a fee). You can also tour the monastic site without guidance for free.

04 of 10

Admire Powerscourt Estate

The fountain in the gardens at Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow

Amanda Susan Munroe

Powerscourt Demesne, Powerscourt Estate, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Wicklow is most famous for its wild natural beauty, but Powerscourt Estate is a manmade wonder in itself. Nestled into the rolling green foothills of Sugarloaf Mountain, this country estate was once owned by the Viscounts of Powerscourt. They built this Palladian mansion and created an extensive garden that is considered one of the best gardens in all of Ireland. Unfortunately, the mansion was destroyed by a fire in the 1970s, but the building was carefully restored and now houses small shops dedicated to Irish handicrafts, as well as a lovely café. Still, it's the beautifully landscaped grounds that attract visitors to this popular County Wicklow attraction.

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05 of 10

Get Locked Up in Wicklow's Historic Gaol

The historic Wicklow Gaol (jail) is now a tourist attraction

Gfox228 / Creative Commons

1 Kilmantin Hill, Corporation Lands, Wicklow, A67 FA49, Ireland
Phone +353 404 61599

From tranquility and contemplation to terror and condemnation, Wicklow's Historic Gaol (or jail) conjures up all the emotions. These days, you actually pay to get into this jail, and then they let you out later on without too much hassle. Your escape might come as a relief after seeing the exhibition, which depicts prison life recreated by life-size manikins, in all its gory detail. Do you want to see somebody flogged? Head inside for a display that goes straight for the jugular. Kids will love it!

06 of 10

Walk the Wicklow Way

Walking path along north shore of Upper Lake in Wicklow Mountains National Park by Glendalough, stormy spring skies
 Anna Gorin / Getty Images
Wicklow Way, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, Ireland

For those willing to stretch their legs, the Wicklow Way is one of the best-known and most popular marked hikes in Ireland. The 81-mile (131-kilometer) trail begins right outside of Dublin and leads through an astonishing landscape, complete with lush forests, waterfalls, windswept bogs, and steep mountainsides. Depending on your speed, and the number of stops built into your itinerary, the trail usually takes five to seven days to complete (undertaking the full Wicklow Way is not for the casual stroller). You don't have to tackle the whole trail, however, as you can also pick and choose from exciting sections of the Wicklow Way for a single day's ramble. Be sure to carefully pack all the needed provisions, like camping gear, food, water, and clothing for the ever-changing weather.

07 of 10

Drive Through the Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Mountain Landscape View down a road

John Carey / Getty Images

Wicklow Mountains, Laragh West, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

To see the best of the county in one go, why not take a drive through the Wicklow Mountain countryside? Head to Sally Gap, one of the main passes through the Wicklow Mountains. It runs through blanket bogs before meandering its way up the hills. The road was first built by the British Army, after the rebellion of 1798, to search for Irish rebels hiding in the mountainous terrain. The pass is still known to locals as "Military Road." The sinuous road is challenging to navigate, but well worth the twists and turns for the inspiring vistas. Other routes, like Vale of Avoca, take you by stately homes and through the Wicklow Gap. Check out the massive reservoir near Blessington and, of course, the lakes in Glendalough. 

08 of 10

Go Hiking in Wicklow Mountains National Park

Green hills and a rocky stream on Lugnaquilla in Wicklow ireland
 Wiki Commons ( CC BY-SA 2.0)
Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Phone +353 404 45800

The famous Wicklow Way will lead you through Wicklow Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in Ireland, containing more than 20,000 hectares (77 square miles) of rugged countryside. Inside the park, you'll find pristine forests, towering mountains, barren plateaus, fields of blooming heather, gurgling streams, and waterfalls. Take a dip in one of the park's lakes, pack a picnic, or go camping, all within easy access of the scenic byway. Make sure to bring good walking gear, weather-proof clothing, and a map, should you want to head out into the backcountry. Exploring the open terrain is best left to experienced adventurers, as the visibility and weather can change quickly. Better yet, hire a guide.

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09 of 10

Stand Under Ireland's Tallest Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall in Ireland

Fabian Walden / Flickr

Deerpark, Powerscourt Estate, Co. Wicklow, A98 WOD0, Ireland
Phone +353 1 204 6000

One of the loveliest walks in Wicklow is the trail leading to the Powerscourt Waterfall, just four miles away from Powerscourt Estate. The cascade tumbles 398-feet down a rocky cliff at the end of a well-kept walkway. The stunning horsetail waterfall is located on privately-owned land, but the entry fee also grants visitors use of all the facilities, including a playground and picnic area at the base of the falls. The Wicklow waterfall is one of the prettiest in Ireland, and makes an excellent break from the car, when touring the countryside.

10 of 10

Smell the Blooms in the Mount Usher Gardens

The colors of the Mount Usher Gardens

 Michael Dibb / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ashford, Mount Usher Gardens, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

The plentiful rains of the Emerald Isle create amazing fairytale-like landscapes, like those found at the Mount Usher Gardens. Upon arriving, your entry fee includes a trail map to guide you to lush displays of plants in the expansive garden estate, once belonging to the Jameson Whiskey family. Trails will lead you by rare trees, especially if you embark on the 900-year-old Yew walk. Depending on the time of year, you may also see magnolias, hydrangeas, azaleas, or rhododendrons in full bloom. In the fall, the gardens put on a spectacular display of colorful foliage. Stop by the well-regarded Avoca Garden Café for a snack, and browse the Courtyard shops for Irish handicrafts. 

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12 Best Things to Do in County Wicklow