Subscriber OnlyYour Fitness

Co Wicklow: one walk, one run, one hike, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor, family-friendly guide to Co Wicklow

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Name Upper Vartry Reservoir and Woodland Trail
Distance 9km loop
Approximate duration 2 hours
Difficulty Easy
Start Google Maps Roundwood (grid reference O 190 033); you can follow this visitwicklow guide
Amenities Restaurants, pubs and parking
Starting from Ireland's highest village, this beguiling walk combines two trails that for the most part tag the shoreline of the Upper Vartry Reservoir while offering sublime vistas to the surrounding Wicklow Mountains.


Name: The Devil's Glen
Car Park: Opens at 8am, closes at 5pm
Background: The Devil's Glen boasts a dramatic landscape that was fashioned at the end of the Ice Age when the melt waters of the ice sheet created the valley. The resultant gorge affords a swift decent for the Vartry River as it makes its way from the Vartry Reservoir to nearby Ashford village. The site hosts a mixture of broad leaf and conifer forest with fine stands of beech, Spanish chestnut and ash. The steep rock face of the gorge has been colonised by various species of plant life: lichens, mosses and the polypody fern. The site was once part of the Glanmore estate, former ancestral home of John Millington Synge. On the northern bank of the river you can see the privately owned Tottenham Estate.

Two car-parks service the Devils Glen. One of these car parks is located at the County road close to the start of the Seamus Heaney way this car park has a capacity of five cars and is always accessible. A second car park with a capacity of 25 cars and a coach park are located at the start of the Waterfall Walk, access to these parking areas is limited to 9am to 5pm daily the opening hours of the barrier to the Devils Glen.

Route information: The wood has two looped walks these trails are waymarked. The Seamus Heaney Walk (4km, 2hrs, moderate), named in honour of the poet and Nobel Prize winner, is a lovely run through the high forest. On the Waterfall Walk (5km, 2hrs, moderate) the waterfall marks the spot where the Vartry enters the Devil's Glen en route to the sea. Prior to the construction of the Vartry Reservoir (1860s) the roar from the waterfall was much greater than it is today. Its echo through the gorge sounded as a "Satanic power announcing some great doom" and gave the glen its popular name. The Seamus Heaney Walk Starts at the lower car park and joins the waterfall loop. You can make the 4km Heaney loop into a 9km loop taking in the wonderful waterfall on the waterfall loop. It may slow you down but it is definitely worth heading up to the viewing point of the waterfall itself to hear its thunderous roar. (Aided by: Sport Ireland and Coillte)

Hike name Glendalough Spinc and Glenealo Valley White Route
Distance 9km
Elevation gain 471m
Approximate duration 2.5-3 hours
Difficulty Intermediate
Route type Loop
Starting point See AllTrails Glendalough White Route
Amenities Parking (fee), toilets, coffee shops, picnic tables
Dog-friendly? Yes
Tips Arrive early, especially at weekends, to get a parking space. You can also park in the Glendalough lower car park and get a few extra kilometres in.

Name: Travelahawkbeach
Location: Google Map: Black Castle, Wicklow Town
Brief description:
Small, quiet beach nestled at the end of the hills of the Black Castle
Amenities: Parking
Lifeguard: In summer at the harbour. Toilet access at harbour in summer
Water quality: Good – Wicklow Harbour sampled by council September 2020
Tips: If you are a strong swimmer, swim cove to cove like local swimming groups – the Focas and the Travelling Swimburys – do.

Name: The Luggala Loop
Start location: Glencullen
Setting out from Glencullen (still in Dublin, but not for long), head down and promptly up the Devil's Elbow into Glencree, following the valley up to the top and then on up again to the Sally Gap, turning left down towards Luggala, before turning left again up the old Long Hill Road back up to Enniskerry, then back up to Glencullen.
Distance: 50km
Time: 3-5 hours
Highlights: Some of the finest Wicklow mountain views, lakes and forests all taken in one super circular loop.
Look out for: The amount of times "up" was used in the route description, a height gain of 979m in all.
Tips: Having written a South Dublin-Wicklow cycling guide, this is one loop that still never tires in the strictly scenic sense.

Park name: Russborough House and Gardens, Blessington
Amenities: Lovely easy looped woodland and nature walks suitable for all ages, a good sized playground, a fairy trail, walled garden (under restoration) and occasional food and craft market in the courtyards of Russborough House.
Special features: Japanese gardens with cute bridges that you can walk onto Lady's Island. Information boards identify flora and fauna on nature walks and the special tree trail. The Blessington Greenway walk and cycling route is a short walk from the gates.
Access: Paid car parking. Family of two adults and four children: €15. Google Map "Russborough House".
Dogs: Dogs on leads only.
Tip: Check to see if the maze and National Bird of Prey Centre are open on the day of your visit.

Name: Wicklow outdoor gym, Wicklow town
Equipment: Cross trainer, lat pull-down, ab curl, waist extension, stepper, rower, walker, chest press, push-up bars and monkey bars.
Location: Google Maps
Information: Located on a nice path by the shore with a skate park and playground nearby.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms