Growing up close to Wicklow, I’ve done this trail an enormous number of times – at night, at sunrise, and every time in between. I’ve done it solo, as part of a large group as well as with family & friends… you’d think after re-doing the same route it’d get boring right? Absolutely not where the Glendalough White route is concerned! I still love the hike and have a different experience every single time I’ve tried it… let me tell you some more about the trail, and why it’s still so exciting the fiftieth time completing it as it is the first!
Where you’ll go:
The trail begins at the breath-taking Glendalough Monastic site. There is something so peaceful about Glendalough that I don’t think I could ever get tired of – the round tower, the lakes, the valley…absolutely so serene despite the fact that it’s often busy with people. The views from Glendalough are lovely but I do think that the white trail (also known as the Spinc) offers a really unique perspective so is definitely worth the climb! The trail begins by passing The Poulanass waterfall & stream which is an early steep incline, although also makes for an excellent photo-op which is a good chance to catch your breath.
The path is extremely well marked, so from here you follow the white arrows through a fallen forestry (previously the steps for anyone who did this path a few years ago) until you reach the top of the hill and onto the boardwalk. The views from here onto the lake are nice, but they only get better as you climb the boardwalk higher & higher. There are numerous viewing points along the boardwalk offering panoramic views of the Glendalough valley & the two lakes.
The boardwalk does flatten along the top and then is a nice decline as you make your way towards the river (there’s a bridge so no crazy river crossing!) and down through the Miners village. The ground can be quite uneven here, so care is required although nothing too strenuous. I love to do a snack stop along here, using some of the old mining cottages as shelter from the elements (just remember to leave no trace!) … the sound of the river makes for a lovely back drop & views back up onto the top of the Spinc show just how far you’ve walked making the lunch stop even more rewarding!
The path becomes steadier after you leave the Miners village and is a nice flat couple of kilometers past the two lakes, St. Kevin’s bed and impressive woodland back to the carpark.
It really depends on pace, but I’d estimate that the entire trail takes approx. 3.5 hours at a moderate speed (with lunch stop included).
Who you’ll share the trail with:
The Glendalough White Route is the kind of trail where sightings of wildlife are almost a guarantee (I’m sure those words could come back to haunt me 😀 but I’d say 99% of the time there’s animals to be seen!). In the past I’ve spotted wild goats, large herds of deer as well as sheep, hares, birds and anything else that may be lurking. Dogs are welcome on the trail but do keep them on a leash so as not to scare all of these creatures which call the valley home. In terms of human traffic, it can be quite busy (especially at weekends) so it is definitely nicer to visit off peak (midweek, early morning or in the evening).
Some Top tips:
- Park at the upper lake carpark to save yourself having to walk further than necessary. This carpark costs 4 euros (coins) and closes in the evening (around 10pm I believe) so be careful if you’re parking here for a night hike.
- There are toilets, food vans & some information stands at the car park so lots of snack options. Personally, I’d recommend making the journey to the nearby Wicklow Heather restaurant in Laragh for a post hike feast (only 5 mins from the carpark and well worth it)!
- There’s a one-way system in operation on this route due to COVID (starting at the waterfall & coming back via Miners village) which I personally prefer anyway as the more difficult part is at the beginning leaving it easier and mainly downhill on the way back which is always a nice finish to a hike. The trail is not suitable for buggy’s, but I have seen lots of kids doing it making for a good family option.
- If you’ve tried this hike before during the day and wish to try something new, I’d definitely recommend a night hike here. It’s well marked and relatively easy terrain making it difficult to get lost (just remember a head torch!). The night I hiked it there were so many shooting stars & meteors to be seen which was an incredibly special sight, alongside the amazing wildlife & lake reflections.