Glendalough – (2) Lower Lake Trail

The Valley of Glendalough is famous for its monastic settlement but its also hugely popular for walking and hiking and offers a selection of trails to suit pretty much everyone. The looped trail below is one of the most popular options, being easily accessed from both carparks and mostly on flat ground. It takes in the 2 lakes, the Monastic City as well as other remains from the monastic era. In total, its circa 5km in length and a lovely walk after stomping through the ruins…

Monastic City….

Leaving the monastic settlement, head for the Green Road and follow signs for the Upper Lake.

This old pilgrim path brings you through oak wood and past Lower Lake

Remember that the valley is very narrow – that’s our return path over there….

The main visitor centre is back at the Monastic City but there’s an information office here, close to the Upper Lake

Reefert Church

Not far from the Information Centre lies this lovely little church. Off the main path and surrounded by woodland, it doesn’t get a lot of visitors – chances are that you’ll have the place to yourself. This is one of the earliest churches in the area – built in the 10th / 11th century on the site of an earlier mud or wooden church from the time of St Kevin himself. Reefert comes from Righ Fearta meaning ‘burial place of the kings’ referring no doubt to the local ruling O’Toole family, seven of whom are buried here. It was reconstructed in the 1870’s using the original stone.

The landscape opens out a bit here by the Upper lake

Scattered close to the lake are stone crosses like this one. Its thought that they might have been used as stations by pilgrims to Glendalough.

We’ve reached the Upper lake…. isn’t it just beautiful (our next walk will take us up that valley…). Linger here a while – its good for the soul….

Much of our return will be on a boardwalk, constructed to protect the Lower Lake wetlands. On a sunny day you might come across a lizard or dragonfly sunning itself on the decking. This is a great spot for frog breeding.

The deer are used to visitors and often come quite close to the pathways….

The monastic city comes back into view…

Small Stuff

Getting There:

Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It’s circa 50km – about an hour – 1h30 south of Dublin city.

There is a public bus service from the city centre but runs only a few times per day. Coach tours from Dublin include Glendalough in their itinerary. The easiest way to get to Glendalough however, is by car.


Car = €4


There are nine marked walking trails in the valley. They vary from a short half hour stroll to a long four hour hillwalk. Large maps of the walks are displayed outside the National Park Information Office and at the OPW Visitor Centre beside the Monastic City. Each trail is signposted with colour-coded arrows.

How much time?

The walk itself will take about 50 minutes. In 90 minutes, you could easily see the Monastic city, do the walk and grab a coffee…


You can get a coffee and snacks in the Upper lake Car Park

Village of Glendalough….

Wicklow Mountains National Park Map

I’ll leave you with this wonderful photo from the National Library. The photo was part of a collection taken between 1860 and 1883. However, there is no roof on the round tower so that narrows the time span…. the roof was rebuilt in 1876….

11 thoughts on “Glendalough – (2) Lower Lake Trail

  1. Looks a fascinating place to visit – I like the idea of a monastic city rather than the cloisters that are typical of later monastic settlements in Britain.

  2. We practically lived in Glendalough and Wicklow National Park. It’s one of the places we used to escape Dublin madness, and your photos bring back lots of happy memories. I particularly love the last photo 😊 Aiva

    1. It can be mad – especially if the weather is good. The approach roads are narrow enough and there isn’t enough parking so its a bit hairy at times. But once you’re on the walk its not so bad because people spread out and amble along. Its surprising how much is there isn’t it – considering how narrow the valley is.

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