Glendalough – (3) Upper Lake Trail

Here we are, back in the beautiful valley of Glendalough for a 9km trail. We’ll go in an anticlockwise direction so we’re heading off through that pine woodland on the right, along the Glenealo Valley and up the side of yon waterfall in the distance before coming back along the cliff top on the left. Whatever you do, don’t forget the camera!!

Boats and inflatables, etc. are not permitted on the lakes. There is a small sandy area here at Upper Lake which is ok for paddling. Some people like to swim here but there is no lifeguard and shallow areas drop off suddenly at various points.

If you’ve been reading my last few posts about Glendalough, you’ll know that the settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. When he arrived in the valley, he spent his first years as a hermit here at the Upper Lake. Across from us is a cave known as Kevin’s Bed – this is where he supposedly retreated in order to pray. (The entrance is some 8 metres above the lake and is not safe to access).

Close to Kevin’s Bed is what’s left of Temple-na-Skellig – a 11th/12th century church built on a small patch of ground above the lake. Like other buildings in the valley, this one was also rebuilt in the late 1800’s.

There are 9 marked trials which cross and merge in several locations but we are on the white path today…

We’ve reached the end of the lake. I love the sweep of the valley here. We’ll be up on top of that cliff later on….

As we leave the lake behind us, the road meanders on up through Glenealo Valley.

Just look at all those shades of green!!!

Miner’s Village

We are walking along Miner’s Road. Lead mining took place here for over 200 years, up until 1957. There are many buildings scattered along the valley as well as some old mining equipment. The area was known as Van Diemen’s Land (modern day Tasmania), due to the remoteness of its location!

Up to this point, the trail has offered an easy relaxing stroll and many visitors are happy to turn back at this stage and just enjoy the walk back along by the lake and through the woodland. Continuing on, the path will soon start zigzagging up the side of the waterfall….

It’s all so beautiful – remember to keep looking backwards as well as forwards…

A very different terrain from whence we began our walk….

The path becomes uneven to say the least….

I’m always fascinated by those straggling trees that manage to survive the harsh elements and cling on to the cliff…

That view just gets better and better as we ascend…

Look at the sweep of the valley….

We’ve reached the top….

Its hard to tear yourself away but there’s still a bit to go….

This area at the top of the cliffs is known as The Spinc ( this comes from the Irish An Spinc, meaning ‘pointed hill’). The track ahead skirts the cliff and is of rough stone in parts but we’ll be crossing a lot of blanket bog on a boardwalk.

These the rushes we use to make St Brigid’s Day Crosses on February 1st…..


There are more remnants from the lead mine up here…

There are feral goats in the valley – supposedly left behind by the miners – and deer also roam freely but today we only meet a few hardy sheep

It’s such a bleak and harsh landscape … but it’s still stunning…..

This is a great example of a v-shaped valley

Looking out towards the Irish Sea – they say that from the top of the mountains behind us, you can see the coast of Wales on a clear day!

Ah – an elusive deer…

Glenn – Dá – Loch….. Valley of the Two Lakes……………

Far below us is the miners’ settlement again….

…..and there’s the Miners’ Road.

We still have quite a bit to go…see the trail stretching ahead….

We begin our descent….

We can see back up the valley now…

There’s a nice view of the Glenealo river…..

The trail veers away from the lake for a while…

What a change from the bleak wilderness above! ( but I definitely prefer it up there!!)

Our descent brings us past Poulanass Waterfall ( Poulanass comes from the Irish Poll an Eas meaning ‘hole of the waterfall’).

On a narrow ledge overlooking the lake, there are just a few stones remaining of the beehive hut that was known as St Kevin’s Cell. This would have been built as a place of solitude and reflection

A few brave souls have ventured into the cold lake water…

And here we are, back at the lakeside! I hope you enjoyed our walk!

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.

Spinc and Glenealo Valley Trail (White Route)

Grade: Hillwalk

Distance: 9.5km

Time: 3hr 15 min

Climb: 380 m


My preference is to follow the trail in an anticlockwise direction. Due to Covid restrictions, all signs will lead you in a clockwise direction for now (the boardwalks are not wide enough to allow for safe passing in opposite directions).

Before you go:

Have a look at these posts about Glendalough…

The Monastic City

The Lower Lake Trail

Wicklow Mountains National Park Map

22 thoughts on “Glendalough – (3) Upper Lake Trail

  1. We did that exact hike but did it clockwise. It was so lovely and so green and we have a gorgeous photo of the lake and the heather on the cliff side hanging in our travel gallery photos!

  2. Clockwise or anticlockwise, I walked both, the climb is hard on both sides, but the view from above is well worth the effort. Thank you for the walk, I had the feeling I was walking it again, with your interesting explanations in addition.

  3. We’ve walked it clockwise and anticlockwise too many times to count, yet were always struck by hoe beautiful Glendalough area was. ‘Tis the season to wish one another joy and love and peace. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Here’s to a year of blessings and beyond. Aiva 🙂

    1. And likewise Aiva …. no doubt you are awaiting Santa’s arrival there in Sligo … I hear he is right on schedule….
      Wishing the 3 of you a lovely day and best wishes for 2021 …. things WILL get better. XXXXMarie

  4. What a beautiful spot! That’s one part of the country I regret we didn’t have time to visit. That trail really does look rough in spots. Lovely forests.

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