Discover the Wicklow Mountains and Ancient East
Called after the County of Wicklow, the mountains were formed over 400 million years ago from the collision of two continents that pushed up massive magma areas deep with the earth's crust. The magma cooled and included granite, which became the largest area of granite in Britain and Ireland.
Subsequently, some two million years ago, glaciers' actions gouged out the wonderful glens and valleys we enjoy today and formed the lakes and gorges that characterise this region. A tour of the Wicklow Mountains and the Wicklow National Park is part of our Ireland Highlights program.
It still amazes us that these mountains are so close to Dublin but feel so wild. We love featuring the diverse landscapes of Ireland on our suggested itineraries of Ireland.
The Dublin Mountains
A brief history of Wicklow Mountains
For many years the mountains were scenes of battle. Today it's the stunning scenery that brings visitors to this enchanted area of Ireland.
Neolithic man made their home here some 4000 years ago, and evidence of their occupation remains in the form of Passage Tombs. These tombs are mostly found on the western and northern summits and may have served as territory markers. The stone circles and standing stones may have been erected as route-markers.
A member of one of the earliest tribes to control the Wicklow Mountains was St Kevin. Hr founded a monastery at Glendalough towards the end of the 6th century. It gained a reputation as a learning place. It grew to be a popular pilgrimage centre and a settlement of between 500-1,000 people. Monasteries were often targets for attacks by the local tribes. For Glendalough, seen as being particularly wealthy, these were frequent events. However, the 12th century Norman invasion was to send the monastery into decline and passed into the control of the Catholics in Dublin.
The mountains were to assume strategic importance in resisting the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170. Two of the invaders, Strongbow (a Norman nobleman) and Dermot MacMurrough (deposed King of Leinster), approached Dublin through a high route over the mountains, thereby avoiding the defences in the 'standard' route and laid siege to the town.
Two of the local clans, the O'Byrnes and the O'Tooles, already familiar with the rugged terrain, set up bases in the east and west of the mountains on either side of the valley Glenmature. Both families waged regular raids on the Dublin invaders from their strongholds, and the hills became known as the "land of war."
Act of Settlement
The dominance of the O'Brynes and O'Tooles came to an end with the Act of Settlement in 1652. This act was, in effect, an expression of frustration by the English parliament at the resistance they had encountered in Ireland and signified the extreme measures they used to exert control over Ireland.
The Cromwellian invasion of Ireland (1649-53) signalled a long peace period for the Wicklow Mountains. It lasted until the Irish rebellion of 1798 when the resistors to British rule used the Wicklow Mountains to attack the English.
The British wanted to deny the Irish patriots their ability to use the mountains as a base for attacks. In 1800, a military road was constructed, similar to the Scottish Highlands roads, to quell the Jacobite risings. This road runs from Dublin's south side to a village south of Wicklow with army barracks along the route. It successfully brought an end to rebel activity.
Improved communications, the arrival of a railway led to the development of tourism to the Wicklow Mountains, which, together with farming, are the principal activities.
Highlights of the Wicklow Mountains
The remains of the monastic site at Glendalough features a Round Tower dating from the 12th century. The well preserved St Kevin's Kitchen is a major attraction and well worth a visit. The entire site has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
Glendalough lies within the Wicklow Mountains National Park, 54,000 acres of pure delight. Much of it is a remote mountainous country crisscrossed by narrow roads and tracks for which a car is essential. Our driver-guides will ensure that you get to see as much as possible during your time in Ireland.
Touring and accommodation
The Wicklow Mountains feature in our Highlights of Ireland Tour. However, we can always customise our trips to reflect any specific interests or requirements you may have. The region is a wonderful hill-walking country; terrain consists of heath, bog-land and forests. Wildlife includes feral goats, red squirrels, pine martens and the lightning-fast peregrine falcon.
Stay at Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa; this superb hotel has world-class facilities and one of the most famous gardens in Europe – with the backdrop of the Wicklow Mountains. Powerscourt can also be a base for your Private Tours of Ireland's eastern region. Day trips can be Waterford and the Rock of Cashel (full day). However, touring the Wicklow Hills and Kilkenny is a shorter drive and will enable you to return and use the Spa. The Irish National Stud and Gardens is another day trip option from Powerscourt Hotel.
Heritage and Wildlife
Wild Ireland is a short hop from Dublin
- Private Hiking Tours
- Scenic Drives with your Driver-Guide
- 20,000 Hectares of National Park
- Hangliding Available
- Brown Trout Fishing
Help us make your trip exceptional
Our UK and EU office based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.
Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.
We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.
We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.