Heads up: some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you click and make a booking or purchase, I’ll make a commission (at no extra cost to you). I partner with companies I personally use and the $$ goes towards creating more awesome, free travel content.
I’m in love with Ireland. The scenery, the people, the Guinness, the pubs, the music…it’s a great ‘craic’ as they say!
It may be a bit cheesy for some, but the movie P.S I Love You was one of my inspirations for visiting the Emerald Isle. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s about a woman called Holly, whose fun-loving Irish husband (played by the sexy Gerard Butler) dies of a brain tumor. He leaves her a series of surprise letters to help her overcome her grief and start a new life, which lead her back to where they first met…Ireland.
Watching this movie will definitely make you want to visit Ireland to see some of the filming locations. I hopped on a half day trip to Glendalough, Wicklow and Kilkenny with Paddywagon Tours, which takes you to the area where P.S I Love You and Braveheart were filmed.
They call this area the “Garden of Ireland” and it is seriously one of the most beautiful parts of the country to visit. As soon as we drove out of Dublin, the grey clouds cleared away, leaving a bright blue sky.
Read on to learn more about my experience and discover everything you need to know about taking a day trip to Glendalough from Dublin.
Our first stop was Glenadlough, which means the “Valley of the Two Lakes”. There are two lakes here – Upper Lake and Lower Lake.
Covering a stretch of 3km, Glendalough is known for being an area of outstanding natural beauty and is located within the mountainous region of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
In addition to the two lakes you’ll find the Monastic City, which consists of various churches and monastic buildings, plus an impressive round tower which stands 30 meters high.
Most buildings are located near the Upper Lake, including Reefert Church, Temple-na-Skellig, Saint Kevin’s Cell, Saint Kevin’s Bed and the Caher.
St Kevin (who was a hermit) is thought to have founded Glendalough in the late 6th or early 7th century as a place of spiritual retreat where he could be at one with nature. It became an important monastic site and a major place of pilgrimage during medieval times. Many people were laid to rest here, as evident by the number of grave stones that are scattered across the valley.
These days it’s a popular tourist attraction and also a great spot for hiking. You can choose to take a leisurely stroll around the lake or try a more strenuous hike in the mountains.
The walk up to the two lakes is beautiful, and on a sunny day, the reflection in the water makes for some spectacular photos!
It’s completely free to see the Monastic sites and the Upper and Lower Lakes. The only parts that have a fee are the Upper Lake car park and the Visitor Centre at the Monastic Site.
If you have some time after your walk, I’d recommend stopping at The Glendalough Hotel for some scones and tea in the sunshine too.
Dogs are welcome as long as they’re on a leash and there are public bathroom facilities at the Monastic Site Visitor Centre and the Upper Lake Car Park area.
After walking around the lakes at Glendalough our awesome driver JJ took us on a scenic drive into the Wicklow Mountains, where we made a short photo stop at Wicklow Gap, at a height of 470m.
The flashback scene where Jerry catches sight of Holly in all her bright colours is shot in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. You’re not going to stand in the exact spot where they first meet, but you will get an idea of the stunning scenery of the area.
On the way to Kilkenny we visited this remarkable Megalithic Portal Tomb pictured below which is called Brown Hill Dolmen. It doesn’t look anything special when you look at it from the car park, but when you walk up to it, you can appreciate it a lot more. The capstone weighs around 100 tonnes, and the tomb was built between 4,900 and 5,500 years ago, so how they managed to move this stone without the technology we have today is anyone’s guess!
Our final stop of the day was in the city of Kilkenny. This medieval city is located in the southeast of Ireland on the banks of the River Nore and has strong religious roots with lots of well-preserved churches and monasteries. Kilkenny is home to the magnificent 12th century Kilkenny Castle, which built in Norman times on a rocky an outcrop that offers a strategic vantage point over the river and city.
If you have time you can follow Ireland’s Medieval Mile, a discovery trail that runs through the city linking the 13th century St. Canice’s Cathedral to the Anglo-Norman Castle. On the way you’ll also discover numerous attractions including Rothe House and Gardens, the Medieval Mile Museum and Butler House.
We had a couple of hours to walk around the town, get some lunch, and do some shopping before heading back to Dublin.
You can have a pint of Kilkenny (Irish ale), visit the design centre for crafts and souvenirs and warm up with some Irish pub grub. There are lots of different restaurants and cafes here, but I went with JJ’s recommendation and had some traditional bacon and cabbage with a pint of Bulmers in Nostalgia Cafe. The food was fantastic and there’s a nice little outdoor roof terrace upstairs.
How to Get to Glendalough from Dublin
Best Day Tours
The tour I did was this one with Paddywagon Tours. You can also book tours with Viator and GetYourGuide. Here’s a selection of tours:
- From Dublin: Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny Full-Day Trip
- Dublin: Full-Day Wicklow Mountains Tour with Lunch
- From Dublin: Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains Guided Trip
Renting a Car
Your other easiest option for getting to Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains is renting a car. You can check prices on sites like Rentalcars.com and Kayak. The drive from Dublin to Glendalough takes approximately 45 minutes along the N11, passing through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Remember that they drive on the left in Ireland, so if you’re coming from places like the US or other countries in Europe then this may take some getting used to.
If you’re only used to driving automatic cars, be warned that the majority of cars are manual in Ireland. Some car rental places will have a few automatic cars so you’ll want to make sure you specifically request one of these, or learn to drive stick shift before you go to Ireland!
There are also buses that depart from Dublin and will take you to Glendalough Visitor Centre. The journey time takes 1 hour 5 minutes and you can check the schedules with St. Kevins Bus Services.
A Final Word…
Even if you’re not a fan of PS I Love You or Braveheart, the day tour is a great way to see on of the prettiest parts of Ireland and it’s only a short distance from Dublin. When you get back to Dublin, if you want to visit the pub where Jerry sings Galway Girl to Holly, that’s shot in Whelan’s Pub on Wexford Street!
Other Ireland blog posts: