Where is St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough?
The St Kevin’s Way & Glendalough long-distance trail runs through the hills of Wicklow and follows in the footsteps of the 6th century Saint, St. Kevin and the pilgrims who went to visit his tomb in the majestic glacial valley of Glendalough (meaning “Valley of two lakes”).
Why should you walk St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough?
The St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough trail offers a compelling pilgrimage experience with several other reasons to embark on this journey.
Firstly, St. Kevin’s Way is one of the oldest pilgrimages in Ireland and is recognized as an official pilgrim route by the Camino Society of Ireland. As part of the extensive Camino de Santiago network, it connects the revered tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, a significant spiritual destination in Europe.
Additionally, walking this long-distance trail allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Wicklow Mountains. Not only have you the option to explore St. Kevins Way, but also Glendalough and the Spinc and Avonmore Way. This collection of hiking trails enables you to discover the awe-inspiring landscapes and natural wonders this region in Ireland has to offer, making it a truly remarkable experience.
Overall, St. Kevin’s Way and Glendalough gives walkers the chance to delve into ancient history, connect with nature while embarking on a meaningful spiritual journey.
When is the best time to walk St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough?
When booking a hiking holiday, every season has its own charm, but indeed some months are better for hiking than others. It is always important to make yourself aware of the best times to walk any long-distance trails as weather conditions and busyness can greatly impact your overall hiking experience.
Of course, hours of sunshine, probability of rain, wind and temperature depend solely on the respective season in Ireland.
Due to the longer daylight hours and more favourable weather conditions we recommend that you visit the Wicklow Mountains anytime from March through to October. If you are thinking of completing the Irish trail during the other months of the year, there is a high possibility you will be met with adverse weather conditions including ice, snow, or storms, along with shorter days of daylight.
As a result of the prevailing south-westerly winds along with the warmth provided by the Gulf Stream along the west coast, Wicklow’s climate is mostly mild. If it is sunshine you are looking for, then July and August are often the best months as temperatures range between 14-16C (57-61F). The coldest months in Kerry are January and February with average temperatures ranging from 4-7C (39-45F).
How long does it take to hike St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough?
The captivating Irish pilgrim path that is St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough typically takes the average with reasonable fitness around 2-3 days to complete.
At Hillwalk Tours, we provide walkers with the flexibility to choose between completing this remarkable trail in 4 or 5 days. This allows them to witness the breathtaking beauty of the Wicklow Mountains that envelop the route, ensuring an unforgettable hiking experience.
While walking the St. Kevin’s Way and Glendalough, walkers are given the opportunity to record their progress by storing stamps in their Pilgrim Logbook from selected stamping stations. The logbook is a traditional part of the pilgrimage experience and walkers are encouraged to record their name, date, and any other relevant information of their journey.
These logbooks can be purchased on various websites online. For those who book their St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough hiking holiday with us at Hillwalk Tours, you will receive an extensive walking pack which will include one of these unique logbooks, so you don’t have to purchase one!
There are several stamping stations throughout this Irish Camino trail. These stamping stations are typically located at key points along the long-distance trail including at the start and end points in St. Kevin’s Church in Hollywood and St. Kevin’s Monastery in Glendalough. Other stamping locations are located at the Glenmalure Lodge, Drumgoff, the Wicklow Gap and the Blackrock Mountain car park.
It is important to note that these stamping stations are subject to change and so it’s a good idea to check for the most up to date stamping stations before embarking on the trail.
Types of Trails
Choosing the right hiking tour for you can be, at times, tricky. It is always important to consider your own physical capability and comfort levels.
For example, at Hillwalk Tours, we have grouped each trail route we offer into three categories depending on personal preference and fitness levels. These are – gentle, moderate, and challenging. Each of these categories, depending on the destination, will include anything from 4 to 13-day itineraries, with customers given the option to add rest days where they see fit.
Our gentle hikes are perfectly suited for those who would consider themselves as a part-time hiker who enjoys taking photos and meeting locals while taking in the spectacular scenery. Our moderate hikes will suit people who are used to regular exercise and appreciate the opportunity of covering plenty of ground each day without going beyond their limits. Finally, our challenging hikes are for hikers who look to set off early in the morning and not stop until they have reached their destination.
With regards to our St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough trail, we currently offer 4-Day Gentle and 5-Day Gentle Tour. The following is the average distance and time of spent hiking our St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough tours.
Gentle: 12-14km or 7.5-9 miles and between 4-6 hours per day
Hillwalk Tours Guide Notes
If you decide to walk the trail with Hillwalk Tours, you will receive a detailed walking pack once you have fully booked your hiking holiday. This walking pack will include detailed Ordnance Survey (OS) maps and unique route notes and walking directions written and constantly updated by our route development team. By personally walking each trail and creating our own detailed route notes, it allows us to provide more itineraries, route options and alternatives than what you will typically find across generic guidebooks. It also includes GPS tracks meaning you will never have to worry about getting lost.
Starting and Finishing Point
St Kevin’s Way (Ballinagee Bridge – Glendalough): As the St Kevin’s Way route from both Hollywood and Valleymount to Ballinagee Bridge mostly follow surfaced roads, our St Kevin’s Way walks start from Ballinagee Bridge where the Wicklow Uplands begin. It is a linear route from here to Glendalough with the trail first climbing gently towards the spectacular Wicklow Gap with its reservoir and hydroelectricity plant and then passing reminders of a rich mining heritage before it follows the descent of the Glendasan River and a peaceful river walk leading into the Valley of Glendalough. The route is well way marked and takes you through a wide variety of landscapes mainly on forest trails and mountain paths.
Glenealo Valley & The Spinc (Glendalough Loop Walk): This is a popular walk that gives easy access to some of the most spectacular scenery in Wicklow. After a visit to the peaceful valley of Glendasan it passes a view point for the cave known as St Kevin’s Bed and then follows the Miners Road in Glendalough to the old ‘miner’s village’. An invigorating climb leads to a bridge at the top of the valley from where hundreds of wooden steps lead to a ridge above the lake with spectacular views back towards Glendalough. Descend is via the Poulanass Waterfall to the two lakes and the monastic village.
Avonmore Way (Rathdrum – Laragh): The route follows the Avonmore River from the village of Rathdrum through the beautiful Claravale Nature Reserve. From the picturesque settlement of Clara with its ancient bridge the trail climbs through forests to a road with views of the valley. You can choose to climb Trooperstown Hill before descending through more forest and across the Avonmore River on your way into Laragh. The trail involves a mixture of minor roads and forest roads or tracks.
Sample St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Itineraries
The following are examples of Hillwalk Tours itineraries for hiking St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough:
Day 1: Arrival in Laragh/Glendalough
Day 2: Glenealo Valley and the Spinc (Glendalough Circular Walk) (13km or 8 miles)
Day 3: Ballinagee – Glendalough (St. Kevin’s Way) (12km or 7.5 miles)
Day 4: Departure from Laragh
Day 1: Arrival in Laragh
Day 2: Rathdrum – Laragh (Avonmore Way) (11-17km or 7-10.5 miles)*
Day 3: Glenealo Valley and the Spinc (Glendalough Circular Walk) (13km or 8 miles)
Day 4: Ballinagee – Glendalough (St. Kevin’s Way) (12km or 7.5 miles)
Day 5: Departure from Laragh
*- walkers can choose to climb Trooperstown Hill before descending through more forest and across the Avonmore River on your way into Laragh.
Hillwalk Tours St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Map
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Path Terrain
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough is well signposted throughout its entirety. Walkers will notice a yellow pilgrim that will help indicate your next turn, making it difficult to get lost.
If you are ever in doubt, you can also check the Hillwalk Tours turn by turn directions and route notes including GPS coordinates. We also supply all you need to know about local information and history as you pass, along with trail alternatives and other activities.
Want to learn more about how to read a map? Check out this blog post.
The terrain of each of the walks that make up our St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough walking tour are as follows:
St Kevin’s Way (Ballinagee Bridge – Glendalough): This trail encompasses a mix of paths, boardwalks, and mountain tracks, with minimal road walking. Hikers can expect a gentle climb towards the awe-inspiring Wicklow Gap, followed by a long descent into the captivating Glendalough Valley. It is important to note that some sections may feature felled or replanted forestry, adding an element of natural diversity.
Glenealo Valley & The Spinc (Glendalough Loop Walk): This popular trail offers good tracks, well-maintained mountain paths, and convenient boardwalks that navigate wet or challenging sections. This journey begins with a short, easy climb, leading to moderate climb to the valley’s peak. As hikers embark on the long gradual descent, they will encounter one steep section where railway sleepers provide stability.
Avonmore Way (Rathdrum – Laragh): The Avonmore Way presents walkers with a mix of excellent forest and riverside tracks and paths. For those seeking an additional challenge, the option to conquer Trooperstown Hill is available. While there are some sections of road walking, alternative rotues can be used to bypass them. Prepare for a few shorter climbs, one of which can be quite steep, rewarding adventures with breathtaking views.
Sights & Attractions
Glendalough Monastic Site
This renowned historical and spiritual destination is located in the Glendalough valley, and encompasses the remains of an ancient monastic settlement. It includes iconic structures like the Round Tower, St. Kevin’s Church, and numerous other monastic ruins.
St. Kevin’s Church
This ancient church, that dates back to the 6th century, is nestled in the heart of Glendalough and is located in the monastic site. Its sacred halls are decorate with intricate stone carvings and has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for centuries.
The Wicklow Gap is a captivating mountain pass that traverses through the scenic Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. This breathtaking landscape is surrounded by majestic peaks, lush green valleys, and panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see.
This picturesque natural wonder is formed by the Glenealo River as it cascades down a rocky slope, creating a mesmerizing spectacle of rushing water and mist. Surrounded by greenery and soothing sounds it offers a serene escape and perfect spot for those seeking a moment of tranquility.
Lough Tay (Guinness Lake)
Lough Tay is one of the most photographed locations throughout the Wickow Mountains and an iconic location in Ireland. Nestled between the mountains of Djouce and Luggala, Lough Tay (locally known as the Guinness Lake) is one of the most beautiful places in Wicklow Mountains National Park. Not only does the dark waters and white sand beach resemble a pint of Guinness, the lake and its surrounding areas were once owned by the Guinness family for almost 100 years!
Hillwalk Tours Tip: The best views of the lake can be seen at the summits that surround it!
This scenic route offers breathtaking views of the Wicklow Mountains. With its invigorating climb, well-maintained paths, and panoramic vistas, this walkway entices hikers with its natural allure, making it a popular destination within the Wicklow Mountains.
Clara Vale Nature Reserve
This nature reserve contains the largest area of semi-natural woodland in Wicklow and is arguably one of the largest stands of native hardwoods in Ireland. The oak-woods are of high scenic value and a must-see for walkers and hikers alike!
The Upper Lake is surrounded by the majestic Wicklow Mountains and verdant landscapes and offers walkers the opportunity to witness its shimmering waters that reflect its surrounding beauty. You must see it to believe it!
Wildlife is plentiful along St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough with a vast array of mammals and birds species on show including red squirrel, pine martins, foxes, eagles, crossbills and the wood warbler.
It is of course great to get up close and personal with any of these animals. However, to maintain these experiences as much as possible, it is important that hikers interact as little as possible with the wild animals.
The do’s and don’ts regarding wildlife are, as always, self-explanatory. Feeding is of course out of the question, but also try not to run after animals for photos. Leave the animals alone as much as possible – after all, you are visiting their “home”.
History of St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough hold a rich historical legacy dating back to the 6th century. Named after Saint Kevin, an influential figure in early Irish Christianity, this pilgrimage route follows in his footsteps and attracts visitors seeking spiritual connection and cultural immersion. Glendalough, nestled in the Wicklow Mountains, was once a renowned monastic settlement, showcasing ancient ruins such as St. Kevin’s Church and the iconic Round Tower.
Did you know?
The Ghost who loved St. Kevin is a well-known Irish legend that tells of a woman who fell in love with St. Kevin, a holy man who lived in Glendalough in the 6th century. The woman was already dead, and her ghostly spirit began to haunt the saint, following him everywhere he went. St. Kevin, however, was not interested in the woman’s affections and rebuked her advances. In some versions of the story, the woman’s love for St. Kevin was so strong that she was eventually granted release from her ghostly existence and allowed to pass on to the afterlife. The tale is often seen as a cautionary reminder of the dangers of unchecked desire and the importance of spiritual purity.
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Pop Culture
Film and TV
It is sometimes easy to forget that several scenes from this epic Oscar-winning film was shot in Ireland. Many of the battle scenes and spectacular panoramic scenes were shot on location in the rolling hills and scenic valleys of the Wicklow Mountains where you will find the St. Kevin’s Way and Glendalough trail.
When watching Vikings you would be easily forgiven for thinking the series was filmed somewhere in Scandinavia. Nope! Almost the entirety of every season was filmed in Wicklow, where the small county has been transformed to England, France and Norway depending on the scenes. Kattegat, the home of Ragnar Lothbrok, the series central character, is actually Lough Tay and its surrounding areas!
Glendalough was famously used as a filming location for this medieval fantasy film. It was used to shoot several scenes, including the battle between Arthur (played by Nigel Terry) and Mordrod (played by Robert Addie).
P.S I Love You! (2007)
In this film adaption of the famous novel, the Wicklow Mountains are used in a scene where Gerry (Gerard Butler) and Holly (Hilary Swank) meet for the very first time before falling deeply in love.
Reign of Fire (2002)
The Wicklow Mountains, which includes the St. Kevin’s Way and Glendalough area, were used as a filming location for this post-apocalyptic science fiction film. It was used as the location for several scenes, including the scenes where the main characters arrive at the castle.
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce (1939)
This novel, written by the world-renowned author, James Joyce, is set in a dreamlike world that draws heavily on Irish folklore and mythology. It features several references to the Wicklow Mountains, including the character of Finnegan, who is said to have fallen off a ladder while building a wall in the mountains.
The Heather Field by John D. Sheridan (1957)
This novel is set in the Wicklow Mountains and tells the story of a group of Irish rebels who are on the run from the British authorities. Themes of this classic Irish novel include freedom, love and sacrifice.
Food and Drink
Below are just some of the food and drink synonymous with the country of Ireland that should be tried while walking St. Kevin’s Way& Glendalough:
A typical Irish dinner if there ever was one. A classic Irish stew contains beef or lamb with vegetables such as potatoes, onions and carrots. This is a perfect, nutritious dish for those that hike as it will fuel you throughout the day and also keep you warm. Don’t be surprised if you see a beef stew made with Guinness!
A full-Irish breakfast is typically made up of sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and bread. Irish soda bread is used mostly (see below) and it is typically accompanied by lots of tea or coffee. If you are in a hurry, go to a local shop and get a breakfast roll – whereas many of the above ingredients are added into a fresh baguette. You really have not lived if you haven’t tried one of these!
Black and White Pudding
Yes, we knew some of you might be wondering what pudding refers to… it is popular throughout Irish cuisine. Pudding is basically sausage meat blended with oats or barley. There is a significant difference with black and white pudding as black pudding contains blood whereas white pudding doesn’t.
Ireland is renowned for its superb and fresh quality seafood. From fresh fish to shellfish, Ireland is a big producer and exporter of seafood. Examples of this fabulous seafood includes salmon, monkfish, pollock, hake, oysters, prawns and mussels. For all of you fish and chips lovers out there, you have not lived until you have tried an Irish fish and chips from a local ‘chipper’.
Seafood Chowder is a hearty soup made with seafood, vegetables and cream and is a popular meal throughout the pubs and restaurants of Ireland. It usually contains fish such as salmon, white fish, and prawns mixed with onions, potatoes, swede and cream. It is typically served with homemade brown bread and is another dish that will keep you full throughout the day!
Bacon and Cabbage
This dish of sliced back bacon boiled together with cabbage and served with potatoes (some form of white sauces optional) has long been a traditional dish of Ireland. This is because each of the ingredients were readily available as they grew their own cabbage and reared their own pigs. You’re trip to Ireland is incomplete until you have tried this typical Irish dish!
Possibly Ireland’s most beloved ‘comfort’ dishes, Shepherd’s Pie is made with a layer of ground beef or lamb and veggies, and is topped with creamy mashed potatoes before being baked to perfection. The dish actually originated in Scotland where crust was used in place of potatoes. However, once it arrived to Ireland, potatoes were quickly opted for instead, and the dish has become a household favourite throughout the country.
Did you even go to Ireland if you didn’t have a pint of creamy Guinness? This dark stout is made from barley, hops, roast malt extract and water. Some of the barley used is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and unique lactic acid flavour. Brewed at St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin since the late 18th century, this Irish pint is exported across the world, making approximately $2 billion annually. Any Guinness connoisseurs will tell you, you have not had a Guinness unless you have tasted one in Ireland!
No, we aren’t talking about Irish roasted coffee beans here. This is a caffeinated alcoholic drink that consists of whiskey, hot coffee, brown sugar topped with cream. There are plenty rumours about how this hot beverage came to fruition but the most commonly believed story is that a head chef in the restaurant of the Foynes Airbase added whiskey to the coffee of some tired passengers who were awaiting a storm to pass. The rest is history!
Is St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Vegan Friendly
The vegan diet has become more and more popular throughout Europe in recent years, and you will find that there are plenty of vegan options available in most eateries. Each of the accommodation we work with at Hillwalk Tours have given us their guarantee that vegan breakfasts will be catered for once they have been informed. That being said, some of the more rural locations of the trail may have limited options so we advise bringing certain items such as plant-based milk, nut butters or protein powders if you so choose.
In addition, the following apps show restaurants which offer vegetarian and/or vegan opions:
Other Pilgrimage Trails
There are various other Pilgrim Path trails available to you once you have completed St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough. Here are the other Hillwalk Tours Pilgrimage hiking tours we offer:
St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough Tips and FAQs
Probably one of the most common questions asked when walking St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough, or any trail for that matter, is – what will I pack?
Once you have fully booked your Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday, you will receive a detailed ‘recommended equipment’ list inside your Walking Pack. For those who are still unsure of what to bring, here are some of the things we advise you bring with you while hiking St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough:
– Waterproof Clothing
– Fleece and other warm clothing
– Base Layer
– Light, comfortable Trousers
– Wicking Socks
– Suitable Hiking Boots
– Hat and Gloves
– First Aid Kit and Foil Blanket
– Whistle and Torch
– Insect Repellent
– Mobile Phone
– Plug Adapter/Converter
For more on what to pack – check out these packing musts.
As most of the accommodation we work with in this area don’t accept pets of any kind, it is not possible to bring any pets, such as your dog, on a Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday.
As the trail is one of Ireland’s most popular, you will rarely be alone while walking it. You will always meet people along the way with the only exception being during the depths of winter.
As a result of this, the St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough is deemed safe for solo hikers.
Furthermore, conditions at certain points along the trail can be slippery, muddy and wet so general precautions still apply.
If you experience any difficulty or emergency of any kind, it is advised that you phone the relative emergency services on 999 or 112. It is also important to note that mobile phones in Ireland can call this number with or without mobile/cell coverage.
For those who have fully booked their Hillwalk Tours hiking holiday on the St. Kevin’s & Glendalough, we provide 24/7 on-call support to all of our customers and you will receive a detailed description on how to remain safe during the course of your hike.
Yes, solo hikers are more than welcome to complete the St. Kevin’s & Glendalough and the trail proves to be quite popular for solo hikers. However, due to the limited availability of single rooms along the trail, it is important to note that booking early is recommended, in addition to a single supplement charge also being applicable.
We believe that the beauty of the Irish countryside should be enjoyed by everyone. With this in mind, we designed our hiking tours to cater for practically all levels of fitness. Our range of ‘Gentle’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘Challenging’ hikes in all regions allows you to decide how far you wish to walk each day and the pace you set. So, whether you are a novice walker or an experienced hiker, we always have a tour to suit you.
With regards our St. Kevin’s Way & Glendalough tours, we currently offer Gentle tours of the trail, meaning hikers of all levels will be able to complete the trail with ease.
As it was predominantly designed as a long-distance walking route, you may come across terrain, underpasses and gates at several parts of the trail making it difficult for biker riders. Therefore, it might be best to leave bike at home this time!
Generally, our tours take place between the months of March to October to hopefully allow for good, dry weather and longer days of daylight while you carry out your tour. This will hopefully ensure that you enjoy your hiking experience with us to the fullest. You can also check out the individual tour page for the St. Kevin’s & Glendalough trail on our website.
Our 5-Day tours include 3 full days of walking – the first and last days of the tour are treated as travel days which allow walkers to reach the starting point and depart from the finishing point in a calm and comfortable manner.
To ensure you’re fully equipped and informed throughout your trail we provide a very informative ‘Walking Pack that you take with you on your trail. This pack has every detail you will need to successfully finish your trail without any disruption. We advise that you carefully look through this pack before embarking on your journey so that you have some sort of idea of where you’re going and what you will entail throughout the journey. Included in this pack is as follows;
– Route notes (prepared by a member the Hillwalk Tours team who has walked every step of your tour)
– Detailed hiking map(s)
– Waterproof map-case
– A sneak-peak at where you will be staying
– Our tips on the most interesting attractions to visit along the trail
– A look at fascinating local history
– A guide to the best places to eat and drink
– Mountain safety information, emergency contact details & the country code
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Hillwalk Tours is an award-winning walking tour operator which specialise in self-guided walking holidays in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Our goal is to create happy experiences for all of our customers, suppliers & staff.
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Leave No Trace
We like to walk in nature and since you are reading this – we believe you do too! It is important to ensure that our impact on the environment is limited so that hikers can enjoy the same view after us. The rule applies: when you leave, make sure that nature looks the same as when you arrived or simply put “leave no trace.” As more and more people take to the great outdoors, our collective mark on the environment increases.
What does this mean in reality? Of course, do not leave any rubbish or waste behind. Do not collect stones, flowers, or other “souvenirs”. Don’t carve your name on a tree or break branches… I think you get the drift. It is imperative for walkers to play their part in making sure litter, damage to vegetation and all forms of pollution are limited.
Noise can also be a form of pollution. Whoever walks through a forest talking and laughing loudly, for example, ruins the peace and quiet of other walkers, who can no longer hear the birds. The same goes for cell phones that suddenly start ringing. Keep the volume down and respect your surroundings. Ultimately, the point is to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy walking through nature. So that applies to you, but also to those who tread the path after you.
Hillwalk Tours proudly supports sustainable tourism and loves the countryside as it is – wild, peaceful and clean. We are proud to support the “Leave No Trace” initiative that aims to preserve the natural beauty of each nations countryside where we offer hiking holidays. We try to create happy experiences for our accommodation too, and the restaurants, shops and taxi companies that serve our walkers. These are often small businesses located in isolated areas that have been left behind by urban migration and a lack of investment in rural regions. Their warm hospitality and friendly welcomes epitomise the magic of a Hillwalk Tour and we’re dedicated to helping keep these rural communities alive.
The Benefits of Hiking
In recent years, walking and hiking outdoors has been widely reported to have numerous physical and mental health benefits. The following are examples of some of these benefits:
Improve strength and fitness
- Weight loss
- Muscle gain
- Improve metabolism
- Improve digestion
- Better quality sleep
- Increase in Vitamin D
- Improve discipline
- Sense of achievement
- Living in the present moment
Hiking Equipment List
For a more in-depth list of recommended hiking equipment list, click here.