Before our 10-night Ireland and Iceland cruise aboard Celebrity Eclipse, we spent several days exploring the Irish countryside. On the top of our list of day trips from Dublin was a visit to the Wicklow Mountains. With several options to choose from, we opted for one of the most popular and highly rated tours. Here is our complete Wild Wicklow Tours Review.
Wild Wicklow Tours Review
During our 6-day stay in the capital city, we decided to book three day trips from Dublin. The first of these tours was a rather full day exploring the countryside with Wild Wicklow Tours. Consistently rated as one of the top tours in Ireland, it was a great way for us to get to see more of the country.
Based on our townhouse rental location, we were scheduled to be picked up at the Shelbourne Hotel, right next to St. Stephen’s Green, for 8:50 am. Arriving a bit early, we stopped to grab a coffee and make a quick bathroom break before our departure.
Upon boarding the bus, we met our tour guide for the day, Mark. Mark was a wealth of knowledge, a little dry with his delivery, but his narration and Q&A provided adequate background.
For this tour, there are four separate pick up locations. You just need to specify which one during the booking process. After picking up everyone, we were officially on our way by 9:35 am.
Along the drive, Mark gave us some narration of the city and landmarks, including the different international embassies. Among the more noticeable diplomatic centers was the American Embassy located in the Dublin 4 section of the city. Built during the early 1960’s, it is an interesting building design to say the least.
Heading to Our First Stop
Our travels took us towards the east coast of Dublin Bay, including through the small suburb of Blackrock. This quaint fishing village is home to one of the oldest roads in Ireland. It received its name from the rock formations found in a nearby park.
Cruising along the coast, we came to our first stop a little after 10 am. Sandycove is a small town nestled between the rocky coast. It is also the location of the James Joyce Tower. This Martello tower and museum is the location where Joyce spent six evenings during the early 20th century. The surrounding area is also featured in the opening scenes of his novel Ulysses.
Given this was only a 15 minute stop, it did not allow for time to visit the tower.
Back on the bus, we headed out for a twenty-minute drive to Avoca Handweavers. Actually, this stop is really just a glorified restroom/service station with a small shop attached to it. We did refuel with some coffee but skipped the food.
Honestly, the 30-minute break here was fine but not what we were expecting. Luckily, the Princess was able to find a sweater during another one of our tours.
Ascending the Wicklow Mountains
With everyone back on the bus around 11:20 am, it was time to enter the National Park and begin to ascend the steep and narrow roads.
The main road running north to south through the Wicklow Mountains is The Great Military Road. Built by the British forces starting in 1798, it remains an important route and is a scenic pathway for visitors.
After some driving, we came upon the area known as Sally Gap, one of the east to west passes through the mountains. Overlooking the header, our first official stop was the backdrop for scenes from Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart.
Of course, plenty of selfies were taken here. Also, there might have been a scream or two of the word “Freedom”. Hey, when will I get this opportunity again?
Mark was happy to help us get some pictures, and we stayed long enough to ensure everyone got a chance to take in the natural beauty.
A short drive down the road was the next notable spot. It was the bridge from the movie P.S. I Love You. Not as iconic as Braveheart, though the women might disagree. This picturesque bridge is still a great photo stop.
Given the traffic and other tourists in the area, getting good pictures here is an art form.
Rounding out our stops in the National Park was Lough Tay or the Guinness Lake. This body of water was nicknamed after the dark color of the water which resembles the national beer.
It is a rather steep incline, and walking down to snap photos is a bit of a challenge. Just be careful and make sure you are paying attention when descending to the viewing areas.
Heading Toward Lynhams
Back on the bus by 1:30 pm, Mark offered us a few shots of Jameson. When your day drinking begins with straight shots of whiskey, you know you are in Ireland.
Heading out of the National Park took some precision driving. Good thing our tour guide didn’t partake in the whiskey toast! Successfully navigating a few tight situations, we later learned that one of the other tour buses was delayed over an hour due to traffic.
We were now on route to our lunch stop at Lynhams of Laragh. Arriving a bit behind schedule, this stop was cut short by about 15 minutes. Not interested in the offerings at the restaurant/hotel, we walked up to the quaint Conservatory Cafe. Letting the staff know we were on a tour, we enjoyed some coffee, scones, and ice cream just in time to meet back up with the bus.
Around 2:30 pm, we were off to our final stop of the day at Glendalough Valley, a 6th Century Monastic site.
With the unseasonably nice weather, the traffic was backed up for a few kilometers. So, what should have been a quick drive took over 30 minutes.
According to the tour description, we were supposed to have 2.5 hours at this location. Given the traffic and other delays, Mark cut that down to two hours. This still gave us enough time to explore the area.
Our visit started with Mark giving us a guided tour of the Monastery ruins for about 15 minutes. The community dates back to the 6th century and was started by St. Kevin as a self-sustaining community of converts.
Among the ruins is the Round Tower. This 100 foot tall tower was probably built around the 10th or 11th century and was used to summon the community to prayer. During the several raids by Vikings and other invaders, the tower also served as a safe haven.
Other remains include the Cathedral and St. Kevin’s Church. These “newer” structures have parts of them dating back to the 12th and 13th century. St. Kevin’s Cross is also another popular photo stop. Legend has it that anyone who can wrap their arms around the entire width of the cross and close the circle by touching fingertips will have their wishes granted.
Completing the guided tour of the monastic site, Mark gave us time to explore the surrounding walking trails. He suggested we head out on the “forest trail” to the upper lake. Taking his advice, we did the twenty-minute walk to come upon a very picturesque beach and lake.
We had just enough time for taking photos, walking back, and making a quick bathroom stop. Getting back to the bus for the designated time of 5 pm, we were waiting on one family. Trying to contact them without success, we waited an additional 20 minutes before we left. Another tour guide from the company was going to find them and make sure that they returned to their starting point in the city.
By now, we were close to an hour behind schedule. Mark opted for a less scenic route back to the city. With the more direct route, we were back to the Shelbourne Hotel for 6:30 pm.
After a long day of exploring the wild side of Ireland, we were ready for a pint of Guinness and were eager to see more of this mesmerizing country.
Recap of Wild Wicklow Tours Review
After spending the day with Wild Wicklow Tours, we can see why this 9-hour tour is one of the highest rated tours in the country.
Our tour guide was friendly and eager to answer questions and help capture photos of us with the Irish backdrop. The tour was exactly as advertised on the company’s website. We were able to make all the stops, even if traffic delayed things slightly. All of the stops were timed well, and we felt the overall pace of the tour was just right.
If you are looking for a way to see more of the countryside and don’t feel like renting a car, this tour is for you. Even if you are one who avoids “organized tours”, the flexibility of this tour makes it an ideal way to fit everything in without feeling like you are part of the herd of tourists.
The landscapes and picturesque views of the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough are not to be missed during a visit to Ireland. Wild Wicklow Tours provides a convenient and informative option departing from Dublin, and we would highly recommend booking with this local company.
Have you visited the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland? Do you have a Wild Wicklow Tours Review to share? Drop us an anchor below with your feedback on this popular day tour from Dublin.