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Discover the Five Best Nature Hikes in Co. Wicklow, Ireland

If you're a nature enthusiast, like us, and looking for some of the best nature hikes in County Wicklow, look no further! Co. Wicklow, often referred to as the "Garden of Ireland," boasts some of the most picturesque landscapes and serene nature reserves in the country. Here are five must-visit hikes that will immerse you in the beauty of Wicklow's natural wonders.


1. Vale of Clara Nature Reserve


The Vale of Clara Nature Reserve is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Wicklow. The reserve, founded in 1983 protects one of the biggest semi-natural woodland in the county, making it one of the best places to discover the beauty of Irish nature. With a few paths to choose from, the hike takes you through one of Ireland's finest examples of native oak woodland, showcasing a rich tapestry of flora and fauna. The trails here are well-marked and suitable for all levels of hikers, making it a perfect spot for families and casual walkers.

Located between Rathdrum and Laragh, in a beautiful valley, the Nature Reserve is perfect for a tranquil and slow walk or forest bathing experience, due to its location away from the hustle and bustle of towns and villages and the amount of natural wildlife.


Highlights:

  • Ancient oak trees and diverse plant life

  • Peaceful riverbanks along the Avonmore River

  • Abundant wildlife, including deer, badgers and red squirrels, and a variety of bird species, including red kites and jays.


Trail Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

  • Length:  5,6 km to 9,5km looped walks: green and blue trail, linear red trail ( Avonmore Way)

  • Duration: 1.5 to 3 hours


2. Glen of the Downs Nature Reserve


The Glen of the Downs, located near Delgany village, is a stunning nature reserve characterized by its deep glacial valley and lush deciduous woodland. The main trail here provides breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, making it a favourite among photographers and nature lovers. The recently restored and renovated Octagon, originally built in 1766, makes it a perfect spot for a picnic. Located on the top of the hills, it allows you to admire the beautiful views of the Great Sugar Loaf. In spring the deciduous forest is covered with fields of white flowering and strongly scented wild garlic, making it one of the most delightful sights. However, the forest looks exceptionally dazzling in Autumn, when leaves of the deciduous tree species turn colour, giving it the autumnal splendour.


Highlights:

  • Spectacular views from the Octagon of the glacial valley

  • Dense beech, oak, and ash forests

  • Opportunities to spot rare bird species such as the great spotted woodpecker


Trail Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

  • Length: Approximately 4 km

  • Duration: 1.5 to 2.5 hours


3. Knocksink Wood


Knocksink Wood is a designated National Nature Reserve known for its rich biodiversity and unique ecological features. This woodland spans approximately 281 acres and is situated in a deep valley carved by the Glencullen River, providing a stunning natural landscape and a haven for a wide variety of plant and animal species. The reserve is notable for its wetland habitats, including marshes and wet meadows, which are fed by the Glencullen River. These wetlands support a rich array of plant life, including marsh orchids and sedges. The river itself is a key feature of the wood, with its clear, fast-flowing waters supporting aquatic life such as otters and trout. Birdwatchers can spot species like the great spotted woodpecker, sparrowhawk, and the elusive long-eared owl. The dense vegetation provides ideal habitats for mammals such as badgers, foxes, and the protected red squirrel. Bats, including the common pipistrelle and the brown long-eared bat, roost in the woodland, taking advantage of the abundance of insects.


Highlights:

  • Picturesque woodland scenery with diverse plant species

  • Crystal-clear streams and natural springs

  • Habitats for butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects


Trail Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Length: Approximately 3 km

  • Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours


4. Derrybawn Woodland


Derrybawn Woodland is part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park and offers a variety of trails that cater to different levels of hikers. The most popular route takes you through dense forests and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The orange path, that follows the woodland trail, takes you over the Glendalough Monastery site and allows you to admire the Upper Lake from a distance. Some parts of the forest have been fenced due to the high amount of grazing deer in the local area, allowing young samplings to develop into mature trees. At some distance from the busy Glendalough Visitor's Centre, the Derrybawn Woodland is one of our destinations for a Mindful Hike, a slow-paced hike with elements of mindfulness and forest bathing.


Highlights:

  • Panoramic views of the Wicklow Mountains

  • Dense woodlands including scots pine with diverse wildlife

  • Access to historic sites like the ruins of Derrybawn House


Trail Info:

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

  • Length: Approximately 8 km, looped walk; orange trail

  • Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours



5. Devil’s Glen



Devil's Glen is characterized by its lush forests, dramatic cliffs, and the River Vartry that meanders through the valley. The area is covered with dense woodland, including a mix of native and non-native tree species, creating a vibrant tapestry of green that changes with the seasons. The river, cascading over rocks and forming small waterfalls, adds to the serene and magical atmosphere of the glen. Devil’s Glen offers a unique blend of natural beauty and artistic flair. One of the most popular routes is the Devil's Glen Forest Walk, which provides stunning views of the valley and the surrounding mountains. The Sculpture Trail is another highlight, featuring a series of contemporary sculptures placed along the path, blending art with nature.


Highlights:


  • Art in the Woods: Discover sculptures and art installations along the trail, blending creativity with nature.

  • Waterfall: The trail features a picturesque waterfall, perfect for a tranquil pause.

  • Forested Pathways: Wander through dense woodlands filled with diverse flora and fauna.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, making it suitable for families and casual hikers.


Co. Wicklow offers an abundance of natural beauty and these five hikes are just a glimpse into the wonders that await you. Whether you're looking for a leisurely walk through ancient woodlands or a challenging hike with panoramic views, Co. Wicklow has something for everyone. So lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in the Garden of Ireland.




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