Approximate Distance: 122 miles / 196 km
Wicklow is Ireland’s Garden County, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a manicured or formal kind of place. This is a garden as only nature could have made it – bursting with heather-clad mountains, with gushing waterfalls, dramatic valleys and sparkling hidden lakes.
At the core of this exhilarating drive lies Wicklow Mountains National Park. The upper slopes here are blanketed with heath and bog, with lower valleys cradling enchanting treasures like Glendalough, the sixth century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin.
The Wicklow Mountains also squirrel away the source of the River Liffey, which loops through Kildare before cleaving the city of Dublin in two. In 1939, Liffey and King’s River valleys were flooded to facilitate the Poulaphouca dam, creating the Blessington Lakes.
Wicklow’s Military Road, which follows the main ridge of the mountains, is another highlight. Built by the British Army to flush out rebels in the 1800s, the road begins north of Glencree, and is at its most ruggedly beautiful when passing through the Sally and Wicklow gaps.
It’s hard to believe such rawness of landscape could lie so close to a capital city. But wild and all as Wicklow gets, of course, you’re never far from villages like Laragh, Roundwood and Blessington – the perfect places to overnight or to grab a bite whilst exploring the area.