Wicklow is known as the Garden of Ireland thanks to its dramatic mountainous landscape, wild wooded glens and beaches. The county is south of Dublin and the small town of the same name sits right on the coast of the Irish Sea. Hikers can roam the rolling hills and valleys of the Wicklow Mountains National Park and there’s a cinematic shoreline waiting to be explored. At night, you can soak up the atmosphere in the welcoming inns that dot the countryside.
Hostels in Wicklow are both scenic and sociable. You can stay in a converted farmhouse, a hostel built on what was once a 6th-century settlement or a rustic retreat-style lodge that has hammocks and a hot tub. For a truly nomadic experience, choose a Wicklow hostel in a simple mountain hut that’s surrounded by sheep and streams. Free Wi-Fi is available in some hostels and many of the remote ones welcome you with creature comforts of towels, toiletries and hairdryers in the dorms.
Wicklow Mountains National Park dominates the county, with 220-square kilometres of heath-covered slopes and peaks, deep lakes and the monastic site of Glendalough Valley. Wicklow town is a compact community that forms a half moon around its busy harbour. You'll find traditional pubs, shops and painted terraced houses lining the roads around Fitzwilliam Square and the high street. At the north end of town is the wetland haven of The Murrough, where there’s wildlife and water sports. Just south of the town, Brittas Bay is the area’s popular sandy beach.
Activities make the most of the stunning surroundings. Walk the Wicklow Way to take in forests, farmland and fast-flowing mountain streams or pony trek the pilgrim path of Saint Kevin's Way. Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland’s highest, is a 121-metre cascade on the River Dargle near Enniskerry. Wicklow town's main attraction is the supposedly haunted Historic Gaol, a former jail that tells the tale of a brutal 18th-century prison. Up by the ruins of the Black Castle, overlooking the harbour, is the perfect spot for fish and chips with a view.
Wicklow town is about an hour's drive from Dublin Airport. You can take the Airlink Express 747 to Dublin's Connolly Station to catch an Irish Rail train to Wicklow in around 75 minutes. A train service from here also goes to Rosslare for ferries to Pembroke in Wales and Cherbourg, France. Bus Éireann route 133 and Wexford bus route 740A run to and from the airport in just under two hours.