Before our 10 night Ireland and Iceland cruise aboard Celebrity Eclipse, the Princess and I spent several days exploring the Irish countryside. On the top of our list was the Wicklow Mountains. With several options to choose from, we opted with one of the most popular tours. We are so glad we did. Here is our complete and honest Wild Wicklow Tours Review.
Wild Wicklow Tours Review
Reviewing the different tour options we settled on doing three day trips from Dublin during our 6 days stay in the capital city. The first of these tours was a rather full day exploring the countryside with Wild Wicklow Tours.
Consistently rated one of the top tours in Ireland, it was a way for us to get to see more of the country after exploring the city for two days straight. Also, compared to other tours it was not as long a day as some of the tours were close to 15 hours!
Based on our hotel location, we selected to be picked up at the Shelbourne Hotel, right next to St. Stephen’s Square. The pick-up time was set for 8:50 am. Knowing the Princess, we made sure to be at the location by 8:30 am. Over-estimating the time it would take to get to the location we were there even earlier.
Perfect, we could stop and grab a coffee, and make a quick bathroom break, before our departure
Here is where we met our tour guide Mark. As tour guides go, Mark was a wealth of knowledge. A little dry with the delivery, and not full of too many jokes. Still, his narration, and Q&A during the day provided adequate background for our traveling group.
With all of the other tourists accounted for we left the Shelbourne and headed to the additional stops throughout the city. There are four separate locations the tour company will pick you up at, you just need to specify which one during the booking process. For this trip, there were only two additional stops needed as we headed toward the coast.
So, picking up everyone, we were officially on our way out of the city by 9:35 am. As we started to leave the city center, Mark described some of the different areas of the city. Among the sites were several of the different international embassies as we maneuvered through some of the more affluent suburbs of Dublin.
Among the more, shall we say, noticeable diplomatic centers was the American Embassy located in Dublin 4 section of the city. Built during the early 1960s, it is an interesting building, to say the least.
Heading To our First Stop
These travels were taking us toward the east coast of Dublin Bay. While we did not stop at any of these points of interest, he did point out areas like Blackrock, Dublin. 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 free tower and museum is the location where Joyce spent six evenings during the early 20th Century. The surrounding area is featured in the opening scenes of his novel Ulysses.
Given the 15 minute time break, the tour did not allow for individuals to visit the tower. But, you can easily take a short cab ride out to this village if you wanted to explore more. For us, the quick photo-op was fine.
Back in the bus, we headed toward the highway for a twenty-minute drive to Avoca Handweavers.
Actually, this stop really is glorified restroom/service station with a small shop attached to it. We did refuel with some coffee and skipped the food. Although, the offerings at this self-serve buffet far exceeded the fast food fare you find in US road stops.
Honestly, the 30-minute break here was fine, but we were expecting a larger shop where you could see weavers crafting the finely knitted sweaters and garments.
This was a bit of a letdown. But, the Princess was able to find a sweater during another one of our tours. So, we with this being the only real negative of the tour, we can’t complain too much.
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 national park is a total of 250,000 square miles. While the actual elevation is only 3,000 feet, these mountains are the tallest in Ireland.
The only road up to the stop is The Military Road. Built by the British forces starting in 1798, it remains the only means of getting up and down this popular tourist spot. These meant at more than one occasion there were some close calls with passing vehicles. Our guide (not a driver) did an excellent job of controlling the bus and ensuring we made it safely to our locations.
After driving for a while, we entered the part of the park known as Sally’s Gap. At our first stop, overlooking the header, was the backdrop for scenes from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Say what you will about the actor now, but you have to admit that was one of the most quoted and popular movies of the mid to late 1990s.
Of course, plenty of selfies were taken here. Also, there might have been a scream or two of the word “Freedom”. Hey, when will we again get this type of opportunity again?
As a popular stopping point, there were other buses, and cars, stopping at this viewing post. Mark was happy to help others get some pictures, and we stayed long enough to ensure everyone got a chance to take in the natural beauty. Along with getting some Instagramble pics.
A short drive down the road was the next notable spot.
Well, honestly it was not very recognizable for the two of us. It was the bridge from the movie, P.S. I Love You.
Not as iconic as Braveheart. Still, this picturesque bridge plays a pivotal role in that movie. This, of course, means now tour buses and other travelers routinely stop here for photos.
Given the traffic and other tourists, getting good pictures here is an art form. Good thing we were traveling with family who were able to switch off cameras. Also, our relatives were a bit more, shall we say, aggressive in making sure they were among the first to get off the bus to capture the beauty of the area.
Rounding out our stops in the park was the Guinness Lake.
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. One misstep, and it is a rather long way to the bottom.
Heading Toward Lynhams
Back on the bus by 1:30 pm after this stop, Mark offered us a few shots of Jameson. Now you know you are in Ireland when your day drinking begins with straight shots of whiskey. No, Mark did not partake in any.
Of course, our family killed the (mostly empty) bottle. Don’t worry, there was a full bottle underneath for the rest of our tour group.
Heading out of the national park to some precision driving. Our guide Mark was up for the challenge. Successfully navigating a few tight situations, we later learned one of the other tour buses was stuck behind some traffic, delaying that tour by over an hour.
As we headed to our lunch stop in Lynhams of Laragh, we passed shooting locations for other productions, including the Vikings TV show. Without any reference points or the ability to lineup our cameras during the bus ride, we did not get any photos.
Parking the bus at the station we were a bit behind schedule, so lunch was cut short 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 in a rush, we enjoyed some coffee, scones, and some ice cream.
Not exactly the most nutritionist meal, but it was lighter than the tavern food below. Plus, it got us in and out in just the right amount of time so we were not the last ones on the bus. A quick head county, and off we were down to Glendalough Valley to the 6th Century Monastic site.
With the unseasonably nice weather, the traffic was backed up for a few kilometers. So, what should have been a 5-minute 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. Still, he gave 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 towers also served as a safe haven to hide.
Other remains include the Cathedral and St. Kevins Church. These “newer” structures have parts of them dating back to the 12th and 13th century.
Completing the tour Mark gave us time to explore the surrounding walking trails. He suggested we head out on the paved path to the upper lake. Taking his advice, we did the twenty-minute walk, in each direction, to come upon a very picturesque beach and lake.
This gave us ample opportunity to get some of the most amazing photos of our entire time in Ireland.
Taking photos and walking back gave us just enough time for a quick bathroom stop. But, it did not allow us adequate time to grab some water as we had used all of our Yeti and bottled water, given the unusually warm weather. Hey, we are not complaining.
Getting back to the bus for the designated time, there was one family that had not made it back. Trying to contact them, with no luck, we waited 20 minutes and we finally left. Another tour guide from the company was going to find them and bring them back to their starting point in the city.
Now close to an hour behind schedule, Mark opted for a less scenic and more direct route back to the city. Shaving some time off, we were back to the Shelbourne for 6:30 pm.
After a long day of exploring the wild side of Ireland, we were ready for a pint of Guinness, a bite to eat, and eager to see more of this green and mesmerizing country.
Recap of Wild Wicklow Tours Review
Afer 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.
During our tour, everything the company did was top notch.
Our tour guide was friendly and was eager to answer questions or snap a photo of you 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 and a few delays altered things slightly. Still, Mark ensured everyone was able to do and see everything.
The only small wrinkle was the Avoca weavers, but that was only a blip on the otherwise well executed and laid out itinerary. There was really nothing else to add to the day or the tour of this region in the time allotted. All of the stops were timed well and we felt the pace of the tour was just right. Not too slow or too fast.
If you are looking for a way to see more of the country, and don’t feel like renting a car and figuring out how to drive on the other side of the road, this tour is for you.
Even if you are one who avoids “organized tours” the flexibility of this tour and options makes it an ideal way to fit everything in without feeling like you are part of one big herd of tourists.
Have you visited the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland? Do you have a Wild Wicklow Tours Review to share? Drop us an anchor with your feedback on this popular day tour from Dublin.