Home Uncategorized The Glen Beach Cliff Walk – A Jackpot of Seals and Sea Views

The Glen Beach Cliff Walk – A Jackpot of Seals and Sea Views

by Roberto
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Wicklow’s famous cliff walk spans between Bray and Greystones, an extremely popular day break from Dublin City. However I get the feeling that perhaps people are doing the wrong one. Far less popular, and yet just as aesthetically beautiful is the Glen Beach Cliff Walk. Located less than 2km from the counties eponymous town, this hike boasts spectacular views of the Irish Sea, and of one of the countries best lighthouses, but also a number of beaches that a pod of seals nest in. I think that’s reason enough to consider this for your next hike.

The Glen Beach Cliff Walk is a moderate hike both in difficulty and length. Out and back it’s roughly 5km and while there’s no really difficult climbs, it does hug the cliff face a lot of the way with exposed cliff edges, so steady footing is needed for carefuls sake. It’s best to walk in single file throughout the walk.

Depending on what path you take the walk can range from 3.7km to 5.3km. The official 3.7km follows a green arrowed trail and loops back along the same route. This is a Google maps guided map to help you with that, but it is hard to lose the trail. The unofficial route leaves the green trail, explores some lighthouses and follows a country and secondary road back to the car park. This is that map from Alltrails.

Getting to the Glen Beach Cliff Walk

The Glen Beach Cliff Walk is serviced by its own car park. For the Dublin day-trippers, Glen Beach is 52 kilometres from the city, making it one of the most accessible in Ireland. It’s not one for public transport unless you want to add the walk from Wicklow town to your hike. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad idea but from Wicklow Train Station its 2.8km to the car park. That said Wicklow is a pleasant town with a few decent places to grab lunch and a couple of excellent attractions.

Glen Beach Cliff Walk

First steps on the Glen Beach Cliff Walk

Even from the car park the scenery is great, reaching over greenery to the Irish Sea. On a bright blue day, it’s stunning. The trail begins at the free car park and descends a few flights of stairs and footpaths past the Glen View Golf Course. Passing through an archway brings us to our location that’s worthy of standing and staring, or languishing a little. The beach which gives the trail its name is tiny. It’s not a sandy beach, it’s better, covered in smooth multicoloured stones and pebbles.

Glen Beach Cliff Walk

From here our cliff walk begins. It’s a series of mild climbs and drops each presenting a different view of this fabulous stretch of coastline. Keep an eye towards the Irish Sea as you walk, as some of the walks famed inhabitants can be seen in these early stretches. There’s a distinct feeling that they are in fact the ones doing the watching, as the bobbing heads are always directed towards land. That song by Rockwell sprang to mind as we walked. I may have even (badly) sang a few lines.

Grey Seals
Grey Seals

The Grey Seals

A pod of Grey Seals are the Glen Beach Cliff Walks best draw. Before approaching the beaches where the Grey Seals nest, a number of warnings are shared and these must be adhered to. For your safety as much as that of the seals. They can give a good bite if stressed. During the months of August to April the beach must not be entered as stipulated by the Wildlife Act 1976. Pups are often left on land as their mothers hunt for fish. Approaching pups or allowing dogs to do so can cause a Grey Seal mother to abandon their young. Dogs must be kept on a leash for this walk!

The good news is there is an elevated position that allows you to see the seals without disturbing them. As you walk, you will see a tiny beach with similar warnings, though rarely there are any seals here. Continue through the small gorge that lies beyond, and you’ll be at the approach to the bigger beach known as Lime Kiln Bay. To the left lies a trial up onto a headland. This rises above the beach and gives a birds eye view down onto the seals which hopefully are resting below. Our visit in January 2022 hit the jackpot, with a pod of about 30 seals chillin’ on the beach. Jackpot!

When observing take care not to disturb even from above. This is a natural wonder to preserve for others and the particular highlight of the stunning Glen Beach cliff walk.

Glen Beach Cliff walk
This headland is where you get the best view of seals
Grey Seals of the Glen Beach Cliff walk
The money shot of the Glen Beach Cliff walk

Returning to the entrance to the beach, the trail continues onwards. This section now is alive with birdlife. We spotted rock pipits, cormorants, black guillemots, greater whitethroats, oystercatchers, starlings, without any effort. Anyone dedicated to bird watching could have lots more success as kittiwakes, shags, razor bills, peregrine falcons, stonechats, and linnets are all common here.

An oystercatcher
black guillemots
black guillemots
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit

The Lighthouses

The walk reaches its turning point as a lighthouse looms into view. While only one is visible from the trail, there are in fact three together here. The one that’s visible is the Old Wicklow Head Lighthouse, whose light housing days are now over. It’s definitely the prettiest of the three, built in 1781. As you reach the gates you’ll see a private property sign, as the area is only open to registered guests. Judging by Google and Alltrails reviews that doesn’t stop most people walking, as there are plenty of photos of all three.

The best news yet- you can stay the night there. They have a minimum stay policy of 2 nights starting from €644 but in this location you’ll want to stay the two. The lighthouse has 6 rooms, including 2 bedrooms so you can bring some friends along. Reading up on it, there are 109 steps up to the kitchen, so I recommend you avoid serving a 6 course meal. To book the Old Wicklow Head Lighthouse a visit to the Irish Landmark Trust website is required. To my knowledge it is the only lighthouse in Ireland, where you can stay within the actual lighthouse.

Old Wicklow Head Lighthouse

We followed the official trail as mentioned earlier back to the car park. Keep an eye out here for some buildings of archaeological significance. There is the ruins of an old church, a lime kiln where some prehistoric flints were found, and a holy well.

Back to Wicklow Town- Where to eat and what to do?

I don’t know about you but walking makes me hungry. Wicklow Town has plenty of options before you head back on your way, or continue exploring. Fitzwilliam Square has some cafes and an ice cream shop and some communal outdoor seating if the weather is decent. We ate at the imaginatively tilted The Coffee Shop. Thankfully the food was a little more thoughtful. Alternatively there’s the Port. Leitrim Place hosts the Grey Dog Cafe where quality tacos and pizza can be got. My kind of food after sport such as hiking.

You might be full to the brim, but don’t go fleeing home yet. Wicklow Gaol is the town’s top attraction and one the 25 most haunted places in Ireland in my book. Visiting is an experience, with a fully interactive tour exploring the hardships of those imprisoned here over two centuries. For those with the prerequisite guts, hang around and do the night tour.

Wicklow Gaol

Just out from town is Black Castle. This ruin has glorious views up and down the coast. The castle itself didn’t last long, built in the 12th century, and destroyed in the 14th, but it’s not really the attraction here. Just south of it is a wonderful little beach too called Travelahawk Beach. Reputedly St Patrick tried to land here. It was also a filming location for the TV show Vikings.

Back in town the quay’s around the River Vartry have some excellent street art, depicting Vikings. The Quays aren’t the busiest but it is the nicest part of the town for a walk.

Wicklow Quays

Have you taken on some of County Wicklow’s best known trails? Here’s some links to them.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk.

Djouce Mountain

Spinc Glendalough

Lough Bray Loop

Hiking Essentials

The Most Essential – Hiking Boots for Him and Her

A good pair of anti-blister, anti-sweat and slip hiking socks. These merino wool ones are perfect.

While they might not be for everyone I find hiking poles protect my knees and give me a better workout.

A solar Power Bank will make sure you’ll have power as long as you’ll need it.

A good DSLR camera with a wide angle lens for landscapes, a telephoto lens for wildlife, and plenty of memory. A mini tripod is handy too for those steadier shots.

Some essentials I hope you never have to use – compass, first aid kit, head torch, multipurpose knife, a lifestraw, survival sleeping bag,

A backpack big enough to hold all this.

Bring plenty of water, snacks, food, a waterproof jacket and pants (it is Ireland), sunscreen, and a map also.

Alltrails is an excellent companion to

Remember to leave no trace.

Disclosure; This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link such as the Booking.com one below, and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your continuing support.


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