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Tourism and Recreation

Wicklow’s scenic unspoilt landscape and rich cultural heritage including the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough make it an obvious location for tourism and recreation. The County’s tourism attractions and recreational amenities are important for the social and economic well-being of the county. Attractions range from scenic uplands, beautiful coastline and extensive woodlands to historical sites, manor homes and gardens, attractive towns and villages.

Wicklow Mountains National Park covers 20,000 hectares making it the largest national park in Ireland. The Park is an invaluable recreational space for locals and tourists. The most visited area is Glendalough, which attracted 732,824 visitors in 2018 and was third on Ireland’s top ten ‘free to enter’ attractions for 2018. Powerscourt House Gardens and Waterfall were ninth on the top ten fee-charging attractions during 2018 with 472,523 visitors. The Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2019 – 2024 is currently being prepared by the County Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Committee. This will inform the development and management of outdoor recreation in the County.

Tourism in Wicklow 2016
  Number Spend
Domestic Tourists 329,000 71 million
Overseas Tourists 272,000 86 million



Ireland’s Ancient East

Ireland’s Ancient East has been developed by Fáilte Ireland as a branded visitor experience encompassing the rich heritage and cultural assets that the Mid-East has to offer. This presents a significant opportunity for Wicklow to tap into and harness the potential of cultural tourism. Wicklow Tourism Strategy and Marketing Plan 2018 – 2023 sets out the County’s vision for tourism and identifies priorities and actions to ensure the County is successful in realising its tourism potential. The Strategy recognises that Wicklow is performing well but has enormous untapped potential arising from its natural and built assets and proximity to large markets. The Strategy identifies five priority actions:

  • Develop new accommodation;
  • Develop Wicklow, Bray, Greystones, Enniskerry, Blessington and Arklow as visitor hubs;
  • Masterplan for Glendalough;
  • Grow thematic experiences;
  • Develop a common narrative.

The Role of the County Development Plan

The County Development Plan is a land use plan and its role is therefore limited to facilitating tourism and recreation proposals and guiding them to appropriate locations. The Development Plan will aim to promote and facilitate the development of sustainable tourism and recreation and will set out objectives to deal with land use matters pertaining to the planning and development of the tourism and recreation sectors. This includes tourism related development and infrastructure such as tourist accommodation, facilities and interpretive centres, integrated tourism/leisure/recreational complexes and recreational infrastructure.

Amenity Routes

Public Rights-Of-Way

The County Development Plan is required to include objectives for the preservation of public rights of way. A public right of way is an important amenity providing valuable access to natural amenities and areas of natural beauty including the seashore, mountains, riverbanks and lakeshores. There are seven public rights of way identified in the current county development plan. The Council recognises the importance of maintaining established public rights of way.

Tourism 2


Greenways are off-road routes for walkers and cyclists and are a valuable asset in terms of their tourism potential and as a recreational amenity for the local community. The Greenways Strategy ‘Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways’, launched in 2018, is a long term strategy with the aim of increasing the number, length and regional spread of greenways across the country. The Blessington Lake Loop, a 42km greenway around the Blessington Lakes incorporating Russborough House and the villages of Valleymount, Ballyknockan and Lacken, was awarded €5 million in funding in 2019. The Council have appointed consultants to examine the feasibility of building the East Coast Wicklow to Greystones Greenway. This Greenway will also be informed by the Irish Rail coastal erosion study. Wicklow County Council has consulted a number of agencies regarding the proposed Arklow to Shillelagh 35km Greenway which links in with Tinahely, Annacurra, Aughrim and Woodenbridge. The feasibility study and final route have yet to be finalised.



What do you think?

  • How should tourism be developed throughout County Wicklow without compromising our valuable resources including our scenic landscape and rich heritage?
  • Is there a need for more tourist facilities within the County? If so, what is needed and where should they be located?
  • How can County Wicklow capitalise on the potential associated with Ireland’s Ancient East?
  • Are there any outdoor tourism and recreation facilities that the County lacks?
  • Are you aware of any public rights of way that should be identified in the county development plan?