County Wicklow became more widely known in the nineteenth as a result of the growth in tourism. While confined to the more affluent sections of Victorian society at the start of the nineteenth century, within decades tourism had lost much of its exclusivity. Guide books, increased literacy and an improvement in transport methods opened the beauties of the county to a wider world. In particular, the availability of cheap railway travel made day trips to Wicklow from Dublin feasible and relatively inexpensive. Although the railway never ventured into the uplands, preferring to skirt around the margins of the mountains, by 1861 rail-transport had reached Rathdrum in the east. To the west of the uplands, a branch line, from Sallins, on the Great Southern and Western Railways Dublin-Cork route, to Baltinglass in the west of the county had been constructed by 1885.
Private, horse-drawn transport services quickly appeared in the vicinity of the railway stations to provide further transport options for the traveller. The coincident availability of rail-transport and horse-drawn services created a new type of tourist - the day-tripper. A trip from Dublin into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, which heretofore had been expensive and time-consuming, could henceforth be undertaken cheaply and quickly. Rathdrum proved a popular station on the Dublin to Wexford railway line as it was the station nearest to Glendalough and carriages and cars provided a service from the station to the monastic site. Later in the century a steam tramway from Dublin to Blessington was constructed, further opening up the western skirts of the uplands.
Much of this rapid expansion of the railways was driven by the demand stemming from the tourist industry. Indeed the importance of tourism can be seen from the many late-nineteenth century proposals to construct railways into the uplands. Although none such routes were ultimately constructed, in July 1897 two competing proposals to service Glendalough by rail were presented to the Grand Jury of the county. One of the proposals envisaged a railway linking either Bray or Greystones with Glendalough while the second aimed to link Glendalough with Rathdrum.
Today, Glendalough is one of the most visited areas in the country with an estimated one million visits to Wicklow Mountains Park every year. For more on visiting the Park see Visit