See also Wicklow Mountains National Park
The county of Wicklow lies south of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. The 49,421 acres of the Wicklow mountains where the National Park is located cover much of the county. The Avonmore and Derry river valleys and the long coastline make up other natural features. For walkers the 82-mile Wicklow way begins in south Dublin and traverses its way through the county to its southern boundary.
The National Park includes large areas of mountain blanket bogs and Glendalough Wood Nature Reserve. The information Point and Education Centre for the park are located nearby at Upper Lake in Glendalough Valley. Hollywood is a village in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains associated with St Kevin’s Way. A pilgrim path leads from here to Glendalough. The Protestant church in the village has a 17th century vaulted roof.
Glendalough means the valley of the two lakes. The place was one of religious pilgrimage before it was established by St Kevin as a monastic city in the 6th century. Located at the entrance is a visitor centre with an exhibition and AV presentation. Glendalough’s ruins consist of seven churches, a round tower, a high cross and other buildings scattered around the countryside of the upper and lower lakes.
The N81 leads from the northern boundary of the county down its western edge to the heritage town of Baltinglass. The town sits on the river Slaney south-west of the Wicklow mountains near the county’s west border. The ruins of 12th century Baltinglass Cistercian abbey, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Ireland, are nearby. A heritage and visitor centre gives the details. Here is 700 foot long Russborough House, built 1740-1750 of granite in the Palladian style. It contains paintings from the Beit collection, fine furniture, a silver collection, and tapestries.
Just off the main road to Baltinglass are the Blessington lakes that provide hydro-electric power for Dublin are used for recreational water sports. In the area are bronze age burial chambers and Rathcoran iron age hill fort that encircles a hilltop. Castleruddery stone circle, 30 inches in diameter and enclosed by an earth bank, is nearby.
Laragh, on the rivers Glenmacnass and Avonmore is a good starting point to view scenic attractions in the mountain area: Wicklow gap and Sally gap (passes through the Wicklow mountains), Glenmacnass waterfall, Glendalough Monastic Site, and Glenmalure valley, the longest glacier valley in the British Isles.
Trooperstown Hill, on the edge of Laragh, is a forest, which gives views up into Glendalough and the nearby hills. The 100-acre fun park (for young children), Clara Lara, is three miles from the village. North of Laragh is Roundwood, Ireland’s highest village. Near the village is Vartry reservoir.
Back in northern Wicklow near the coast, the town of Enniskerry has many visitor amenities and attractions including tea rooms and shops, a clock tower, and two gardens: Ballyorney house and gardens and Charleville house and gardens. Four miles south is Ireland’s highest waterfall.
The main attraction, however, is Powerscourt House, Gardens and waterfall. The 18th century Palladian house was noted for its plasterwork, inlaid floors, furniture, and chandeliers, but it burned down in 1974. The surrounding 45 acres show formal and walled gardens, terraces, lakes, trees and shrubs. An exhibition on the estate, a house exhibition, shops, and a restaurant provide an all-around experience.
Four miles south is Powerscourt waterfall, the highest waterfall in the country. A bus service runs from Enniskerry in peak season. The Dwyer McAllister cottage, south-east of Donard at Derrynamuck, is a vernacular thatched cottage with a small museum.
County Wicklow’s coastal towns and attractions are easily reached off the N11, the main road south. The coastline is a paradise for bird watchers. The Victorian seaside town of Bray is on the border of Dublin county. This busy urban centre offers a promenade, a cliffwalk, the National Sea Life Centre and the Bray Heritage Centre, located on Main street in the old courthouse. The 2.5 acre Victorian walled garden, Festina Lente, is here.
Outside the town are the Kilruddery house and gardens. The house has been in the same family since 1618. An orangery contains statuary from Italy. The extensive 17th century formal gardens survive in their original style. They were designed for entertaining large numbers of people and include two long ponds and a beech hedge. Nine km from Rathdrum is Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens, an arboretum famous for conifers and calcifuges.
The National Garden Exhibition Centre is sited south of the Glen of the Downs. It features 20 designed gardens. Kilcoole, by Newtownmountkennedy, posed as ‘Glenroe’ in the Irish soap opera on TV. Kilcoole church is a 12th century ruin. Glenroe Open Farm is a fun family attraction.
The 20 acre Mount Usher gardens, near Ashford, have a world collection of plants, most notably the eucalyptus. West of Ashford on the Glendalough road lies Devils Glen and a waterfall that flows into the Devils Punchbowl. Wrens Wood Gardens at Kiltimon, are prize winners with terraces, lawns, topiary, woodland, and walks to streams to entice the visitor.
Wicklow Town was originally a Viking settlement. At the harbour are the ruins of 12th century Black Castle. The Wicklow gaol, built in 1701 is now a heritage museum. Take a tour for a peek into life for criminals in the past. Many spent their day walking on a treadmill.
The 18th century Protestant church in the town has a 12th century Romanesque door. Inside is a 12th century font. A 13th century friary is located in the grounds of the parish priest’s house. Landmark Trust’s Wicklow Head Lighthouse is a self-catering accommodation.
Rathdrum lies high on the west side of the Avonmore valley. The 500 acre Georgian Avondale house and forest park is where an Irish political leader, Charles Steward Parnell, lived. The house contains period furniture. In the forest park are an arboretum, walks, and picnic areas.
A few miles west of Rathdrum is the Greenan farm museum and maze at Ballinanty. A craft shop and tearoom are also here. The Ballard gardens are nearby at Ballinaclash.
South of Rathdrum is the town of Avoca, on the river of the same name. Once a copper mining town, its recent claim to fame is as the fictional town of Ballykissangel in the TV show. The mill dates from 1723, and craft and weaving shops attract buyers.
Redcross is an old style traditional village snuggled up to rolling hills a few miles from Brittas Bay’s white sand dunes, which are a designated area of scientific interest and home to many interesting wildlife species and plants. The prize winning 3.5 acre Knockanree gardens are nearby. On the coast in the far south of the county, the port of Arklow is a traditional pottery town. Sandy beaches and the Arklow Maritime Museum complete the picture.
County Wicklow Attractions
Tel. 0 1 281 9186
Arklow Maritime Museum
Bridgewater Centre, Arklow
Tel. 0 89 442 6987
Avoca, at the Mill
Tel. 0 402 35105
Avoca valley near town of Avoca
Avondale House and Forest Park
Rathdrum, 1.5 miles south
Tel. 0 404 46111
Ballard Park, Ballinaclash, near Rathdrum
Tel. 0 404 46251 for details
Ballyorney House and Gardens
Tel. to view at 01 668 3791
East bank of the River Slaney on the North side of Baltinglass town
Tel: 0 59 648 2300
Baltinglass Heritage Centre
Tel. 0 59 648 2270
Eastern edge of Wicklow town
In Wicklow Mountains
Bray Heritage Centre
Bray, on Main street in old courthouse
Tel. 0 1 286 6796
Castleruddery Stone Circle
Baltinglass, .5km west of Glen Lounge crossroads, on the left in farmland
Charleville House and Gardens
Tel. 01 662 4455
Clara Lara Fun Park
Vale of Clara, Rathdrum
Tel. 0 404 46161
Web: Clara Lara Fun Park
Delgany Ecclesiastical Remains
Dwyer McAllister Cottage
Derrynamuck, south-east of Donard
Tel. 0 404 45325 or 0 404 45352
East Coast Nature Reserve
Tel. 01 281 9878
Four miles south of Enniskerry
Festina Lente Gardens
Old Connaught Ave, Bray
Tel. 01 2272 0704
Glenroe Open Farm
Tel. 01 287 2288
Web: Glenroe Open Farm
Glendalough Monastic Site and Visitor Centre
At entrance to Glendalough valley; off R755, near Knockfin
Tel. 0 404 45325
Glenmalure Valley and Waterfall
Greenan Farm, Museum and Maze
Tel. 0 404 46000
Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens
5km off N11 south of Rathnew; 9.5km from Rathdrum
Tel. 0 404 48844
Kilruddery House and Gardens
Tel. 01 286 3405
Web: Kilruddery House and Gardens
Greystones village; Off R761 Church Rd near Killincarrig village
Avoca, on Redcross Road
Tel. 0 402 35628
Mount Usher Gardens
Tel. 0 404 40116 or 0 404 40205
Web: Mt Usher Gardens
Moylisha Wedge Tomb
National Garden Exhibition Centre
Glen of the Downs, off N11 by Kilquade
Tel. 0 1 281 9890
National Sea Life Centre
Tel. 0 1 286 6939
Web: National Sea Life Centre
On summit of Seefin; reached from south of Killbridge
One km south Hollywood
Powerscourt House, Gardens, and Waterfall
Tel. 0 1 204 6000
Rathcoran iron age hill fort
Russborough, Blessington, on N81
Tel. 0 45 865 239
Web: Russborough House
Saint Crispin’s Cell
Sculpture in Woodland
Off R763 near Balinahinch
Tara’s Palace and Museum of Childhood
Powerscourt House, Enniskerry, county Wicklow
Tel. 01 274 8090
Web: Museum of Childhood
5km north-east of Blessington
Tinahely Courthouse Arts Centre
Tel. 0 402 38529
Halfway between Shiullelagh and Tinahely villages
Victoria’s Way Sculpture Park
Tel. 01 281 8505
Web: Victoria’s Way Sculpture Park
Warble Bank Garden
Tel. 01 281 9298
Wicklow Historic Gaol
Kilmantin Hill, Wicklow Town
Tel. 0 404 61599
Web: Wicklow Historic Gaol
See our feature on Wicklow Mountains National Park
Dublin Road, Bray
Tel. 0 1 282 1421
Wrens Wood Gardens
Kiltimon, near Ashford
Tel. 0 128 10274 for details
County Wicklow Tourist Information Centres
Bray Heritage Centre and Tourist Information Office
Old Courthouse, Main Street, Bray
Tel. 01 286 66796 or 01 286 7128
Open: June-Aug, Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm, Sat from 10am-4pm except closed 1-2pm; rest of year open Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4.30pm and Sat from 10am-4pm except closed 1-2pm.
Wicklow County Tourism
St. Manntan's House
Kilmantin Hill, Wicklow Town
Tel. 0 404 20070
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Photos of Glendalough Round Tower, Glendalough Church, Powerscourt House, Powerscourt garden, Powerscourt waterfall, Mount Usher garden, Wicklow gaol treadmill, Avondale House exterior, Avondale House dining room, Avoca village Fitzgerald pub, Avoca mill machinery © by Barbara Ballard
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Wicklow Mountains valley looking at Killough by Rod Allda; Glendalough valley by Eirian Evans; Wicklow Great Sugar Loaf mountain, Baltinglass and River Slaney, Roundwood by Sarah777; Russborough House, Blessington reservoir by Hamish Bain; Glenmacnass Waterfall by Andy Beecroft; Glenmalure by JP; Vartry reservoirs by Pierre Terre; Enniskerry clock tower by David Staincliffe; Enniskerry waterfall by Sarah Gallagher; Bray Harbour and swans by Raymond Okonski; Kilruddery canals in the garden by Dr Charles Nelson; Kilcoole main street by Dean Molyneaux; Black Castle by Chris Tomlinson; Wicklow Head lighthouse by David Quinn; Arklow south quay by Donald MacDonald
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