County Wicklow

Avondale House

Avondale House was the birthplace of Charles Stewart Parnell, the 19th Century politician and patriot.  The house, dating from Georgian times , is owned by the State and now houses a museum all about Parnell and his fight for Home Rule.  There is also a forestry school run here.  The extensive grounds, known as Avondale Forest Park, are open to the public and contain many impressive trees.  This arboretum was planted in the 18th century originally, but more has been added after 1900.  There are many walks to do here and lovely areas to play, sit or picnic.  There is also a cafe.


Blessington is a village near Russborough House.  It also lies beside the Poulaphouca Reservoir which runs south from blessington.  It was formed by the damming of the river Liffey which runs through the centre of Dublin). It is used as a local amenity for watersports, but is also a pretty place to see and perhaps enjoy a picnic.

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Bray is a bustling seaside town complete with amusement arcades and fish and chips down on the seafront.  The centre of the town has all the usual shops, banks, hotels, pubs and a cinema, and is quite a good centre for shopping. It once was a refined Victorian resort.  Nowadays for peace you would do better to go to Bray Head where you can take cliff walks and admire the views of the coast and sea.  Bray has a beach which attracts crowds in the summer. There is also an excellent Sealife Centre with exhibits of native salt and freshwater fish.

The Devil's Glen

Just outside of Ashford the River Vantry rushes through the deep chasm of the Devil's glen and then falls 30m (100 feet) into the Devil's Punchbowl.  There is a carpark here where you can park and take one of the many walks.  


Enniskerry is a very pretty village which is located beside the Powerscourt Estate.  It is popular with tourists many of which visit Powerscourt too.  there are cafes and craft shops.

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Glendalough, Gleann dâ Loch, means the "valley of the two lakes".  This valley was carved out by a glacier during the ice age.  There are now two lakes here and many ancient remains.

There is a bronze or iron age fort on the eastern edge of the upper lake.

Saint Kevin, AD 528 to 619, founded the monastic settlement at Glendalough. He was said to be a Prince of a Royal Leinster family who were ousted from rule in west Wicklow.  No one is quite sure when he arrived in Glendalough but he came to pray and meditate and be a hermit, and so settled in a cave 30ft above the upper lake (seen here). This cave is only 7ft by 4 ft (2 by 1.2 m) in size.  The site is known as St. Kevin's Bed.  Many disciples followed him and visited the site and it became known as a place for Christian scholarship.  Legends grew up around his life.  It is said a beautiful woman fell in love with him, but he fearing she would lead him astray threw nettles in her face.  She begged his forgiveness and gave herself to a life of piety.

Another legend says a water serpent came up out of the lake and destroyed St. Kevin's efforts at building a church.  He prayed for help and a giant wolf appeared and ate the serpent, allowing him to continue with his church building.

He built his first church near the upper lake, but as the site grew the settlement moved to the edge of the lower lake which is where most of the remains can now be seen.

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Viking raids from the 9th century did a lot of damage to the settlement here, and there was a fire in 1398 which threw the settlement into decline.  

There is a round tower dating from the 10th  and 12th centuries. The tower is some 103 ft (31 metres) high.  It was used as a bell tower to call pilgrims from afar.  It was also used to hide in when the area was under attack .  To this end the door is about a third  of the way up the tower and was reached by a ladder that could be pulled up to stop others entering.
It was recapped in the original mica slate in 1876.  

  St. Kevin's church is also well preserved. The tower was built around the 12th century and the church itself is older and is a simple one roomed stone structure.  It is known as St. Kevin's Kitchen.  St. Mary's church , one of the oldest churches in Glendalough, lies to the west, across a field.

The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul was built in three distinct phases starting from the 10th century.

There is a priests house in the graveyard, dating from the 12th century,was used as a burial place for Priests when Catholicism was suppressed. To the east is a 12th century  granite cross some 11 ft high, known as St. Kevin's Cross.

There are some seven churches remains here and the graveyard itself is also interesting to see.

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Following the path on the south bank of the river you reach the Upper Lake.  Reefert church,  from Righ Fearta or "burial place of the kings", is a simple Romanesque building near to the Poulanass Waterfall.    Nearby is Kevin's Cell the remains of a beehive hut thought to have been the hermit's home.  Visible on the far side of the lake, but not accessible by foot are St. Kevin's Bed (see all about it above), and the "church on the rock" or Teampall-na-Skellig,   supposedly the first church St. Kevin built (see story above).

Gold has been found in Wicklow, but if you look in the water here don't be fooled- there is a lot of "fools gold" or iron pyrite to be found!

There are plenty of nice walks to do here, one of which is along the upper lake to where the river enters the valley.  Here is the remains of old lead and zinc mines now long disused.

There is a modern visitors centre for tourists.

Round tower, Glendalough

Killruddery House

Kilruddery house was built in 1651 for the Earls of Meath and has been their family seat ever since.  It lies just to the south of Bray on the side of the Little Sugar Loaf Mountain.  In the early 19th century it was remodelled in an elizabethan Revival style.  The interior contains some good plasterwork and carvings.  The real joy of Killruddery however are the wonderful gardens, which were laid out by Bonet in the 1680's, who also worked on Versailles in France.  There are Long Ponds, twin canals some 165m (550 feet) which used to hold fish.  There are many wonderful features, hedges of all kinds including the only known bay hedge in Ireland, fine trees from Ireland and abroad,  and many many flowers and shrubs.

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Mount Usher Gardens

Mount Usher Gardens are open to the public.  They were begun on one acre of land  on the river Vartry that was disused and had an old mill on it.  They were turned into private gardens in the 19th century.  A Dublin businessman, Edward Walpole bought the land in 1868 and when he died his three sons inherited it.  They bought more land around it and over the years gathered an amazing collection of flora.  The gardens were laid out after the ideas of William Robinson in the late 19th century. It now covers some 20 acres. It now has a collection of plants from around the world, over 4000 species and always has something interesting to see.  There are camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons, handkerchief trees (Davidia) (see them in May), the Chilean firebush ( Embothrium see them in June), Mock Orange (Philadelphus, see them in June), there is also an amazing collection of trees.  You can take many pretty walks around the gardens crossing the bridges and stopping for tea in the tearooms.

They are situated in the pretty village of Ashford, which has a number of attractions nearby.  There is the Devil's Glen which is 1 mile(1.6 km) northwest of the village.  The River Bartry falls over 100 ft (39m) into the Devil's Punchbowl basin.

Mount Usher Gardens


See these links:-  

Powerscourt Gardens     Powerscourt lake     Japanese Gardens, Powerscourt     Powerscourt Waterfall

Russborough House

Russborough House was designed by Richard Castle, a german architect who also designed Powerscourt House (see above for link) .  It was built in the 1740's for Joseph Leeson, Earl of Milltown.  The house is in beautiful condition, and claims to have the longest frontage in Ireland, adorned by curved colonnades.  The interiors are truly magnificent too, with  plasterwork in many rooms by the famous Francini bothers who also worked on Castletown House in county Kildare.  there is a large Rococo design around the stairs, and the library, saloon and music room are all decorated.  there are many treasures in russborough, fine Italian marble fireplaces, Gobelins tapestries, silver, porcelain.  It also houses the wonderful Beit collection of paintings.  Alfred Beit, uncle of the current Sir Alfred Beit, co-founder of the deBeer diamond mining empire collected the works.  Sir Alfred Beit who bought the house from his Uncle in 1952 inherited the paintings with it.  The collection includes works by many great masters such as Rubens, Goya, Franz Hals, Velazquez and Vermeer.  Sadly several paintings were taken by the IRA in 1974 but were later retrieved.  A second robbery occurred in 1986 and several paintings were never found.  Only some of the paintings are on show at any one time, the rest being on loan to the National Gallery in Dublin.

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Vale of Avoca and the meeting of the Waters

The pretty valley of Avoca was written about by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) in his poetry.
"There is not in the wide world a valley6 so sweet as that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet."
The waters to which he refers are the Avonbeg and Avonmore rivers, which join together at the Meeting of the Waters.  A statue to Thomas Moore and his poetry are here beside the waters.  There is a place to stop and admire the rivers, have a picnic or  enjoy a drink in the local pub.

In the heart of the valley is the tiny village of Avoca.  In recent years the village has enjoyed more recognition as it has been used as a location for a popular TV show "Ballykissangel" which is shown on BBC TV in Britain and RTE in Ireland.  The stories are based on the  lives of fictional "locals" and the local priest and the local pub has even been renamed so that it bears the same name it does in the TV show.
Also based in Avoca , on the river, is the Avoca Handweavers.  This is the oldest handweaving mill in Ireland, which has been working since 1723.  Here you can buy top class tweeds either ready made into suits (for men and women), jackets, dresses etc or by the length to sew yourself.  There are also many other good quality Irish products for sale, woollens, jewellery, pottery etc.  They have a cafe with homemade meals and cakes and you can see the mill as well.

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Wicklow Mountains

The Wicklow Mountains are a lovely unspoilt space near enough to Dublin for day visits.
 The Wicklow Way pathway starts just outside Dublin (from Marley Park) and runs some  132km (82 miles) to Clonegal in County Carlow, enabling the energetic and fit to see many of the beautiful views. Make sure you have a good map though.

 For those less full of energy there are several roads running through the area which afford good views. 
 The Sally Gap is a famous crossroads in the area, where the Military road runs to Glencree in the north. The Military road was started in 1800.  This whole area was used by rebels who objected to English rule in  a time when much of the Southeast was obedient to the crown.  Before the military road the area was  pretty inaccessible.  One such family of rebels were the O'Tooles.  Many of those who took part in the 1798 uprising also sought refuge here.  Michael Dwyer, one of the leaders, remained in the hills around the sally Gap till about 1803.
 Even now when you are at the Sally Gap it is hard to believe that you are only about an hours drive from Dublin.

There are wooded areas, but quite high up the area is covered with bogs where locals can hire a site by the year to cut and dry turf (peat) in the summer months for fuel in the winter.

Turf or Peat bogs, Wicklow

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