Former home of Charles Stewart Parnell who formed the Land League with Michael Davitt to help achieve rights for tenants, who were living and working under harsh conditions on many of the big estates. His policy of boycotting landlords spread across Ireland and he succeeded in persuading the English Prime Minister Gladstone to pass the 1881 Land Act improving conditions for tenant farmers. He also succeeded in persuading Gladstone to support Home Rule for Ireland, a landmark on the road to Irish independence. The house is open all year and is set in grounds which have woodland walks and an arboretum.
Beaches in County Wicklow
The beaches of Bray and Greystones are popular with people travelling out from Dublin on hot days. Britas Bay beach, the Silver Strand and Mahermore Beach all south of Wicklow town are all popular sandy beaches, which are safe for swimming.
The scattered ruins of Glendalough Monastery are situated in the beautiful Glendalough Valley (meaning glen of two lakes in Irish), which was carved into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains by glaciers. It was founded by St Kevin, who was from one of Leinster’s ruling families, after he carried out his religious studies with three holy men in the valley, in the 6th century. St Kevin first set up a religious settlement on the banks of the Upper of the two lakes in the valley, but the most impressive remains including a round tower and cathedral are situated behind the visitor centre near the Lower Lake, where the monastic city grew up in the 7th century. The Monastery also had another famous saint attached to it. St Laurence O’Toole studied at Glendalough and became Abbot of Glendalough in 1117, and then Archbishop of Dublin in 1161. Glendalough was one of the most important centres of pilgrimage and learning during monastic times, despite being sacked by the Vikings at least four times. However, the English finally succeeding in destroying it in 1398.
Even after it was ruined Glendalough remained a pilgrimage destination into the 19th century. The visitors centre has a useful model of the valley and a video presentation about the history of the monasteries in Ireland. The monastery gatehouse (the only one of its kind remaining in Ireland), the ancient Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, the Priest’s House where St Kevin’s relics are reputed to be buried, a graveyard with ancient and new graves, St Kieran’s Church, the intriguing St Kevin’s Kitchen, (a small church with a little round tower belfry), the impressive 33 metre high 10th century round tower which can be seen all the way along the steep valley are all on the monastic city site. Another church, St Mary’s, lies outside where the city enclosure would have been.
On the other side of the visitor’s centre is the Trinity Church and further east is St Saviour’s church, which has Romanesque carvings. At the Upper Lake along a 20 minute scenic walk down the valley from the main site are Teampall na Skellig, the site of St Kevin’s first church, a cave which was supposed to have been St Kevin’s retreat, called St Kevin’s Bed, the remains of a small beehive hut called St Kevin’s Cell and the most interesting ruin on the Upper Lake, the Reefert Church (meaning burial place of kings). This small Romanesque church has ancient grave stones around it, some of which mark graves of the O’Toole family. The pretty Poulanass waterfall is also near the Upper Lake.
The Abbey of Vallis Salutis in Baltinglass was founded as a sister house to Mellifont in County Louth for the Cistercians by the King of Leinster Dermot McMurrough in 1148. The ruins of the Abbey include parts of the church and cloisters.
Kilruddery House and Gardens
House and gardens owned by the Brabazon family open May to September.
The attractive Mount Usher Gardens near Ashford are planted with exotic plants and have walks along the River Vartry, which is crossed in places by small suspension bridges.
Powerscourt House and Gardens
Powerscourt House and Gardens near Enniskerry just outside Dublin, were laid out magnificently in a 14,000 acre estate overlooking the Little Sugar Loaf in the Wicklow Mountains under the direction of successive Viscount Powerscourts. The first strategic castle built on the site was in 1173 and this was strengthened by the Norman le Poers in 1300.
The Powerscourt Waterfall, a few miles away from Powerscourt House set scenically in the Wicklow Mountains, is the highest waterfall in Britain and Ireland at 400 feet. One of its main anecdotes tells how Viscount Powerscourt dammed the nearby Powerscourt Waterfall so that he could entertain the visiting King George IV by releasing a torrent while the two stood on a bridge built across the falls below.
The extremely grand Russborough House Palladian mansion near Blessington in West Wicklow was built for Joseph Leeson, who became Lord Russborough between 1741 and 1751 by the famous architect Richard Castles, who also designed Powerscourt House. As well as extravagant interiors, the house has an extensive international art collection which was acquired by Sir Alfred Beir who bought the house in 1952. The collection includes paintings by Rubens, Goya, and Vermeer.
Vale of Avoca
The Rivers Avonbeg and Avonmore meet in the scenic Avoca Valley at a spot called the Meeting of the Waters. Deserted copper mines scar some areas of the hillsides.
Glendalough Monastery is set in part of the beautiful protected Wicklow Mountains National Park. The highest peak in the mountains is Lughnaquilla which overlooks the scenic Glenmalure Valley, which was an Irish stronghold from which local leading families including the O’Byrnes attacked the English controlled area around Dublin in the 16th century. Part of the Glenmalure Valley is now an Irish Army firing range. The O’Byrnes were particularly successful during the 1580 Battle of Glenmalure during which over 800 men were slaughtered in the valley. The Sally Gap and the Wicklow Gap are two of the most scenic routes through the mountains.