A European Detour to … County Wicklow

Our last day in Ireland was spent on a leisurely drive through County Wicklow.  Our wonderful hosts, Peter and Irene, lived in this area for many years and were able to give us a nice tour of the highlights of this beautiful region.

Powerscourt Estate

Our first stop was to the beautiful Powerscourt Estate.  The Powerscourt house was transformed from a medieval castle into a 68 room mansion by the 1st Viscount Powerscourt in the mid-18th century.  Sadly, it was destroyed in 1974 by a fire, and it was renovated and opened to the public in 1997, over 20 years later.  It’s free to visit the house itself, which now houses a café and several shops; however, there is an entrance fee to visit the vast gardens.  These are not just any ordinary gardens, as they boast having been named the #3 garden in the world by National Geographic.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit, but it’s definitely something I would return to see in the future.  I’m sure it would be especially beautiful in the spring.  For now, we had to settle for sitting on the terrace overlooking the brilliant greenery of the park.

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Best. Avocado. Toast. Ever.

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Looking over the Powerscourt Gardens

Somewhere in County Wicklow

From the Powerscourt Estate, our friends took us on a very long drive through Wicklow Mountains National Park.  As a passenger, it’s difficult to know exactly where we were going, but we were in excellent hands as evidenced by the dramatic sights that we were able to see.

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The Landscape near Enniskerry

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Road signs written in both English and Irish

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As the elevation changed, so did the landscape.  This may look like just dirt, but it’s actually peat, which the locals used to harvest for fuel.

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We came across a mini-waterfall as we descended from the mountains

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Cute little lambs playing around.  The baby lambs were friendly, but the mama sheep, not so much.

Glendalough

After a long drive through Wicklow Mountains National Park, it was time for us to get out and stretch our legs at Glendalough.  Glendalough, which means “Valley of Two Lakes” in Irish, is well-known for its monastic settlement that was founded in the 6th century.  Many of the ruins and the tombstones date from the 10th to the 12th centuries.  It was fascinating to walk among the ruins and the tombstones and to imagine the lives of people who lived 1000 years ago…

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These arches are Ireland’s only surviving medieval gateway to an early monastic city.  The stones in these archways were built in an early Roman style, which means that they were cut specifically to fit and therefore don’t need mortar to stay in place.

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Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul with the remains of a decorative arch

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10th to 12th century tombstones with The Round Tower in the background.  This tower was built almost 1000 years ago by the monks and was likely used as a lookout and a place of refuge when the monks were under attack.

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More tombstones with the ruins of the Priest’s House in the background

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St. Kevin’s Kitchen, which really isn’t a “kitchen”, but a church

From this monastic site, we took a brief walk to the Upper Lake.  It was a nice, easy and peaceful walk mostly void of people, but full of natural sounds of birds and sheep.

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The easy walk to Upper Lake

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Grazing Sheep along the Way

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Glendalough Upper Lake

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Wicklow Town

Our last stop was to the town of Wicklow itself.  This town is the capital of Country Wicklow, and lies right on the eastern coast of Ireland.  One of the sights of this town is the Black Castle, which honestly doesn’t look much like a castle anymore.  Built around the late 12th century by the Normans to be part of a fortified chain of castles to protect the area, it came under constant attack by local Irish chieftains until it succumbed in 1301.  Not much remains, but it does make a dramatic sight against the Wicklow Coast.

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Black Castle Ruins

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These anchors were raised from the Greek ship Tryfillia, which sunk in 1912 off the coast of Wicklow.  These anchors have now been turned into a monument remembering all those from Wicklow who have lost their life at sea.

Overall, we barely scratched the surface of all that County Wicklow has to offer.  There’s so much more to see in County Wicklow, and honestly, so much more to see in all of Ireland itself.  But we got a nice overview during our week on this beautiful island, and we can’t wait to return and experience some more.


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