Day 1: Wicklow
Sally Gap and Braveheart Drive
Docking in Dublin or Dun Laoghaire, it’s a short-haul road trip to the Sally Gap, the windy climb that takes you deep into Wicklow’s mountain. Why, you ask, is the first stretch of this bogside beauty dubbed ‘Braveheart Drive’? Mel Gibson filmed key scenes from the movie here. Heathery hills, one of Wicklow’s finest pubs, Mooney’s, and the odd wild deer: you (and your designated driver) are officially ‘away from it all’.
Thanks to a cream-coloured manmade beach, turf-coloured water and the handsome presence of a Guinness estate, Lough Tay has become affectionately known as ‘Guinness Lake’. Vertigo inducing cliffs, busily rushing waterfalls and the River Liffey’s origins make this an epic photo op.
Ireland’s monastic, religious and architectural heritage is neatly encapsulated in Glendalough. Established by the hermit, St Kevin, the stone towers, chapels and churches here are in astounding condition for their 1000 or so years. Walks along the two lakes are heaven-sent.
Day 2: Carlow and Laois
Any Ireland castle with a Temple of Isis in the basement has to be considered out of the ordinary. A 600-year-old Yew Tree Walk and a mathematically designed garden with classical statuary aren’t exactly usual, either. Indoors, the eccentricity continues with ornate heraldic stained-glass windows. Spend the night for a treat.
Abbeyleix and Morrisey’s Pub
A toasted ham and cheese sandwich (remember the mustard!) in another of Ireland’s finest pubs is a lunch you won’t forget any time soon. A former grocers/pub, staff here still wear the white shop coats. As if this place needed any more character…
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Day 3: Kildare
Can you choose a horse based on their horoscope? A certain army colonel thought so and his story is told with gusto at Kildare’s National Stud. Dip into the legendary Tess Eida’s Japanese Gardens where trees, ponds and flowers symbolise ‘The Life of Man’.
The Curragh Military Museum
Among the prairie-like expanse of the Curragh’s horse racing landscape sits this little military gem. Charting the Curragh’s busy military history, the museum whisks you from tales of Jacobite armies to the enduringly tragic lives of the Somme heroes who trained here.
Lunch time: The Ballymore Inn
Tucked away on a quiet curve in sleepy Ballymore Eustace village, the Ballymore Inn has become something of a culinary countryside celebrity. The menus here change with the seasons – as they should – but it’s simple classics like the Ardsallagh Goat’s cheese pizza and Duncannon Salmon Fillet with Lemon Sauce that made the Ballymore Inn a star.
Arthur Guinness’ Grave
In the ever-calm surrounds of Oughter Ard graveyard you will find the final resting place of possibly Ireland’s most famous son: Arthur Guinness. Remains of a 14th century church and a chunky topless round tower add atmosphere to this typically untouched slice of Kildare countryside. Perhaps raise a glass to the lad (designated driver appointed) before hitting the road for home?