You won’t be short of places to walk in Wicklow, that’s for sure. From the 80 mile Wicklow Way to gentle meanders around the parks of Avondale or Kilmacurragh, everyone from the buggy-pushing parent to the hardy hiker can find a landscape to suit them. And the spectacular Wicklow Mountains National Park is just the start of it.
The Wicklow Mountains are a sprawling landscape of rugged peaks, blanket bog, old military roads, deserted villages, purple heather and glacial corrie lakes. These are the hills in which Irish rebels once hid. They’re the place into which the powerful Powerscourt and Glenmacnass waterfalls spill. And they’re where you can escape for a true taste of complete Irish wilderness.
The mountains aren’t just for hikers, either. A new series of mountain bike trails in Ballinastoe Forest could see you pedaling up to views over Lough Tay and the Sugar Loaf Mountain, before racing down along single-track paths through moorland, thicket spruce and rocky bits to the foothills again. Fresh air, and then some.
An ancient escape
Dropped into these dramatic hills is Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. Glendalough is Wicklow National Park’s honeypot, welcoming more visitors than anywhere else in the county. The Round Tower, churches and graveyard associated with the religious site are crowned by an awesome natural backdrop.
But don’t stop there. There are architectural havens, such as Powerscourt House and Gardens and Russborough House, former home to Lord Alfred and Lady Beit.
A hoard of old photographs was discovered in Russborough’s basement recently, giving a fascinating insight into the lives of this debonair couple (not to mention guests such as Coco Chanel and Mick Jagger).
Lights, camera, action
Russborough isn’t the only Wicklow spot with star quality. For years, Wicklow has been Hollywood’s movie location of choice in Ireland, with Powerscourt, Kilruddery House and the mountains themselves forming the backdrop for productions including Braveheart, The Count of Monte Cristo and P.S. I Love You, starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler.
Unbeknownst to many, though, the tiny village of Avoca also doubled as the BBC’s Ballykissangel for several years – a locally made series that gave a young Colin Farrell his big break on film.
“There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet,” as Irish poet Thomas Moore once wrote of the area.
Why not post a movie of your own, and see if your friends agree?