Self Drive Tour of Kildare and Wicklow
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Of course the entire East Coast and Midlands of Ireland is a very special place. And within it are hundreds of gardens, ancient monuments, great houses, fantastic golf courses, equestrian centres, lakes and rivers and all sorts of other wonderful spots for holiday visits. This route of 550 km (345 miles) takes you through the eight counties of the Region so that you can encounter all kinds of villages and towns, farms and forests and, in each county, two extra special centres of kinds not included in the list above.
From Attanagh go through Carlow town to the Quaker settlement of Ballitore, the site of an incredible 18th century school which educated together boys and girls of all religions and none. There is a beautiful little Meeting House and, most important, the Leadbetter Museum. Mary Leadbetter wrote a chronicle of life in the village, including a harrowing account of the strife of 1798. Her house and garden have been restored and contain a museum and public library. Just across the road you may buy Shaker furniture and, if that might be too much to carry home, anything from a wonderful variety of hand-crafted toys.
North of Ballitore is the religious sanctuary of Kildare, adopted by Christians fifteen hundred years ago. Even more widely known as a place of devotion to horses and racing, its attractions include the marvellous National Stud. There you may rub noses with incomparable stallions and admire the loveliest of mares and foals. The guides – most of whom own horses themselves, as well as caring for the residents in the Stud – are full of enthusiasm and knowledge. There is a fascinating museum devoted to the horse and beautiful gardens close by.
From Kildare take one of the wonderful routes over the Wicklow Mountains and head for the seaside at Wicklow Town, a seaport established more than a thousand years ago by Viking traders. Wicklow Gaol, a fine building which has not held anybody against their will for a very long time, presents a compelling picture of prison life in the good old days. The gaol also houses the Wicklow Family History Centre and its major collection of genealogical material.
The road northwards of Wicklow town leads past wonderful gardens to Powerscourt Waterfall, one of the highest in Ireland. A cascade from the clifftop descends as a white ribbon to the floor of the valley, shaded by old oak trees. A very popular picnic spot for Dubliners, the Deerpark is a haven for wild birds and flowers.
Distance: 175 km (110 miles)