Ireland golf vacation guide :
City and regional guide - Wicklow
Known as the "Garden of Ireland" due to its tranquil setting and spectacular scenery, the county of Wicklow lies just south of Dublin on Irelands east coast. Offering an unrivaled landscape of mountains, glens, valleys, lakes and wondrous coastline combined with some truly historic sites and picturesque towns and villages, Wicklow really is quite something to behold. Whether walking through the rugged Wicklow Mountains, with their domed granite heights and wooded slopes; visiting the historic monastic settlement at Glendalough; or visiting the beautiful village of Avoca, the location for the TV series, Ballykissangel, Wicklow will entertain, delight and amaze all at the same time.
The principal towns in County Wicklow include Bray, Wicklow Town and Arklow, while Avoca and Blessington are also delightful places to visit. Bray, with its seafront setting and promenade leading to the foot of Bray Head, is a superb shopping destination and is one of the oldest seaside resorts in the country. Wicklow boasts a fine harbour with fantastic sandy beaches to the south and an extensive shingle beach offering great shore angling to the north, while the fishing town of Arklow (home to the Arklow Maritime Museum) with its Viking heritage, is the last town before entering County Wexford. Set by the Blessington Lakes, Blessington is a long-established, picturesque town dating from circa 1682, while Avoca, situated at the foot of a wooded hillside, is one of the most beautiful villages in Ireland. Born from the copper mining industry and set alongside the Avoca River, the town is renowned for its hand weaving looms, while the beautiful "Meetings of the Waters" is only a few miles from the village.
Visitor attractions abound in Wicklow and one of the main places of interest is Glendalough, a place of far reaching acclaim in Irish ecclesiastical annals. It was here in the "Valley of Two Lakes" (the Gaelic translation of Glendalough) that St. Kevin set up his hermitage in the 6th century. Such was his reputation as a scholar many came to join him with the result that a sizeable monastic settlement soon developed and the remarkable number of monuments distributed through the valley bears witness to its expansion in later centuries. The Glendalough Visitors Centre stands at the entrance to Glendalough Valley beside the main part of the settlement and houses an exhibition entitled "Ireland of the Monasteries". Guided tours of the site are well worth participating in.
Wicklows Historic Gaol, located in Wicklow Town is a major new visitor attraction. There had been a Goal on this site since 1702 and it remained active until 1924. Today, the Gaol tells the story of the thousands of prisoners that have passed through its doors. The fascinating exhibition covers such episodes as the 1798 Rebellion, the Great Famine and transportation to the penal colonies of Australia. Located in Blessington, Russborough House is also worth a visit. Built between 1740 and 1750 by Richard Cassells, with fine stucco ceilings by the Lafranchini brothers, Russborough is one of the finest houses in Ireland that is open to the public. The house is home to the internationally renowned Beit Collection of paintings and is beautifully maintained with fine displays of silver, bronze, porcelain, fine furniture and tapestries.
Two of Wicklows other major attractions include Avondale House and Forest Park and Powerscourt House and Gardens. Avondale House passed to the Parnell family in 1795 and it was here that Charles Stewart Parnell, one of Irelands greatest political leaders, was born in 1846. Parnell spent much of his time here until his death in 1891. A major refurbishment programme has restored the house to the décor of the 19th century, while a museum tells the history of Parnells life and political endeavours. Powerscourt House and Gardens is another real treat, offering one of the worlds great gardens. Situated south of Dublin in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, the gardens stretch out over 47 acres and comprise a sublime blend of formal and walled gardens, sweeping terraces, ornamental lakes, secret hollows, rambling walks and a huge variety of trees and shrubs. The 18th century Palladian House now incorporates a terrace café, exhibition and garden pavilion.
Other places to visit in the Wicklow area include the beautiful Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, laid out along the banks of the Vartry River; the National Sea-life Centre in Bray, which features fascinating examples of marine life from shrimps and octopus to sharks; and Avoca Handweavers in Avoca, featuring the oldest working woolen mill in Ireland.