Visit Ireland’s Garden County Wicklow
As we highlighted the best spots in Carlow previously, we simply could not leave out Wicklow, the home of our sister store in Kilquade. Wicklow is affectionately known as the garden of Ireland and lives up to its name. The Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland’s largest national park, is just one of the many beautiful landscapes to explore throughout the county. We have picked a few of our favourites, some very popular spots and a couple of hidden gems which we think you’ll really like.
Glendalough is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Ireland with stunning views, historic ruins and beautiful walks for all levels of difficulty on offer. The ancient monastery founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin is set in a glaciated valley with two lakes. The monastic ruins include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. Although the visitor centre is currently closed, guides are still on hand to provide insight to the history and heritage of the monastic site. If you’re more interested in experiencing the stunning natural surroundings, simply while away hours exploring the valley via the many way-marked ways.
A beautiful coastal path of approx. 7km that stretches around Bray Head to Greystones overlooking the Irish Sea along the way. If you can tear your eyes away from the sea view and the marine life you may spot in the waters below, you’ll notice a vast variety of plants and wildlife on the walk. Now is the perfect time (late summer) to do the walk when flowers are in full bloom and hay bales dot the fields near Greystones. Once you reach the finish at Greystones Harbour there is a few nice eateries in which to rest and re-fuel for the return leg.
The whole family will enjoy a visit to this stunning Palladian mansion built in 1740. Guided tours of the house showcase the Beit family art collection and there are some interactive elements in the form of 3D photos and 2D films from Alfred Beit’s own travels in the 1920s to the1930s, but there is so much more to Russborough than the house. The outdoor area contains walled gardens, woodland walks and for the children a 20,000ft maze, a magical fairly trail and a playground. The café and gift shop have now all reopened after lockdown, so you will easily spend a full day exploring this magnificent site.
For something a little different we would recommend a visit to Wicklow Gaol. See and feel what it might have been like to be incarcerated in this impressive and foreboding building. Learn the stories of the men, women and children imprisoned here throughout the various stages of history from the United Irishmen rebellion in the late 1700s through to the days of transportation ships taking convicts to the colonies and right up to the Irish Civil War. The interactive tours led by actors are suitable for all the family and the new virtual reality experience, The Gates of Hell, puts visitors right in the centre of the action at some of the most interesting times in the Gaol’s history. Certified by Fáilte Ireland to be Covid-19 safe, tours are available Monday through Sunday.
Around the ruins of a fine Queen Anne-style house these spectacular gardens occupy 52 acres and boast an extensive collection of plants from around the world. The site is a particular haven for tree lovers with some rare species from South America and a full avenue of monkey puzzle trees. These gardens are the lesser-known sister of the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. All gardens are now reopened and admission is currently free!
While we would of course always recommend Rachel’s Secret Café at Arboretum if you want a lavish lunch while exploring Wicklow, there are a couple of other spots we would recommend such as the Firehouse bakery (so good they supply our own café) and of course The Happy Pear cafe in Greystones – the place where it all began for the twin owners who are now household names throughout Ireland.
When it comes accommodation, we simply cannot recommend the Druid’s Glen Resort highly enough with its stunning setting of 400 acres of rolling countryside nestled between the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea. I’s the perfect basecamp for your trip to the Garden of Ireland.
Don’t forget to visit Arboretum Kilquade. Our garden centre, shop, café, playgrounds and display gardens all fully reopened and safe for all visitors. Open every day. Monday – Saturday: 9am – 6pm; Sunday: 10am – 6pm; Bank Holidays: 9am – 6pm.
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