Ireland Travel and Culture

Travel in Ireland: Top Three Things to do in Co. Wicklow

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Conveniently located near Dublin, Co. Wicklow is awash with beautiful scenery and interesting places to visit. Probably the best three attractions are Glendalough, Powerscourt and Russborough house.


Literally translated to "valley of the two lakes," Glendalough offers serene walks amongst rich beauty, history and archaeology.

We can trace the history back to the sixth century when St. Kevin decided to live in a cave above the Upper Lake as a hermit, dedicating his life to prayer and meditation. He lived in solitude for many years before founding a monastery, which was to develop into a famous monastic city and the center of European learning. During his lifetime, St. Kevin rarely left the monastery and is reputed to have been 120 years old at the time of his death in 617AD.

The monastery continued to flourish for a century and a halfafter St. Kevin's death but later annals tell us of frequent raids by Vikings and even native Irish attackers. We can however, thank these raiders for the construction of the superb Round Tower in the heart of Glendalough. Built in the early tenth century, it stands 34m tall and 16m in circumference at the base. The entrance door was located 3.5m above ground, making it almost impervious to attack - especially when attackers were showered with stones from above!

Despite the almost constant raids over the centuries, Glendalough held its position as a place of piety and learning for many years. Although the monastery eventually deteriorated, what remains today is well preserved and impressive.

Powerscourt House, Gardens and Waterfall

A castle stood on the grounds of Powerscourt in the 1300's but little is known about it today. The house that was later built on the site by the Wingfields was burnt down in 1641. In 1731 architect Richard Castle designed a beautiful Palladian house across the older structure. Unfortunately, tragedy hit the house again in 1974, when a fire destroyed the entire center block. Reconstruction of the house is ongoing at the moment and part of the house has been opened to the visitor.

However, it is the magnificent gardens at Powerscourt that are the most impressive. Probably the finest example ofaristocratic gardens in Ireland, their setting at the foot of the great Sugar Loaf Mountain just adds more to their beauty. There is a wonderful grandeur to these gardens that is matched only by a great attention to detail. Walk through the Italian garden, the Japanese garden and the English garden and don't miss the unusual pet cemetery. It is easy to relax for a full afternoon here.

Just a short distance from the house is the highest waterfall in Ireland - probably about 130 meters in height. It is a wonderful place to relax, picnic and walk the trails around the waterfall.

Russborough House

Located in west Wicklow is Russborough House, probably one of the finest houses in Ireland open to the public. The house was originally built for Joseph Leeson, Earl of Milltown in 1741 and took ten years to complete. It is in the Palladian style, having a central block with colonnades and two wings. Today it remains perfectly preserved.

Now owned by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, Russborough houses their magnificent collection of art, including paintings by Vermeer, Goya, Rubens and Velasquez. In addition there are displays of silver, bronze, porcelain and fine furniture and the house can also boast a beautiful Maze and Rhododendron Garden.

Overall, you will be somewhat spoiled for choice in Co. Wicklow and you certainly won't regret a few days spent in this mountainous, beautiful county.