Kildare Wicklow: It’s your introduction to Ireland
Just a short drive from Dublin, you’ll find wild mountains, craggy coastlines and horsey plains. You’ll enjoy big welcomes in small towns. You can immerse yourself in Palladian mansions and ancient heritage, taste mouth-watering food and experience real Irish culture and craic.
Skim the surface or discover in-depth. It’s all here, in one easy trip.
Grand TourApproximate Distance: 201.3 miles / 324km It’s Ireland in a nutshell.
Picture it. Just you, the open road, and a classic touring route that sweeps from the wilds of Wicklow to the horse-peppered plains of Kildare.
The Grand Tour is the quintessential circuit of Kildare and Wicklow, taking in the most spectacular scenery, the most beautiful big houses and gardens and the most intriguing Early Christian heritage sites… in a route as suited to a short visit as a long, leisurely meander.
Historically, the ‘Grand Tour’ was a European sojourn undertaken by young aristocrats, a rite of passage soaking up the continental highlights.
Coastal ViewsApproximate Distance: 79 miles / 126km Like coastal views? Then you’ll love this scenic driving route.
Kicking off in Bray, where a Victorian promenade connects with a stunning cliff walk, it proceeds through Wicklow, throwing up mile after mile of remarkably underrated eastern coastline.
Within a short distance of Dublin, you’ll pass the 18th century Wicklow lighthouse on its headland perch. You can explore (and even surf) hidden beaches like Mahermore. You can break out the picnic blanket on sandy, family-friendly strips like Brittas Bay.
If you want a sense of life in the Irish Sea, pop into the National Sealife Aquarium in Bray.
Country Gardens97 MILES/ 149 KM
Wicklow is known as Ireland’s Garden County. In Kildare, you’ll find a garden dedicated to St. Fiachra, the patron saint of gardeners. Little wonder this touring route blossoms.
You’ll find formal gardens surrounding stately homes, like those at Powerscourt House, where cascading terraces and Italianate formations were the work of Daniel Robertson. Robertson, said to have suffered from gout, directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry. When the sherry was finished, work ceased for the day!
The Robinsonian gardens at Mount Usher strike a contrasting note to this elegant estate.
Gordon Bennett Route
Gordon Bennett RouteThey did things differently in 1903.
Back then, the speed limit in Ireland was 12mph, and the prospect of The Gordon Bennett Cup, for which daredevil motorists would race each other around a 104-mile circuit of Kildare, Laois and Carlow, was enough to bring half the country to a standstill.
A fully signed route makes it easy to retrace the route today and check out the Gordon Bennett display at the Athy Heritage Centre. In Kildare, the course runs through Athy and on to Kilcullen, before crossing the plains of the Curragh into Kildare Town.
Great HousesApproximate Distance: 74 miles / 118km
Stately houses and sweeping country estates are a dramatic – and often surprising – feature of the Irish landscape… and you’ll find the absolute highlights in Kildare Wicklow.
Think of Killruddery House & Gardens, Ireland’s finest Elizabethan Revival mansion and lately a location to movies like ‘Becoming Jane’ and ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. Or what about the home of Charles Stewart Parnell at Avondale House, or the Robinsonian gardens at Mount Usher – recently voted favourite in Ireland by BBC Gardeners’ World magazine?
Kildare Wicklow also boasts four fabulous statements of Irish Palladian-style architecture.
Great Plains of the Curragh
Great Plains of the CurraghApproximate Distance 86 MILES/ 138 KM
“Racing fans who have never been to Ireland are like food lovers who have never visited France, or artists who restrict their painting to a coat of emulsion on the bathroom ceiling.”
So said the great Racing Post writer, Alastair Down.
Don’t worry, Mr. Down isn’t talking about motor racing. He’s got horses in mind. And this touring route, looping leisurely around Maynooth, the Blessington Lakes and the great pastoral expanse of the Curragh, takes drivers right to the heart of Irish horse country including the racecourses at Naas and Punchestown and the Curragh.
The Curragh – a 5,000-acre plain whose name means “place of the running horse”– lies at the centre of Kildare.
Pilgrims, Saints & Scholars
Pilgrims, Saints & ScholarsApproximate Distance 65 MILES/ 105 KM Did you know the lark doesn’t sing at Glendalough?
According to legend, workers building St. Kevin’s monastic site vowed to “rise with the lark and lie with the lamb”, but grew exhausted because the birds rose so early. St Kevin prayed for a solution, and the skylark’s voice fell silent in the enchanted valley.
The sixth-century ruins at Glendalough are one of the most visited sites in the country. But they’re just one stop on a touring route through the heart of Early Christian Ireland.
Running from Maynooth University to Wicklow Mountains National Park (or vice versa), this drive is the ideal introduction to the Land of Saints and Scholars.
After Glendalough, wind through the dramatic Wicklow Gap towards Kildare, where you’ll find St.
Wilds of Wicklow
Wilds of WicklowApproximate Distance: 122 miles / 196 km
Wicklow is Ireland’s Garden County, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a manicured or formal kind of place. This is a garden as only nature could have made it – bursting with heather-clad mountains, with gushing waterfalls, dramatic valleys and sparkling hidden lakes.
At the core of this exhilarating drive lies Wicklow Mountains National Park. The upper slopes here are blanketed with heath and bog, with lower valleys cradling enchanting treasures like Glendalough, the sixth century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin.
The Wicklow Mountains also squirrel away the source of the River Liffey, which loops through Kildare before cleaving the city of Dublin in two.