Discovery Points on Dublins Doorstep Ireland
Or are they? Look closely, and you’ll see the Blessington ‘Lakes’ are a single body of water. Look closer still, and you’ll find that body of water is actually a large reservoir, formed 70 years ago when the Poulaphouca Dam was built on the River Liffey.
Bray’s promenade, overlooked by tall, graceful terraces and a lively jumble of seaside attractions, has been offering that to visitors since Victorian times… complete with jolly bandstand, ice-cream parlours and flashing arcades running along the seafront.
Once a tiny fishing village, Bray is today a thriving urban centre and constantly abuzz. James Joyce famously lived at the end of the prom…
Think of the Irish coastline and Atlantic vistas tend to come to mind. Kildare Wicklow can let you in on a little secret, however. The stretch of east coast running from Dublin to Arklow offers all of the coves, cliff walks and sandy expanses… without the cross-country drive.
The highlight is Brittas Bay, the definitive beach for weekending Dubliners for decades.
Once a home to Robert Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare the estate has been graced by Queen Victoria, Price Rainier, Grace Kelly, Peter Sellers and even the Real Madrid soccer team.
Though its demesne came into the hands of the Fitzgerald family after the Norman conquest of Dublin, Carton House itself was built by Richard Cassels in 1739.
Sometimes, you round a bend in Wicklow and chance on a slice of landscape that is so raw and so pristine, it feels like you’ve driven into the pages of a fantasy novel.
The Glenmacnass Waterfall is one such wow moment. Roughly half-way between Laragh and the Sally Gap, it crashes into life where the River Glenmacnass spills over a rocky cliff. White water streams down sheets of granite, like locks of hair framed by heather-clad mountains.
Kildare Wicklow is full of surprises – and here’s another, the rarefied sight of a war cemetery in Glencree. The cemetery is home to 134 graves, mostly of German military men.
Ensconced in mossy mounds, mature trees and evocative gardens, the cemetery feels peaceful. But its sober stone crosses also serve as a stark reminder of the folly of human conflict.
Ireland remained neutral during the Second World War, but a number of German POWs and pilots died or were killed in action over the country.
Ballyshannon crossroads, southwest of Kilcullen, is a sleepy, rural junction. But it was here, on July 2nd, 1903, that a growling gathering of cars from France, America, Britain and Germany lined up to compete in the first Closed Circuit Gordon Bennett Race and the first Closed-Circuit Motor Race in the World.
Back then, the speed limit in Ireland was all of 12mph.
It’s barely 501 metres tall, but this plucky hill is one of Ireland’s most iconic peaks.
Set apart from the Wicklow Mountains, its conical shape and broody demeanour make an instant impression. Is it an extinct volcano? No, though its appearance has led many to think so. In fact, and in contrast to the granite hulks to the south and west, the Sugar Loaf is quartzite.
Lough Tay is another of those wild gems Wicklow makes a speciality of. A souvenir-sized lake nestling between Djouce and Luggala Mountains, by many standards of measurement this would barely rank as a puddle between hills. And yet, it is spectacular to behold.
Encountered from above along the R759 (between Roundwood and the Sally Gap), or by hikers tramping the Wicklow Way, Lough Tay looks lifted from Lord of the Rings.
In the scenic vale of Avoca, two rivers join forces at one of the prettiest spots in Co. Wicklow.
Here, woods tumble down towards banks where the River Avonmore (in Irish, ‘big river’) mingles with the Avonbeg ‘(small river’) to form the River Avoca.
“There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet,” as poet Thomas Moore wrote in his song, ‘The Meeting of the Waters’, in 1808. “As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet”
At 5,000 acres, this windswept plain isn’t exactly small. But then again, St.Brigid’s cloak – the source of a great legend here – was no ordinary cloak. Back in 480AD, the story goes, Brigid sought to found a monastery in Kildare Town. The High King of Leinster promised to give her whatever land she could cover with her cloak. He was somewhat amazed to witness the wily saint unfurl her garment over the whole Curragh plain.
It’s no more than an eight-mile drive from the bustling market town of Naas, but on a sunny day, the canal-side village of Robertstown feels a world away.
Until 1784 Robertstown was just like any other rural village – a quiet community minding its own business. But then the Grand Canal arrived, and the village blossomed into a thriving along a waterway packed with barges bearing freight and passengers from Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains may not be the highest in Ireland, but their wild peaks, carpets of purple heather and rich patches of blanket bog can certainly claim to be the most spectacular. And cutting right through the heart of it all is this famous mountain pass.
One of two east/west passes found in the area (the other is the Wicklow Gap), the Sally Gap got its road after the Irish rebellion of 1798. It was built by British Army forces looking to flush rebels from the hills, and to this day is known as the Military Road.
To drive through the Wicklow Gap is to enter another world: ancient and unchanged.
Twisting and turning through the mountains, wide-open moors blanket the hills with gorse and heather. The contours seem to go on forever, rolling and dipping into the valleys below. There’s barely a single tree, so nothing interrupts the views.