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The Wicklow Mountains
The Wicklow MountainsBy car, 104 km, 1 day
These granite mountains south of Dublin, the cradle of Christianity in Ireland, are imbued with the mystic aura of St. Kevin who lived here in the sixth century. As for the name Wicklow, it seems straight out of a Celtic legend with its fairytale landscape of lakes and waterfalls. The region's majestic Palladian villas add a final note of spirituality to the place, a popular weekend destination for Dubliners.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
St Kevin came to this long isolated valley, in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, to find solitude. Later, he founded a monastery that became a highly frequented pilgrimage centre and still continues to attract hoards of tourists. The «Glen of the Two Lakes» is, without doubt, one of Ireland's most evocative monastic sites. This is due both to the beauty of its setting and the number of buildings - intact or in ruins - testifying to the beginnings of Christianity in Ireland. The ruins of the second monastery east of the Lower Lake, constitute the most important part of this site. Its gateway is the only entrance to a monastic enclosure of its kind still in existence in Ireland. A round clock tower (30m high) is the most striking element of this site. It was probably built in the early 10C. It not only housed the clock, it was also used as a landmark, warehouse, watchtower and refuge. The entrance stands some 4m above the ground. The cathedral which was once the centre of community life still dominates the site with its presence. It has one of the biggest naves of Ireland's early churches. It was erected in stages, probably towards the end of the 10C, with a nave and choir, and a small sacristy on the south side. St. Kevin's Church, a primitive oratory, with its high-pitched roof dates from the 11C. To the east of the Upper Lake, there are crosses that were used to mark the boundaries of the original monastic site. Later, they were used for the stations of the cross, when the abbey became one of Ireland's four main pilgrimage centres.
The road west from Glendalough to Hollywood (24km) follows the course of the medieval pilgrims' path, St Kevin's Road, through the Vale of Glendasan. By car, the road loops northeast and rejoins the old route through Wicklow Gap between Tonelagee (816m north) and Table Mountain (700m west). Hikers may choose to follow the old direct route (3km) closer to Lough Nahanagan.
This magnificent Palladian mansion stands on gently sloping ground leading down to the waters of Poulaphouca Reservoir, which reflect the Wicklow Mountains lying beyon it. The lawned terraces behind the house are original. The short drive passes the old stable before the main building's full facade, built of Wicklow granite and linked to two wings by crescent shaped colonnades, comes into view. On the ground floor, the lounge, library and music room are richly decorated with stucco ceilings probably by the Lafranchini brothers. The dining room and the barrel vault in the tapestry room are probably the work of their students. An unknown and less accomplished artist created the very ornate and thick stucco hunting scene on the staircase. The drawing room, which is probably the work of Francis Bindon, has wall panels, also stucco, that were designed for the four Horace Vernet seascapes, now back in their original setting, after they were sold in 1926. The richly ornamented fireplaces are just as luxurious, as are the mainly mahogany doors, the panelling, the staircase and the drawing room's parquet floor, inlaid with lemon tree . On the upper floor, the bedrooms are furnished in maple wood and bamboo, and porcelain and silverware can be seen on display.
Take the time stop at this crossroads on the Military Road, built by the British to open up the region after the 1798 Rebellion, and admire the splendid view of the surrounding blanket bog on Wicklow Mountains.
The highest waterfall in Ireland is formed by the Dargle River which plunges (120m) in a spray of thick white spume down a grey rock face set in a horseshoe of hills. There are pleasant walks and nature trails along the river banks. Climbing the rock face is dangerous.