Wicklow Travel Tips (From A Local)

A255BE2D-0006-47D5-8111-73358856A4F6I still hesitate to call myself a local in Ireland despite living here for seven years, however I do have the benefit of a true local (my husband) to offer travel advice. We’ve visited Wicklow a few times now and no matter the season it is one of my favorite counties in Ireland with truly breathtaking scenery and so much history. We visited recently in May which confirmed my personal theory that May is one of the best months to explore Ireland—in May every where is green again; the hedgerows are full of blooming hawthorn trees and cow parsley and the woods are dotted with bluebells. Wicklow is an especially lovely place to visit in this month because of all of the lovely gardens that populate this region. Here are some of my top tips for exploring this county with suggestions on what to see and where to eat. IMG_2596

The best time to visit Glendalough

Glendalough, an early medieval monastic settlement that dates back to the 6th century is well worth the visit, however if you go in the middle of the day brace yourself for some crowds. Thankfully from May through to September sunset is late in Ireland, so you don’t need to visit here in the prime hours to get a good view. Weave between the tumbling gravestones and scenic trails down to the water from 6PM onwards and you’ll barely see another soul. In the summer months sunset will be between 9-10PM so you’ll have several hours to explore by yourself. 0EBBBC18-D7CD-43FF-B684-C66F776CA044

Where to eat

Just down the road from Glendalough’s Monastic City you’ll find the charming, family-run Wicklow Heather restaurant. This spot is very popular and tables fill fast so try to book in advance. The restaurant is filled to the brim with antiques and charming decor—and one of the rooms is dedicated to Irish authors. The menu features a lot of local and fresh ingredients and the desserts are worth saving space for.IMG_2599

Best garden

Wicklow is known as the “Garden of Ireland” so visiting a garden on your visit to this county is a must and there are many to choose from. My top pick is Mount Usher; around 22 acres of a sprawling Robinsonian style garden designed along the banks of the River Varty. It has a beautiful, informal design that complements the natural landscape and boasts a wide variety of trees and flowering plants. You can also browse a small shopping center at the start of the garden with everything from plants to linen clothes and local produce.

Don’t miss Avoca

Avoca Handweavers is the oldest working woolen mills in Ireland and one of the world’s oldest manufacturing companies. While Avoca still makes woolen garments today, the shop has become so much more with a mix of retail and food and legendary cooking books. Avoca started in Wicklow and there are a few of their shops scattered around the county (including one in Mount Usher), but for the full experience head to their flagship store in Avoca Village. On the banks of Avoca river you’ll find their store, cafe, and mill. At this location you can see a demonstration of handwaving at the visitor centre and walk through some of the history of the region. One of the real draws of any Avoca store though is it’s cafe. EB76C583-921E-494E-9BAB-D088884E3C07

Find a folly

For a more formal garden with ornate fountains and Grecian sculptures stop by Powerscourt Estate and Gardens. One of my favorite features in this majestic garden was the Pepperpot—a miniature castle folly. Follies are buildings (and bridges and roads) built for decorative purposes and designed to look old; some resemble ruined walls and churches, while others like the Pepperpot take inspiration from fairytale castles. Around the corner you’ll also find the Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland’s highest waterfall cascading at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. FF684712-3DBF-4FAD-AD67-1685B0799A76 DE0FED5C-DBE6-4034-899E-DE37938393CD

For the art lover

Scene of one of the most infamous art heists in Irish history, Russborough House is stunning Georgian house in the heart of West Wicklow built in the mid-1700s. Today is holds one of the largest private collections of European fine and decorative arts in Ireland. The Beit family were among the most important collectors of the late 19th and 20th centuries and their collection can still be appreciated in the house and beyond today. Many works are on loan to various museums, but the house is still brimming with Dutch masters and even a Singer Sargent portrait. altamont altamont2

A hidden gem

Just over the border in Carlow, the Altamont Gardens are well worth the scenic drive into the countryside. This Robinsonian style garden has no admission fee (you pay a small fee for parking) and features a unique Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops leading to the banks of the River Slaney. If you’re visiting in May (or any other season) stop by the cafe afterwards for a tray bake and to walk under the majestic canopy of laburnum to the tables in the walled garden.
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