Your Ultimate Guide to Glendalough | co. Wicklow

Glendalough
If you ever spend some time in Ireland, chances are that you’ll get recommended a visit to Glendalough a fair few times. It took me the good part of a decade to finally set foot in the old Monastic City so you can imagine how many times I heard the whole Glendalough spiel. Well, now it’s my turn to lay it all on you! Glendalough is one of the most visited attractions in Ireland and for good cause, this natural wonder is positively ravishing. So what are you waiting for? I know I know, I get you, when you don’t drive, it can be a tad tricky (and as I found out even if you do have a car, getting there may come with its own set of hurdles) but fret not, after spending 4 days there, I’m here to help you make the most of your time and organise a hopefully all-round fuss-free trip to Glendalough, car or no car.

1. ABOUT GLENDALOUGH

Glendalough means in gaelic ‘valley of the two lakes’. The two lakes, the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake, were shaped as a result of the thaw following the Ice Age. You can find this awe-inspiring valley in county Wicklow (Dublin’s southern neighbour county). It is part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the biggest of the 6 national parks in Ireland.
Glendalough is famous worldwide for its grand Monastic City which you can still see in part today. The monastic settlement finds its origin back to the 6th century when Saint Kevin founded the place after falling in love with the beauty of the quiet valley.
For 600 years, the settlement flourished. You’ll have to imagine the place in its heyday, it comprised of farm buildings, guest houses, an infirmary and dwellings for the monks and the local population. The monks organised manuscript workshops and sold oak timber to the Vikings to build their fleet. It all came to an end after multiple raids carried out by the English and the final nail on the coffin came with Glendalough losing its ecclesiastical status to Dublin’s Diocese. It remained a local church and a place of pilgrimage for a while but soon enough the place fell in ruins. The monuments you see today mostly date from the 10th to the 12th century.

The site of Glendalough can be divided in 3 sections and this is what you will find in each of them:

The Lower Lake

This is where you will find the famous Monastic City. Coming from afar, the first thing you’ll probably see is Glendalough’s very recognisable Round Tower, standing tall at 30m. It is said to date back from the 10th century. The Monastic City has many other interesting features so keep an eye out for the grand archway, which has a unique design, St Kevin’s Church, also called ‘the Kitchen’ due to the shape of its chimney, the Priest’s House and the eerie Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. If like me, you enjoy a graveyard full of Celtic crosses, you won’t be disappointed.
Fan of Irish folklore, legends and stories? Locate St Kevin’s Cross and try to wrap your arms around the cross to make your fingertips touch. There, all your wishes will be granted… or that’s what they say! Also don’t miss the Deer Stone which is said to have magical powers. Indeed, legend has it that if you splash your face with the water collected in its hollow, you might just keep your looks forever.
Next to the Monastic City are the Visitor Centre, the Glendalough Hotel and the first car park. In the Visitor Centre, there’s an exhibition and an audio-visual show (there’s an entrance fee of €5). If you want to book a tour guide of the Monastic City, you’ll have to contact the centre first by phone or fax.
Further down is the Lower Lake which you can cross thanks to a boardwalk or simply walk along its sides on a pathway.

GlendaloughGlendalough

The Upper Lake

A good 20 minute walk through a beautiful oak woodland will take you from the Lower Lake to the Upper Lake. There, you will find the Information Centre where you can enquire about Glendalough’s hiking trails and the local flora and fauna. Guided walks are also available. If you are hiking, this is where all the trails start.
Outside, you will find the second car park with food stalls and restroom facilities.
At the bottom of the lake, there’s a makeshift beach and one of the site’s most fantastic view so don’t miss it!
Take the path on the left of the Lake and start your hike along the Poulanass River and Waterfall. On the right, walk through a rather enchanting pine forest for about an hour and you will get to the Miners Village. Keep an eye for Temple-Na-Skellig (the original site of St Kevin’s settlement) and Saint Kevin’s Cave, both of which can be seen on the opposite lakeshore.

Miners Village and Beyond

This was actually my favourite area in Glendalough. There’s something chillingly atmospheric about this village in ruins at the bottom of the valley. If you could go back in time to the 1850s, you’d see here a bustling mine. Lead, zinc and silver were mined by 2000 workers here and in the neighbour valley. Business lasted for a 100 years until the 1950s when the mines were eventually abandoned.
Today, only a few structures are left standing as well as an old piece of machinery. I’m not going to lie when you get here, you feel like you reached the entrance to the Mordor. The hill slopes are covered with discarded stones which feels like they’re about to tumble in a rockslide any minute. Stop for a bit and observe the unfazed, feral goats jump from one rock to another without a sweat. They’re amazing little creatures!
Further up the path, you can ascend along the river which flows into the Upper Lake. At the top, you will be met with the rolling views of the Glenealo Valley where a herd of sika deer generally gently graze. Turn around and here is the spectacular panorama over the Upper Lake.
Now with the Upper Lake in your back, you can either go straight ahead and explore the Glenealo Valley or take a left, cross the makeshift bridge over the river and hike uphill to get to the boardwalk. This will lead you to the Spinc, one of the most sought after scenic view of the region.

GlendaloughGlendaloughGlendalough

2. GETTING THERE

By Public Transport

This is where things get a bit tricky and probably why it took me so long to visit Glendalough. There’s only one private bus company that serves the route between Dublin and Glendalough. Moreover, St Kevin’s Bus provides only two round trips a day (every day). The first one leaves Dublin at 11.30am which gets to Glendalough at 12.50pm and the last bus back to Dublin leaves Glendalough at 4.30pm (check the Summer and Winter timetables here). It is great if you plan to stroll on flat ground around the two Lakes, enjoy the hotel’s terrace, maybe squeeze in a small hike. But it will leave you on a tight schedule if you attempt one of the more challenging hikes (the longest hike on the map is 4 hours). But I personally wouldn’t recommend it as it’s best to allow some extra time in case something unexpected happens during the hike. I’m afraid your best option is to find a nearby accommodation for the night if you intend on fully exploring Glendalough.
One thing to keep in mind if you travel with St Kevin’s bus company is it can get extremely busy during the weekends, holidays and high tourist season. I took the bus from Dublin on a Tuesday in late August and it was so packed people had to stand for a few stops until the company called on an extra bus. I’d advise you to get to the bus stop early so you can get in the front of the queue to get a seat. A return ticket from Dublin is €20 which can be purchased on board (click here for a full list of fares).

Now another option would be to take the train to Rathdrum from Dublin. The trip takes a little more than an hour. From there, the company Wicklow Way Bus can pick you up and drive you directly to Glendalough. Be sure to book with them in advance by phone or email and let them know how many people will be there (you don’t need to be a group) and what time you plan to be at Rathdrum Station. The great thing is that they are available 7 days a week!

Lastly, you can go on a day tour with a private company. I can’t personally comment because I’ve never tried any but recently Wild Wicklow Tours, a family-run business that tours Glendalough and other places in county Wicklow, has been voted the best travel experience in Ireland and 10th in the world by Tripadvisor. It sounds like a safe choice to me!

By Car

The journey by car from Dublin to Glendalough, travelling on the N11, will take you a little more than an hour (it’s well posted, so just follow the signs). That is if you avoid the weekends, bank holidays and school holidays. In high season, Glendalough can get horridly congested and queues to the parking lots can get out of hand. So better plan a trip midweek or in low season if you don’t want to waste precious time on the road instead of enjoying the fresh mountain air.
Glendalough has two parking lots available. The first one in the Lower Valley, next to the Visitor Centre, comes with an entrance fee of €4 on weekends, bank holidays, Holy Week, Easter Week and during the months of June, July and August. It is free otherwise and open 24/7. The second one, next to the Upper Lake, will cost €4 at all times. It opens from 8am to varying times in the evening depending on the season so do check the signs before leaving the car park.
If you want to avoid parking in Glendalough, you can do so in the closest village, Laragh. There’s a parking lot on the main road to Glendalough that will cost you €5 and is open on the weekends and bank holidays.
Little insider tip for you, if you manage to park near the Glendalough Woollen Mills in Laragh, there is a pleasant forest walk starting behind the mills. It’ll take you straight to Glendalough in about 15-20 minutes.
For more information on parking your car in Glendalough, click here.
GlendaloughGlendalough

3. BEST TIME TO VISIT

Glendalough is open all year round, 24/7 but as I mentioned before it can get busy during the weekends, bank holidays and school holidays. Not only the car parks will be congested at these times but you will find the Monastic City and generally the grounds surrounding the two lakes quite crowded at these times. However, you’ll probably find some peace and quiet on your hikes. In summary, a day in the middle of the week and in the low season would be ideal!

Ireland can be touch and go when it comes to the weather… to put it mildly. From my own experience, the most pleasant months are May, June and September, which is great news for you as they’re not quite in the high season bracket.
In terms of seasons, there’s beauty to be found in each and every one of them. Glendalough is bursting with interesting fauna and flora which come and go at different times of the year. The Summers are green and lush, the gorse and heather splash the valley with joyful yellow and purple flowers. Springs come with the bluebells in the oak woodland and the Autumns turn the trees rust and gold. I am not sure I would actually recommend Winters although I’m sure it’s equally beautiful especially as the Wicklow Mountains are often the first area to get hit with snow. But Ireland is pretty much one giant storm from November to March so please bear in mind the weather conditions can be quite drastic. Moreover, if you intend to hike, some of the pathway are boardwalks so it can get quite slippery up there with snow or rain conditions.

4. ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

You’ll have guessed it by now, if you don’t own or rent a car, your best bet to explore the hiking trails of Glendalough at your leisure is to find an accommodation nearby.
You have several options. On the site of Glendalough, you’ll find a hotel, a hostel and a couple of B&Bs. The closest town is Laragh which is a good 20 minute walk away. There you’ll find a few bed and breakfasts, hotels and airbnbs. But don’t stray too far away if you’re strictly on foot as you’ll need some energy left to hike in Glendalough.
When I visited, I went for a place on Trooper Hill, which is 1.5 hour walk away. It wasn’t the easiest on my legs, especially as you can imagine, my accommodation was located on a steep hill so coming home was rather arduous.
Worth a mention, Laragh Village has a bike hire shop with some fancy e-bikes that will make your exploring a lot easier. It is located next to the hotel Lynhams of Laragh.

When it comes to food, I was told by my host that the Glendalough Hotel has a very nice restaurant and bar. On the parking lot next to the Upper Lake, you’ll find food stalls that sell coffee, ice-cream and the usual chipper fare. I had a veggie burger and chips and you’ll hear absolutely no complaint from me. I thought it was actually a decent portion for the price but then I live in Dublin so most of the time I find everything cheap elsewhere. If you’re looking for a healthier option, you’ll probably have to pack some  food with you. Laragh Village has a few eateries and the cafe/deli The Glendalough Green has a tasty selection of foods that would be great in a picnic. I’d definitely suggest you take plenty of water and snacks (or even a picnic) with you if you intend on hiking. The longest hike is 4 hour long which can be done between meals but you never know!

5. WHAT TO PACK AND WEAR

It’s true what they say about the Irish weather, it is wildly unpredictable. Don’t be surprised if blazing sunshine is immediately followed by thunder and sleet. So the key to dressing here is definitely layers. You’ll want to check the weather cast before leaving and pack a weather-appropriate jacket, good footwear (if it rains or snows, make sure they come with gripping soles as the boardwalks at the top can be slippery). Make sure the clothes you wear are comfortable and breathable (go for natural textiles but avoid jeans as they take too long to dry if you get soaked). If the sun’s out, take your sunglasses and a hat.

In your bag, you’ll need:
– your phone, fully-charged (save the mountain emergency number, 999 or 112)
– rainproof jacket
– flask of water
– snacks (or picnic depending on the length of your hike)
– a map of the trails (you can pick it up for 50 cents at the Information Office, the Visitor Centre or you can download it for free on your phone via this link)
– sunscreen if it’s sunny
– if you plan on going off-track in the neighbouring valleys, take a compass
For more information on hiking responsibly in the Irish mountains, click here.

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6. HIKING TRAILS

There are 9 waymarked trails on site. They range from ‘easy’ to more arduous ‘hill walks’. The shortest walk (1km) takes 30 minute to complete while the longest (11km) can be completed in about 4 hours.
All of the trails start at the National Park Information Centre near Upper Lake. If you’re looking for a guided walk, they can be arranged in the centre. Displays of the trail map can be found next to Visitor Centre and the Information Centre (inside, you can buy a map for 50 cents -or download it here for free).
The easiest trails wrap around the two lakes while the most challenging ones will lead you to the Poulanass Waterfall, the Spinc and further in the neighbouring valleys (Lugduff, Glendasan and Glenealo Valley). Some of them link with county Wicklow’s big hiking trails like St Kevin’s Way or the Wicklow Way.

 

I hope this posts answers all your question and you feel ready to explore the Glendalough Valley. If you’re on Instagram, do tag me @theartofexploring, I would love to see your pictures! Let me know in the comments if you think I missed something and I’ll get back to you.

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Russborough House & Parklands | co. Wicklow

Russborough House
One golden afternoon in the late Autumn, I took the 65 bus to county Wicklow. I got off at the end of the line, in a town called Blessington. It wasn’t my first time here, actually. I had stayed here for a couple of days in the Avon Ri Lakeshore Resort a few years back. It is a group of self-catered townhouses on the shore of the Blessington Lakes. I have fond memories of the place and I would totally recommend it if you’re looking for a base to explore Wicklow or if you simply want an escape from the city. The lakes are the perfect setting for invigorating country walks.
Coincidentally, the Avon Ri is also the start of the Greenway Walk, where I was headed that morning. This is the trail that leads directly to Russborough House. This Irish Stately House had been on my list of places to see for a really long time. I had read that it was one of Ireland’s most beautiful houses and I was dying to see it for myself.
Greenway Walk
The Blessington Greenway trail is a pleasant one hour and half walk (one way) on flat, well-maintained paths. They follow first the shores of the lakes then they go through wild woodlands. Half-way through, I felt my shrivelled urban lungs expand and fill themselves with the crisp cold Autumn air of the morning. Dry leaves were crunching under my feet and the pine trees wrapped me with their musky silence.
At the end of the trail, a stoned arch marks the entrance to the Russborough demesne. It opens to a long avenue bordered with trees which leads directly to the 18th century house. Its 210 metre-long facade (the longest frontage in Ireland) embraces a phenomenal view of valleys, mountains, lakes and, of course, sheep.
I sat down on a bench to take it all in (and to recover from the previous long walk).
Revived by my surroundings, I then headed to the ticket office and booked a tour inside the house. The tour was to start in an hour which left me a bit of time to explore the house’s grounds.
Russborough House
The courtyard is home to many artisan and craft stalls: a blacksmith, a candle-maker, a woodturner and a ceramicist. There, you will find also Ireland’s Bird of Prey Centre and if you’re lucky you might catch a show of falconry. It was a bit late in the year so I wasn’t. I didn’t feel too lucky either when I found out that the walled gardens were closed that day.
Nonetheless, I continued my exploration, walked by the maze and stumbled upon one of the previous owners’ grave, the 4th Earl of Milltown and the Countess. I also found a fairy trail and admired Lady’s Island where a little red Japanese bridge spans over a delightful brook.
But time was a-ticking and I headed back to the gift shop where the tour was to start. A friendly lady with a mellifluous germanic accent took our small group in the first room of the house. The dining room.
Russborough House
There, the long mahogany table had been laid out with silver candle holders, gilded porcelain plates and tiny crystal glasses for the sherry. Our tour guide set the scene and depicted the lives of those who once called Russborough home. It all started with Jospeh Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown who asked Richard Cassels to design and build the house in 1741. Richard Cassels was one of the most prolific architects in Ireland of the time. He was a master of the Palladian style of which Russborough is a fine example.
The estate stayed in the Leeson family until 1914. It passed in the hands of a couple more owners then was finally acquired by Lord and Lady Beit. They were looking for a place to house their vast art collection.
The couple resided here until their final days (Lord Alfred Beit: 1994, Lady Beit: 2005) but they opened part of the house to the public, in the late seventies.
The life of the Beits at Russborough was eventful, to say the least. They’ve gone through: 4 robberies (one of them was even labelled ‘the biggest art robbery in history’ at the time), 1 forced occupation by the old IRA, 1 fire and 1 ghost. But not everything was gloom and doom, the couple actually had mostly a happy life here. They were renowned socialites and received many illustrious guests. Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Jackie Kennedy, Fred Astaire and Coco Chanel to name a few.
Having noticed some books on the Mitford Sisters in the gift shop (I used to be obsessed with them!), I asked the tour lady if there was any connections with Russborough, could they have been guests here too?
To my absolute delight, she informed me that the sisters were actually cousins of Lady Clementine Beit!
Russborough House
Russborough House
Russborough House
While learning about the life of the Beits, we had moved from one room to another. We passed the boudoir, the entrance hall, the reception room and my favourite, the library. As it happens, the favourite of the lady of the house too! Lady Clementine was a “mad bibliophile and adored being surrounded by books“. I couldn’t have thought of a better place for that as the walls were covered in books and the sofa near the chimney looked ever so inviting.
One thing that really impressed me throughout the whole visit was the ceiling and the wall plasterwork. The flamboyantly rococo stucco work was a speciality of the Lafranchini Brothers and if you see some in a Palladian house in Ireland, chances are they worked on them.
Russborough House
Russborough House
Russborough House
We climbed the equally ornate staircase to access the second floor. There the rooms are more plain, the showstopper here is undoubtedly the mesmerising view from the bedroom. My eyes got lost on the horizon and I couldn’t help thinking about the person waking up to this, every morning. They must have felt the luckiest human in the world!

Looking for more Wicklow gardens to visit? Head to my Wicklow section 

Russborough House

RUSSBOROUGH HOUSE PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Russborough House & Parklands – website
Blessington
co. Wicklow
Ireland

Opening Hours
see website

Admission
General €12 / Concession €9 / Child €6 / Under 5 Free

Bus
65

BLESSINGTON GREENWAY WALK PRACTICAL INFORMATION

The trail starts at the Avon Ri Lakeshore Resort and ends at Russborough House. Distance one way is 6.5 km which takes about 1.5 hour to complete. The trail’s grade is easy.

Mount Usher Gardens | co. Wicklow

Mount Usher Gardens

Can you believe this picture was only taken a couple of weeks ago? That’s the magic of maple trees bringing you Autumn in the middle of Spring! The Mount Usher Gardens in county Wicklow have a beautiful maple walk and more than 5000 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants in which you can happily wander.

I had been patiently waiting Spring this year to finally visit one of the most renowned gardens in Ireland. I had first heard of it thanks to Magda’s colourful post and as I’m ticking off my list of things to do in Wicklow, it started to feel slightly wrong that I hadn’t explored one of its star-gardens yet. An hour bus journey or so will take you to Ashford, a little town where the gardens are located. As you go through the car park, you’ll find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by charming little shops. Delicatessen, garden centre and clothes shop,… if you know Avoca you’ll be familiar with the aesthetic. They manage the garden, and in typical Avoca’s fashion, they graced the place with an inviting cafe with a gorgeous vista on the garden’s gazebo. I sat ‘front row seat’ near the window and ordered a peanut butter parfait and a pot of peppermint tea. While I enjoyed my dessert, I observed the rich life of the garden unfolding right before my eyes, insects going about their day and perfectly round robins perched on nearby branches staring right at me.
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

At the entrance you’re presented with a map offering a choice of trails. The lady at the desk recommended that I follow the tree trail as they have some champion trees of Ireland and the UK. It was fun to try to guess the varieties according to the leaf shapes and have a close look at weirdly exotic trees from Iran or China. I would have never thought these could thrive on Irish soil. Wild garlic was covering the forest ground, filling it with its sharp fragrance.
But call me frivolous, I think I am more of a ‘flower girl’ than a tree-hugger because the area I enjoyed the most was the ‘Island’, a patch right next to the house where so many posies bloom in eye-catching bursts of colours. I was also lucky to catch the tail-end of the bluebell season. I don’t think there’s something that invites more to the reverie than a bluebell wood. Will you look at that purple blanket, don’t you want to dive in it?
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

Mount Usher gardens were founded in 1868 by Edward pole and stayed in his family’s estate for a little more than a century. There’s an interesting philosophy behind the creation of this beautiful piece of land. The family was greatly influenced by William Robinson, a famous Irish gardener who reacted against the rigid approach of gardening of his time. He believed a garden should grow on nature’s term.
In the Eighties, Madeleine Jay, a garden lover, bought the property and took the Robinsonian style a step further by managing the property organically. A way of doing that is still carried on today by Avoca.

Mount Usher Gardens
The Walpole family’s pet cemetery Mount Usher Gardens

The Vartry River runs through the gardens and I think, instinctively, people tend to walk along it. It’s a pleasant walk, there are beautiful little cascades, suspension bridges and from time to time, a fish burst out of the water to catch a fly or a mosquito. But wander off the river path and you’ll find yourself inside a beautiful Irish oil painting.

Mount Usher Gardens

MOUNT USHER GARDENS’ PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Mount Usher Gardens – website
Ashford, co. Wicklow, Ireland

Opening Hours
10am-6pm (Mon-Sun, all year)

Admission
General €7.50 / Reduced €6.50 / Children under 16 €3.50 / Children under 4 Free

Bus
133 Bus Eireann (from Dublin)

Lavender Harvest Sale | co. Wicklow

Lavender Harvest Party

Last month, I had quite a little exciting Saturday planned. I was heading to county Wicklow to see the lavender field in Kilmacanogue. I had been wanting to visit one again ever since going to the Wexford Lavender Farm last year. It was such a romantic experience!
I was also really excited to try out my new camera and lens. I had only been filming so far so I was really keen to see how I got on with it for taking pictures. And what better place to test a camera than a flower field! I bought a Canon 700d and a 24mm lens. I usually shoot with a 50mm which I still love dearly but the 24mm with its wider angle gives so much more space to work with, I’ve been loving the freedom of movement it allows. Let me know what you think of the pictures, hope you like them!

Lavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest Party

Every month of July, Fragrances of Ireland organises a Lavender Harvest Party in Kilmacanogue… or is it Kilmacanog or Kilmacanoge? Even the locals can’t seem to agree, I saw the three different spellings in the space of a yard. And apparently, it is pronounced Kilmacanick I found out after embarrassing myself talking to a helpful bus driver. All of it is very confusing for little old Belgian me. The good thing is that the field was very easy to find, the less good thing is that it is next to a busy motorway. It kind of killed the Provence vibe unfortunately. On one side of the road, you can look at the lavender rows (a kind lady harvester let me in so I could take pictures but I don’t think you’re really meant to, the alleyways were quite brambly) and on the other side, there’s the harvest sale set in a cute little courtyard.
I think it’s one of those instances where having a car makes the experience more pleasant. It was easy enough going from the field to the courtyard by foot (there’s a bridge over the motorway for crossing it) but walking along cars can be a bit stressful, especially when the pathway disappears. If you ever go, I’d recommend as well you to visit during the first weekend of July so you can see the field in its full purple splendour before it gets gradually chopped.

Lavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest PartyLavender Harvest Party

At the harvest sale, you’ll find all the lavender by-products you can expect: fresh pots of lavender, dried lavender, essential oils, perfumes and soaps. You can also buy them online on the Fragrances of Ireland website (along with other ranges). It is an Irish independent perfume house managed by friendly owners. I just love how they set up their courtyard with buntings and pretty stalls for the occasion. They even put a cute purple bow on their dog to go with the theme!

If you’re ever in the area in July, it does make for a pleasant Summer afternoon. Especially as the harvest sale is located next to the Avoca‘s flagship store where you can have a bite and a little nosey around their shelves stocked with gorgeous crockery and beautifully-packaged cosmetics.

Lavender Harvest Party

Practical Information

Fragrances of Ireland – website
Jameson’s Corner
Kilmacanogue
Co. Wicklow

Opening Times
11am – 4pm (Sat-Sun during the month of July)

Admission
Free

How to get there (from Dublin)
Take the Dart to Bray then the bus 45a (the stop is just outside the station), get off at the last stop

Killruddery Gardens | co. Wicklow

Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
I was just writing my Irish Summer Checklist when I realised I had not shown you the beautiful Killruddery Gardens in Bray yet. I visited them 3 years ago and since then, every time the weather warms up, I’ve been meaning to come back to visit the house.
Last time, the weather was so gorgeous that it felt kind of wrong to spend any time indoors. Also I remember thinking back then that I really should start watching The Tudors since it’s one of the filming locations for the series and somehow, I haven’t watched one episode either. I don’t know who I am anymore. So once again, ‘Killruddery House’ finds its way onto my list of places to visit during the Summer, I’ve got a strong feeling it will happen this time but in the meantime, let’s have a look at the gardens, shall we?
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
There’s quite a bit to explore in Killruddery Gardens: formal gardens, maze-like topiary where you can hide, a mini forest , canals, a walled garden with vegetables and a farm. It’s just the perfect setting to wander aimlessly.
The day I was in, people were rushing around to get an evening banquet ready. Next to the long table, a whole hog was spinning on a giant skewer. I had only seen those in Asterix comics before so it was a bit of a shock! After I stopped my stomach from turning (hello I’m a wimpy vegetarian!), I had to admit that the whole thing fitted so well the spirit of the gardens, the oldest in Ireland that survived in its authentic 17th century form.
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery GardensKillruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens
Killruddery Gardens

Did you know?

Killruddery was the film location for The Tudors, My Left Foot, Far and Away, Angela’s Ashes and Camelot

Are you in Ireland this Summer and wish to visit some gardens? Here are a few more I wrote about: Powerscourt Gardens | Altamont Gardens | Dublin’s Botanic Gardens

Killruddery Gardens
Practical Information

Killruddery House & Gardens – website
Southern Cross, Bray

Co. Wicklow

Opening Hours
9.30am – 6pm, every day (May – September)
9.30am – 6pm, weekends only (April & October)

Admission
Adults €6.50 / Concession €5.50 /Children under 12 €2 / Children under 4 Free (Gardens Only)
Adults €11 / Concession €9 / Children under 12 €3 / Children under 4 Free (Gardens + House*)

*Guided tours of the house start at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm (July-Sep)

The farm market is on every Saturday, from 10am to 4pm

How to get there (from Dublin)
Take the Dart to Bray then the bus 84 or 184 outside the Dart station

 

Powerscourt Gardens | co. Wicklow

pegasus powerscourtiron garden gate

I visited Powerscourt Estate for the first time last year after a long and cold Irish winter that coincided with a long and dark season in my personal life. It was April and I was starting to wonder if it will be sunny ever again. It looked pretty bleak, it even snowed the week before.
But somehow, the miracle of Spring happened again and as sun rays pierced the thick clouds, I decided to finally visit that place I had heard so much about. Lonely Planet listed Powerscourt as one of the greatest houses and this year National Geographic voted it the third best garden in the world.
Pretty impressive, right? Those titles are definitely not unearned, the estate brought back some needed magic in my life. It made me realise that I have all those amazing places practically on my doorstep and I needed to start exploring, look for my Spring and stop waiting for it (which is a message I’m trying to convey through this blog, everyone’s backyard is worth exploring).

powerscourt housepowerscourt statues
powerscourt house + sugar loafjapanese garden
fountain powerscourt
iron chairspink azalea

Powerscourt Estate goes back as far as the 13th century and has been a work in progress over the years. Today, when you visit the estate, you’re met with an impressive mansion holding an array of shops that boast beautiful Irish design and craft within its walls. If you’re in the market for gifts, souvenirs and local delicacies to bring home, this is a brilliant place to shop as you have so much choice on hand. Not an Irish product but I was super excited to see that the shop Avoca stocks some of Rifle Paper Co‘s divine stationary.

On the first floor, you will find Tara’s Palace, one of the greatest doll’s house in the world, in the Childhood Museum. Click here to read about my visit there.

The terrace café is a lovely place to have a slice of cake (or two) as the views on the Wicklow Mountains are stunning. Outside you’ll be met with the beautiful Italian Gardens and a panoramic view over the estate. There is so much to explore: Japanese gardens, a pet cemetery, a walled garden, a greenhouse, the Pepperpot tower, a deerpark and the highest waterfall in Ireland.

french gardens
gilded garden gate
greenhouse
flower parterre
powerscourt house + mountains
wicklow mountains powerscourt

Did you know?: Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in Powerscourt House. Powerscourt has actually been used as a filming location many times, check out IMDB for the full list.

My favourite part was the walled garden, not surprisingly, and especially the gilded iron gates which reminded of pictures I saw of Versailles’s gates.
Although I’ve been to Powerscourt twice already, I’ve quite a bit left to explore. There’s the pet cemetery, it might sound weird but the stones’ epitaphs are said to be heart-warming (I kind of avoided it last time as my dog had recently passed away and I was worried to lose it); and also the waterfall and the deerpark.
This time, I’ll do a favour to myself and not wait for Spring to visit Powerscourt again.

powerscourt estate

Practical Information

Powerscourt Estate – website
Enniskerry
Co. Wicklow

Check out their website for the events programme

Opening Times: 9.30am – 5.30pm; During Winter, gardens close at dusk
Closed on December 25th & 26th

Admission Fee: Adults 8.50€ / Studens, OAP 5 € / Children < 16yo 3.50€ / Children <2yo Free

How to get there (from Dublin): Take the Dart to Bray then the Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)

More information on the Waterfalls and Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood

Tara’s Palace | Co. Wicklow

tara's palacetoy cabinet & view

Last month when my mum came to visit me I knew I wanted to take her to Powerscourt Gardens. I went there last year and was blown away by this beautiful estate in county Wicklow. I only had the chance to visit the gardens, so this time I made sure to head first to the first floor of Powerscourt House where the Museum of Childhood is located. I was quite eager to see Tara’s Palace with my own eyes , this giant of a doll house. 22 rooms, practically all mod cons, priceless antiques and readable miniature books, this house is every little girl’s dream come true. I wouldn’t say I’m a doll house connoisseur but I visited my fair share of toy museums and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a courtyard and a church built in a doll house. It’s that big!

guest bedroomdining & gamblingminiature floral bowldoll's house wallpaperliving roomblue bedroomgiant bathroom creeper
                                                            Bathroom creeper alert!

Tara’s Palace was modelled after 3 Irish Houses: Castletown house in county Kildare, Leinster House in Dublin and Carson House in Maynooth. It was built in the eighties to replace Titania’s palace, another huge Irish doll house built in the early 1900s which eventually got sold to Legoland Denmark. It took 20 years to build and furnished the palace you can see today in Powerscourt House. The craftmanship is astonishing, but what I liked above all is the attention to detail that sparks one’s imagination just looking through the glass. I couldn’t help making up little stories just looking at the way certain objects were displayed : the flowers soaking in the umbrella stand, the mini-slippers left in a hurry under the sink. And what is the meaning of that blue dress lavishly left at the foot of the bed? Could Tara’s walls hold its very own Hollywood drama at night?

roses in umbrella standthe blue dressmini slippersginger nuts

The museum in itself is quite small (two rooms and a little corridor where children can play) but it’s full to the brim with special little treasures. Apart from Tara’s Palace, there are a few other unusual-looking doll houses with a gothic and working-class vibe but also toy cars, a whole shelf full of teddy bears and a model cathedral.

vauxhall victor
a rare childs chairwindow view

Top tip: Don’t let all your attention be grabbed by those tiny wonders and do look out the window. There’s a breathtaking view over the gardens not to be missed! ( Do you want to see more of Powerscourt Gardens? Click here, I’ll give you a tour!)

tara's palace front

Practical Information

Tara’s Palace, Museum of Childhood – website
Powerscourt House
Enniskerry
County Wicklow

Admission fee: Adult 5€ / Children 3€ / Concession 4€ / <5yo Free / Family 12€
NB: All profits go to Irish Children’s charities

Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Mon – Sat); 12 am – 5pm (Sundays & Bank Holidays)

How to get there (from Dublin): Dart to Bray, Bus 185 (the departure stop is directly outside Bray Dart Station)