Sunday, October 21, 2012

What To See and Do in Wicklow, Ireland, Kids

In the hopes that Dominic and Michelle can get on the computer at their hotel to get this information  (all in one place and somewhat edited for their convenience):
Sunrise over the Black Castle ruins near Wicklow, Ireland.  A little stretch of the legs from Dominic and Michelle's hotel.

Wicklow Town Specs

Wicklow (Cill Mhantáin in Irish) is the county town of County Wicklow in Ireland. Located south of the capital Dublin on the east coast of Ireland, it has a population of 6,835 (as of the 2006 census report). Including rural population, the figure becomes 12,675. The town lies along the N11 route between Dublin and Wexford. Wicklow is also connected to the rail network with Dublin commuter services now extending to the town. Additional services connect with Arklow, Wexford and Rosslare, a main Ferry Port. There is also a commercial port, mainly importing timber.

Where to Hike and What the Land Looks Like

Wicklow town occupies a rough circle around Wicklow harbour. To the immediate North lies 'The Murrough', a popular grassy walking area beside the sea, and the eastern coastal strip. The land rises into rolling hills to the West. The dominant feature to the south is the rocky headland known as 'Wicklow Head', the easternmost mainland point in the Republic of Ireland (technically the easternmost point in the Republic is on Lambay Island off Co. Dublin).

To the south is a string of sandy beaches extending almost as far as Arklow. These beaches are clean and well managed and are popular with bathers and anglers alike, with numerous caravan parks adjacent to them. The best known is Brittas Bay, a 2km stretch of soft, powdery sand. Sand dunes and tall beach grass provide some protection against erosion, which is a considerable threat to this stretch of coast. Brittas has an EU Blue Flag recognising its clean water.

Interesting History to Ponder While You Hike

St. Patrick's Church, Wicklow
Here's the Parish Bulletin!
Photo snapped by Dominic on his
phone after arriving in Wicklow tonight.
It's right behind their hotel!
Local history contends that the town of Wicklow was founded by the Vikings, probably around 870 AD. The name 'Wicklow' comes from 'Vikinglow', meaning 'meadow of the vikings', or more likely 'Wykynlo', meaning 'Viking Loch'. However, given the town's natural harbour and rich agricultural surrounds, it is not surprising that the area was an established settlement prior to the 9th century.

The Irish name Cill Mhantáin has an interesting history of its own. St. Patrick is said to have attempted to land on Travailahawk beach, to the south of the harbour. Hostile locals attacked the landing party causing one of the Saint's party to lose his front teeth. Manntach (toothless one), as he became known was undeterred and returned to the town, eventually founding a church. Hence 'Cill Mhantáin', meaning 'Church of the toothless one'. There is however no evidence, material or written, that such a local holy man ever existed and the name Cill Mantain could in theory be assigned as a toponym, suggesting a chapel overlooking the rather gap-toothed topographical shape of the local harbour.

The English-language 'Wicklow' placename bears no relation to the original Irish Cill Mhantáin ('Church of Mantáin'). The Normans who came to dominate the area, preferred the non-Gaelic placename. The Norman influence can still be seen today in some of the town's place and family names.

Some Things to Find and See

After the Norman invasion Wicklow was granted to Maurice FitzGerald who set about building the 'Black Castle', a land-facing fortification that lies ruined on the coast immediately south of the harbour.

The ruins of the Black Tower on the east side of Wicklow.
Follow S. Quay St. all the way out to the most seaward point.
A hike south down the coastline will get you to the two Wicklow lighthouses.
Free to go take a look -- but wear comfy shoes and bring your poncho.
The surrounding County of Wicklow is rich in bronze age monuments. The oldest existing settlement in the town is the Franciscan Abbey, located at the west end of Main Street, within the gardens of the local Roman Catholic parish grounds.
The ruins of the Franciscan Abbey (13th century)
From the Gaol, go south on High St. and Inland on St. Patrick's Rd to
St. Patrick's church.  the Abbey ruins, as far as I can figure out, are
on the church grounds, as well as extensive gardens -- including a
Marian garden founded in the year of Mary, 1954. Free to go take a look!

Other notable buildings include the Town Hall and the Gaol, built in 1702 and recently renovated as a heritage centre and tourist attraction. The East Breakwater, arguably the most important building in the town, was built in the early 1880s by Wicklow Harbour Commissioners. The architect was William George Strype and the builder was John Jackson of Westminster. The North Groyne was completed by about 1909 - John Pansing was the designer and Louis Nott of Bristol the builder. The Gaol was a place of execution up to the end of the 19th century and it was here that Billy Byrne, a leader of the 1798 rebellion, met his end in 1799. He is commemorated by a statue in the town square. At Fitzwilliam Square in the centre of Wicklow town is an obelisk commemorating the career of Captain Robert Halpin, commander of the telegraph cable ship Great Eastern who was born in Wicklow in 1836, and arguably the most important mariner in global 19th century maritime history.
The Wicklow Gaol is hard to miss as it's smack in the middle
of Wicklow on the main road.  It's become quite an attraction
and is highly commercialized.  This time of year it's all about
the Halloween Themed attractions.  Admission 7.30 Eur.

* Thanks to Emerald Isle Gifts for this summary!

It was here in Wicklow county, where the Avonmore and the Beg Rivers meet to form the Avoca, that Thomas Moore penned his famous Irish Melody, “The Meeting of the Waters”.

The Meeting Of The Waters,

There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;
Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.

Yet it was not that nature had shed o`er the scene
Her purest of crystal and brightest of green;
`Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill,
Oh! no - it was something more exquisite still.

`Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,
Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear,
And who felt how the best charms of nature improve,
When we see them reflected from looks that we love.

Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
in thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,
If you happened to get here, it'd be 7.50
Euro per person admission.
And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.

Within an easy drive but too far  to walk from Wicklow, you could find  Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland's highest falls at 398 ft. Surrounded by beautiful forests and specimen trees, the falls eventually flow into the Dargle River. Many hiking trails and picnic areas.

Also, of note, is that it's only 100 miles (or about 3 hours) drive from Wicklow to Glendalough, where St. Kevin's Monastary and round tower is located -- a place the Ireland Kids wanted to to visit.  But there's no public transportation from Wicklow to Glendalough.  Nowhere.  Nohow.  So, in order to see St. Kevin's (in honor of their brother, Kevin, and his patron saint, and because it's just a cool thing to do), Michelle and Dominic are going to take the bus back to Dublin Tuesday morning, so they can take the tour bus that'll bring them to past Wicklow and on to Glendalough and St. Kevin's.  "Going around their fingers to get to their thumbs," but what are ya gonna do? 

St. Kevin's monastary grounds in Glendalough.  Several bus tours make
this destination from Dublin.  A couple make it from Wexford. None from Wicklow,

Other than that sort of inconvenience, and that fact that the young people say they've walked miles and miles and miles, and most of them in circles -- all is going well with them on the Emerald Isle.  Money is getting scarcer and scarcer, especially since the kids are looking at price tags and adding up the Euros as if they were dollars -- so their account was alarmingly lower than they thought it was this afternoon -- but they have enough to get by.  And these little things haven't remotely dampened their spirits!  They've been mistaken for locals twice -- and I'm wondering if they're speaking with a brogue and getting away with it.  If anyone could do it, those two could...  

More updates as I get them.  And plenty of pictures as soon as they get back with their memory card. (I can't *wait* to see the pictures and hear all the stories!)

**Very cool blog that hilights the off-the-beaten-track ruins of Ireland and how to get to them -- if you have a car -- can be found here.

***  All pics "borrowed" from tourism sites.  Didn't think they'd mind, as we're all working toward just about the same goal...

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