WICKLOW & POWERSCOURT 1 DAY TOUR From Dublin
Before 9.15 am we gather at the front of the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre (top of Grafton Street). We board the bus and depart at 9.30 am sharp.
We proceed through Dublin's south inner city streets where historic buildings and monuments will be shown to you. We proceed out along the south shore of Dublin bay towards Dun Laoire. At Sandycove we point out the James Joyce Tower and Museum. We then proceed to Dalkey/Killiney the home of Dublin's rich and famous. This could be described as Dublin's Beverly Hills. We then turn inland to the M11 motorway where we turn off for Enniskerry at Kilcroney.
10.45 am – Enniskerry
We arrive in the very pretty village of Enniskerry. Enniskerry is a traditional Irish Estate Village. An estate village is a village which was built near to and dependent on a large local feudal castle or estate. The employees of the big estate traditionally lived in the estate village. In the case of Enniskery, the big estate nearby is Powerscourt Demesne. Some of the architectural features of the village would echo features of the big estate or demesne.
11.00am Powerscourt Estate
This place has a very long and interesting history. Originally a mediaeval castle stood here. It was built in the 13th century by a powerful and influential Anglo-Norman family named "DePaor".
Powerscourt House and Gardens
As time wore on the De Paor name became Anglicised to "Power", which is a common family name in Ireland. The castle was built on high ground in a commanding position overlooking the Glencullen, Glencree and Dargle rivers. The castle was said to have had about 70 rooms. Powerscourt Castle was besieged by the O'Toole and Fitzgerald families at different stages when Ireland was not really a nation, but a series of small fifedoms. The Powers lost control of the castle and in 1603 Queen Elizabeth I gave Powerscourt Castle and its vast tracts of land to Marshall Richard Wingfield for his loyal services in battle. The Wingfields have been associated with Powerscourt ever since 1603.
In 1730 Viscount Wingfield III commissioned the German architect Richard Cassels to completely remodel the castle. Cassels designed Powerscourt as we see it today and his work was completed in 1741. The southern or "Garden face" of the house is a very elegant Palladian main block, flanked by two domed towers at each end. This was the only architectural concession Cassels made to the original castle. From this aspect the world-famous Powerscourt Gardens slope away from the house and create a stunning view right over the valley to the local mountains, most notably the Sugarloaf.
In 1847 Viscount Powerscourt VII (Mervyn Wingfield) started to create the magnificent gardens we see today. The gardens are indeed very elaborate and opulent. The design and style of these gardens was inspired by Italian Renaissance villas as well as grandiose garden designs from Austria, Germany and France (Versailles). The gardens feature thousands of beautiful and exotic species of tree. There are many secluded pathways and planned walks which are open to you. Not only that, but the gardens also feature some neo-classical statuary, terraces and ironwork. There are ponds, a pet cemetery, the famous Pepperpot Tower and a Japanese Garden within the the formal garden. These gardens were always maintained by successive generations of Wingfields right up to 1961 when they sold the House and estate to the wealthy Slazenger family (Slazenger sports products). However, the Connection between the Wingfields and Powerscourt continued. In 1962 Wendy Slazenger married Mervyn Niall Wingfield (10th Viscount Powerscourt) and their children the Hon. Mervyn Anthony Wingfield and the Hon. Julia Wingfield maintain the close connection to this day.
In 1974 disaster struck as there was a fire at Powerscourt Estate and the house was extensively damaged. Some of the magnificent interiors including the priceless ceilings, stucco work and irreplaceable antiques were destroyed. In 1996 Powerscourt House was finally restored to some of its former glory. Some of the splendid rooms were undamaged and the house is still available to be explored, though much of it is now given over to retailing, coffee shops etc. Irrespective of this necessary change, it is still a structure of rare beauty and great architectural merit, well worth a visit.
1.00pm - Glendalough
We arrive at Glendalough car park. Its Gaelic name (Gleann da Locha) means "The Glen of Two Lakes" and indeed there are two beautiful lakes. It is set in a beautiful "U" shaped flat-floor glacial valley, through which the river flows east through the Upper and Lower Lakes. The setting is idyllic and the views are stunning.
In the 6th Century AD the famous Saint Kevin (or Caomhaoin in Gaelic) started a monastery here. The remains of this monastery are still here to be enjoyed including the iconic Round Tower, the cathedral, cemetery and sub church. Glendalough is one of the iconic early Christian Irish settlements, like Monasterboice (in Co. Louth) and Clonmacnoise (in Co. Offaly). Like the Celtic Cross, the Round Tower is a unique symbol of early Christian Ireland and there are the remains of about 90 Round Towers throughout the country. The closest one to Dublin city is the intact Round Tower in the middle of Clondalkin village, south-west of the city. There are only four of these iconic towers which are not on the island of Ireland. One of them is on the Isle of Man in the north Irish Sea and the others are in Scotland. Their existence in those locations is generally regarded as being evidence of Irish Christian monks moving further afield to spread the Gospel. The main theme of the Round Towers was the concept of something reaching to Heaven and inspiring the faithful. They were also practical in that they acted as a bell tower, calling the faithful to prayers. Thirdly, they were used as a safe house and safe store for the valuable gold chalices and patens which all monasteries possessed. Vikings were in Ireland from 795AD and they often raided the Christian monasteries for their gold, silver and valuables. So the Round Tower was also a look-out tower and the bells were also rung as a warning of an impending attack by Vikings or other marauders.
If you look at the structure of any round Tower you will find that the entrance door is about 4 meters above the ground. This meant that access was only achieved with a ladder and this was a defensive feature. Over its height, the tower tapers slightly towards the top and the roof is conical in shape. Inside the Towers there were several floors, connected by a wooden staircases right to the top. All round towers were of a common height and construction format. One interesting aspect is that the foundations of an Irish Round Tower are very shallow relative to the overall height. The foundations are usually no more than one meter! Despite this, they have stood for 1400 years.
The cathedral church in Glendalough is oriented in an east-west alignment. In as far as possible, all Christian churches in Ireland had this orientation with the congregation facing the alter at the east end of the building. That was because in those early days the idea was that Israel and Palestine were believed to be east of Ireland and Britain and that the congregation should be facing towards the Holy Land. That tradition in church building has continued right up to the 20th century.
Still intact in the Glendalough monastic settlement ruins is the Gate House. If someone wanted sanctuary or safe keeping they had to enter through here and promise to keep the peace and they had to touch the Sanctuary Stone in the right hand wall. This stone marked the notional sanctuary boundary and is inscribed witha cross. Many communities built up around these monastic settlements. In those days the priests/monks were not bound by celibacy laws and so most of them were married. Saint Kevin however, resisted women with great enthusiasm and remained fiercely celibate, despite the approaches of the beautiful Kathleen who rowed a boat onto the lake and over to the famous St. Kevin's Bed which was his own private hermitage. He sent her away and she killed herself. In retrospect perhaps there was another reason for Kevin's apparent chastity??
In the 12th century Glendalough was the headquarters of St. Laurence O'Toole, who was the Abbott of the monastery before becoming Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough. To this day that is still the official name of the diocese in both the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland (Anglican) hirearchies. The Cathedral at Glendalough is an example of a Hiberno-Romanesque church. It has a piscine, which is large limestone block set in the church wall with a asin hollowed or hewn out of it. The piscine was used to wash holy chalices and vessels etc.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
As we leave the picturesque Glendalough we head into the National Park. The name Wicklow is an Anglicisation of the original Viking name conferred on the area - "Viklav". In Gaelic/Irish the name is Cill Mhantain, meaning the Church of St. Mantan. Mantan was an early Christian saint who lived in the area in the 7th century and established churches here. The Dublin/Wicklow mountain range is the largest area of continuous upland on the island. It extends 60+km from the south Dublin foothills to its southern end on the Wicklow/Wexford border. It extends 40km+ from the Kildare/Wicklow border in the west right over to the east coast. Lugnaquilla is its highest peak at 907 Mtrs. It is full of soaring peaks, scenic lakes and Blanket Bogs. The bogs are an area where the soil is Peat. Peat is made up of rotting vegetation from 5,000 years of decomposition. After 10,000 years it can become coal. This peat can be dug up in cubes and dried. When fully dried it can be burned in a fire to provide heat and energy. In much of Ireland's flat midlands where we have raised bogs, the peat is harvested for the Peat-Fired electrical power stations.
The Wicklow mountains are a natural haven for Ireland's rapidly expanding Hill walking fanatics. There are many beautiful way-marked walks and routes, including the Wicklow way which starts in Marlay Park which starts in south Dublin and finished near Aughavannagh in south Wicklow. There are many evergreen forest plantations as well as broadleaf forests.
Finally, at around 4.00pm we arrive at the famous Wicklow Gap. This scenic spot has been used many times as a film shoot location. It was used in John Boorman's "Excalibur" and more recently for the movie "Braveheart" with Mel Gibson. He actor Daniel Day-lewis lives in seclusion in the Glendalough area.
From here we head west past the scenic Blessington Lakes at Poulaphouca before we join the main N81 road. At the end of this entertaining and eye-catching day out, we arrive back to Trinity College at 5.30pm approx.