Always one to jump around random topics, here is an article I’ve written on County Wicklow in Ireland.
Ireland, the Wicklow Way
When thinking of Ireland what springs to mind? The emerald isle? Guinness?
The map of the country itself looks like the craggy profile of some old sage staring out into the Atlantic Ocean where nose is the counties of Galway and Mayo and the mouth is the River Shannon. However, for many people visiting Ireland they are attracted to Dublin on the east side of the country like a moth flapping around a bedside lamp. I mean, where else would you start? For those in the UK it’s a convenient hop across the Irish Sea either by air or ferry from ports such as Holyhead on Anglessey in North Wales and Liverpool.
If the capital is your starting point for a weekend break you’ll have a ball but beware the temptation to stick with what you know to get the maximum out of your time there. It’s great, but remember the real joy of travel is to search out those other places that are merely footnotes in the tourist guides. Far too many people dare not venture outside the city walls but if you do, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
Just to the South of the capital you have the county of Wicklow, easily accessible from the Dun Laoghaire ferry port which is also navigable via Holyhead. From here you can catch a train that hugs the coast through Bray on the border, Greystones and down as far as Wicklow town. From here the track ventures inland through Rathdrum and Avoca and back to the county’s final stopping place of Arklow before disappearing into Wexford.
The train is great way to let Wicklow come to you as the scenery unfolds through a variety of terrains from coastal plains, cliffs and rugged hinterland but for the more adventurous amongst you, you will probably want to get down and dirty. Time to get out those walking boots!
County Wicklow may well be the Garden of Ireland but it has far more to offer than a view from the patio. There are fantastic walking opportunities here most notably on the Wicklow Way which starts at Marlay Park in the North, stretching down through the imaginatively titled Wicklow Mountains, finishing Clonegal in the South, confusingly in County Carlow. The trail is roughly 132 kilometres (82 miles) long and thoughtfully avoids the highest summits though I’m sure no-one would object if you went in search of the trig points of Djouce and Lugnaquilla for the best camera shots via side trails. For the record the largest mountain actually on the Wicklow Way itself is White Hill, at 630 m (2,067 ft).
Other activities in this area involve the use of a variety of sticks. It could a sand wedge or driver on one of the many top class golf courses such as the fantastically named Druids Glen or using a fishing rod to coach out the salmon and trout from the Avonmore River. Either way, try not to end up in the water.
So what’s the deal with the food and drink?
While Wicklow is the county town the general consensus is that you won’t go far wrong if you stick close by the Wicklow Way for the best eateries and alehouses. The town of Laragh for instance has Lynhams for decent pub grub and music too while the Wicklow Heather is also worth a shot if it’s a blow out you’re after. Incidentally, there’s a fortnightly organic produce market in the town which takes place at the Brockagh Resource Centre.
Elsewhere The Hungry Monk in Greystones comes highly recommended as does Johnnie Fox’s, only 30 minutes out of Dublin in Glencullen but in a completely different world. If you would like the prestige saying you’ve had a pint in the highest pub in Ireland take the windy road out of the city and take a look.
For more information on Wicklow try the www.wicklowlive.com website. There are also many websites out there ready to give you a pointer as to where to direct your EUROs such as www.irelandpubguide.com and diningpubs.com.