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Wicklow is probably less well known outside Ireland than the more dramatic west coast, but it has plenty to offer the visitor:
The high hills of the Wicklow Mountains, the relatively low lying but picturesque coast with its fine beaches, the grand houses of the English aristocrats,
the ecclesiastical ruins of Glendalough and the many fine pubs and restaurants.
All this in striking distance of Dublin with its many attractions.
Unspoiled, is the word that comes to mind. Arklow is a busy work-a-day place with its harbour and many local industries.
However, it can also boast a picturesque main street, the longest stone arch bridge in Ireland, two fine beaches and plenty to attract the tourists,
including a number of fine pubs.
It also has a large Tescos which, despite whatever misgivings one might have about globalisation and the power of the supermarkets,
does a lot to commend the place if you are staying in self-catering accommodation.
Visit Wicklow - Arklow
Useful information and a town map on the Wicklow County Tourism Web Site http://visitwicklow.ie/towns-villages/arklow/
Spoilt, is not a word that springs to the lips when thinking about Avoca either, but there is certainly something
of the tourist honey-pot about it. Better known in the UK as Ballykissangel from the eponymous TV series, the village is undoubtedly pretty, despite the plethora of souvenir shops and the like.
Perhaps its greatest claim to fame, however, should be the Avoca Handweavers.
Now an internationally known brand, it has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1760s.
There are free tours of the weaving sheds, along with the café and the extensive shop.
External Links and References
Avoca Store, Cafe & Mill Tour
Opening times and other information from the Avoca Handweavers' site. http://www.avoca.com/home/explore/stores/?id=2
Visit Wicklow - Avoca
Information on the Wicklow County Tourism Web Site http://visitwicklow.ie/towns-villages/avoca/
The Devilʼs Glen Wood near Ashford, Co Wicklow is (or at least was when I was there) home of the aptly named Sculpture in Woodland
which featured over 16 contemporary sculptures by Irish and international artists.
The woods consist of both native woodlands and introduced species. The glen was formed during the ice ages and has a spectacular waterfall
where the River Vartry enters the Glen.
Looking on Google Street View, however, it would appear that the sign is no longer there.
It has long associations with St Kevin of Glendalough, and round the back of the post office a long valley leads to St Kevinʼs Shrine,
along with rock formations known as St Kevinʼs Chair and St Kevinʼs Bed. Although I suspect that several pints of Guinness are needed before you can make out either of the latter.
The point were the Avonmor and Avonbeg rivers meet outside Avoca was immortalised by Irelandʼs national poet Thomas Moore in his poem The Meeting of the Waters
which has now been adopted by this undoubtedly pretty spot.
Although it has to be said that, other than the local craft-shop cum restaurant, there is not a lot to do here.
Wicklow Gaol is beautifully preserved and presented with costumed staff in character explaining the terrible suffering inflicted on the Irish by the English
in the eighteenth century, when Irishmen were transported to Australian in appalling conditions for offences as minor as sheep-stealing.
And there, as someone who lives not far for Tolpuddle, lies my only problem with the place. As I explain in my item on the
Red Post, at that time the English Aristocracy were inflicting similar punishments on the English peasantry
for purely political offences, and sheep stealers were being hanged.
To be fair this point is covered in the Gaolʼs literature and web site, but does not seem to have got through to all the cast members.
Whilst presenting what was essentially a socio-economic conflict, in purely sectarian and ethnic terms is not helpful, one does come away with a sense of the deep
resentment still felt by many Irish against the English in general. Donʼt let that put you off visiting though; itʼs a fascinating place.