To Glendalough via Portlaoise, Stradbally, Athy, Kilcullen, Ballymore, Eustace, Hollywood and Glendalough.
This trip takes approximately l.5hrs to 2 hours and is full of history, heritage and pleasant scenery. Just outside Portlaoise is the Rock of Dunamaise. It was a fortress of the kings of Leinster and was given to Strongbow earl of Pembroke who brought the first Anglo-Normans to Ireland in 1170. From here they established themselves in Meath. Louth. Dublin. Wicklow and Wexford within two years. The Cosby family established Stradbally more than five hundred years ago. Descendants of the Cosby family still reside on the estate.
Stradbally provided the limestone used in most of the public buildings in the county and is seen to good effect in the church buildings here. Oakvale, is the site of a 7th century monastery, where the book of Leinster was written. Athy, heritage town founded by the Anglo-Normans in the centre of the rich agricultural hinterland. Ernest Shackleton lived here. The Moat of Ardscull. 3 miles from Athy is worth a look. It has been a site of historic importance since the 1st century. See the plaque commemorating the Gordon Bennett Car Race of 1903, which took place in this area. Kilcullen. on the river Liffey is in the middle of horseracing country.
The drive from Killcullen to Ballymore Eustace is dotted with very English style hamlets and manicured stud farms. Ballymore Eustace is a typical village of the Wicklow foothills associated with sheep farming. Take the road to the N81 and head south for a few miles to Hollywood where you join St Kevin's Pilgrim way to Glendalough. The drive over the mountain and through the Wicklow Gap is characterised by rock strewn granite hillsides and glaciated valleys. The splendour of the Wicklow Gap opens high over Glendalough and like a swan splashing down onto a lake you enter the calm and peace that is Glendalough. The return trip can take in a tour of Blessington lakes and Russbrough House, home of Sir Alfred Belt, whose famed art collection is now in state ownership.
"Such a beautiful house, I hate to leave. Thank you for the friendship and lovely food."
Anna Manahan, Waterford