These wild hills on Dublin’s doorstep are a great boon to city dwellers. From the southern suburbs you can gaze on them on clear days; by public transport or car they take just half an hour to reach. If you have time enough you can even walk on the 132km Wicklow Way, starting just outside Dublin in Marlay Park.
The rounded hills of ice-eroded schist and granite enfold a strange mixture of bleak, awesome glens and boggy plateaux, interspersed with welcoming Shangri-La valleys like Glendalough or the Vale of Avoca. The improbable cones of the Great and Little Sugar Loaf Mountains protrude suddenly from the surrounding contours, their granite caps are more resilient than the rest. The wildness and emptiness of the mountains made them good hiding places after the 1798 rebellion, and during those troubled times they were full of insurgents fleeing the English soliers.
Deep in one of County Wicklow’s most beautifully wooded areas is the birthplace and home of the 19th-century politician Charles Stewart Parnell, now a museum dedicated to his memory.
Parnell was one of Ireland’s greatest campaigners for democracy and land reform. Though at first regarded as a dangerous revolutionary because of his association with the Irish Land League, he eventually won Gladstone’s abiding respect and persuaded many people that Home Rule was a viable option for Ireland. His career foundered abruptly after his long-standing liaison with the wife of a fellow Member of Parliament became public knowledge. Soon after divorce proceedings were instituted, Parnell was ousted from his political position and died of mental strain and ill-health.
The house is most interestingly furnished and contains many touching mementos and political cartoons. Some of his eloquent love letters to Kitty O’Shea are framed on the walls, as is the extensive Parnell family tree, many of whose members died tragically. The grounds were taken over by the state in 1904 as a forestry school.
When on a tour of Ireland ……. hopefully with Ireland Luxury Tours …… check out the Wicklow Mountains ……..