All About Rosa Lilla is a lifestyle and travel blog by Galway-based Nicola Lavin.
There has never been a better time to explore Ireland. I have been falling in love with Ireland all over again as part of my rediscover Ireland series which has taken me all over this beautiful country. Wicklow has been on my bucket list for a very long time and I just knew that I had to go and experience the best of what Wicklow has to offer. Especially when there are so many unique and fun things to do in Wicklow and so many wonderful places to eat and stay.
Why visit County Wicklow?
County Wicklow is the Garden of Ireland and it truly deserves to be explored. There is so much to both see and do in Wicklow. This guide will help you if you are planning a trip to County Wicklow. Be sure to check out my recommendations for the best things to do in Wicklow, including where to stay, where to eat, hidden gems and the best tourist attractions in County Wicklow!
Things to do in County Wicklow
Wicklow, often called “The Garden of Ireland” has been popular with tourists for years. It is renowned for beautiful scenery, beaches, hiking trails and not to mention tourist attractions like the monastic ruins of Glendalough, Wicklow Gaol and the impressive Powerscourt. There are so many fun things to do in Wicklow especially for young families.
Before visiting Wicklow I was really only aware of the big tourist spots like Powerscourt and Glendalough and while they are completely worth a visit there are so many other less known about activities that I recommend. I have tried, tested and put together a list of my favourite things to do in County Wicklow during your visit to Ireland.
Railway Walk Tinahely
The Railway Walk at Tinahely was opened in 2007. It runs along part of the original railway track from Woodenbridge to Shillelagh. We arrived after a very hearty breakfast at Brooklodge & Macreddin village. It was the perfect place to start the day and walk off our breakfast.
It is the perfect place to enjoy as a family. Kids would adore it here. From the crops of mushroom, that you can just imagine housing hundreds of fairies, to trees still glittered with Christmas decorations along the way. There are plenty of things to keep them entertained and get some much needed time in nature.
It is a peaceful linear woodland trail and offers wonderful views out into the surrounding fields and farmlands of Tinahely. At one point we were walking beside a crop of corn! It was serenely beautiful and felt so good to get out in the fresh air. The walk crosses the Derry River over a wooden footbridge not far from Kilcommon Bridge. It then follows its course to the famous oak woods at Tomnafinnogue. Each season offers a unique walking experience; from rich carpets of bluebell in spring to lush green summer vegetation. In autumn it is ripe with blackberry and crab apple which is in stark contrast to the bare silhouettes of winter.
After your walk stop in at Tinahely Farm Shop where you can pick up some fresh vegetables, artisan foods or even some traditional toys, arts and crafts. There is a wonderful activity barn for children and a farm with llamas! And if you have walked up an appetite you can try their delicious cheeseboard in the beautiful rustic setting of their restaurant. You can thank me later!
Shillelagh Stick Makers
Our next stop took us to the beautiful village of Shillelagh to meet Liam who expertly hand crafts traditional Irish Shillelaghs. I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about this Irish tradition apart from its association with leprechauns.
Liam is passionate about what he does and with each stick taking between 3-5 years to make, undergoing many different processes, you can see why. He explained the history of the Shillelagh stick to us and it was fascinating to learn about this Irish tradition. I won’t be able to explain it as eloquently as Liam but I’ll try!
In the first millenium A.D., the warrior stick fighters of the Shillelagh area were so famous for their martial art skills that their tribal name became associated with the sticks they used as weapons. They had survived the invasion of the Celts, Vikings, Danes and Normans until their last refuge, the great oak forests of Shillelagh, were finally felled in the 18th century.
These warriors moved out of the area throughout Ireland and to America on the faminie ships bringing their fearsome weapons with them. Over the generations, the style of the “Shillelagh” changed along with the needs of its users. Battle clubs, walking sticks, cudgels, message sticks (it was a form of communication among gangs) and lucky charms are some of the ways the Shillelagh was used.
They are made exclusively from Blackthorn, due to its unique properties that have the correct blend of lightness and hardness which, following a long process of cutting, seasoning, oiling, straightening and sealing, produce high quality pieces that will last generations. Blackthorn was also sacred in pagan traditions. Its impenetrable thickets led to the belief that the “Little People” resided within and so began the association of Shillelagh sticks with fairies and leprechauns.
Liam is so skilled in his craft and it is so amazing to see old traditions like this kept alive. I highly recommend a visit for yourself when exploring County Wicklow.
Greenan Maze and Farm
If I told you that there were Scottish Highland Cows in County Wicklow would you believe me? Greenan maze is set on a beautiful unspoilt farm in the midst of the Wicklow mountains, only 6km from Rathdrum.
It is the perfect spot to bring the kids, even if you are just looking for some daycation ideas from Dublin. There are many things to do there. The nature trail is a tranquil walk alongside the Ballinanty Brook through beautiful countryside. It leads to the Dragonfly Walk where a raised wooden walkway winds through native woodlands and wetlands reaching three peaceful ponds with raised viewing platforms. It is a completely unspoilt area which has a diverse range of wild-life including wild deer, moorhens, frogs and of course, as the name suggests, dragonflies.
As it is also a working farm there is a large selection of farm animals to enjoy. I could have spent hours watching the baby pigs play with each other not to mention the beautiful Highland Cows. There are also three farm museums on site which exhibit implements and tools spanning 200 years of local farming history.
The highlight is a hidden gem worth finding. The Celtic Maze. The large half acre hedge maze is 7ft tall and is a tricky puzzle to solve. Kids will love it and is definitely is the main attraction at Greenan Maze. There is also a lovely coffee shop to enjoy onsite.
Shekina Sculpture Garden
I have always had a fascination with beautiful gardens, so I was very excited to discover Shekina Sculpture Garden. It is located in the wild Glenmalure Valley in the centre of Co. Wicklow.
We were warmly greeted by Catherine, the curator of this beautiful garden. The first thing I noticed was the sound of a mountain brook and birdsong filling the air. This place was like a fairytale!
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